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Facebook Alternative Diaspora Releases Initial Source Code

An effort to decentralize social networking called Diaspora seeks to address the privacy concerns associated with social networking by storing user data on user PCs rather than on central servers controlled by a commercial interest.

Diaspora is one of the latest attempts to monetize privacy concerns, a business model that has to date not shown much promise.

The developers of Diaspora have released its preliminary source code, although those who have evaluated it recommend that it not be used due to security concerns.

How it works

Diaspora hopes that by putting users in control of their own profiles, that social networking will become a safer and more enjoyable phenomenon for those involved.

As a distributed network, the privacy abuses associated with companies like Facebook and Google are removed from the picture: no longer can companies pilfer your photos, written content, and personal preferences to sell to the highest bidder. The concept also helps deal with regrets: for example, if you wish you didn’t post that photo, it is easy to take it off the network since it’s on your computer.

The fundamental component of Diaspora is the “seed” that resides on your computer or a hosted server that runs the Diaspora framework which in turn aggregates your online information from Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and other sources. The framework is designed to be extensible, allowing it to easily adapt as new forms of online content develop.

As more seeds come online, you will be able to make friends between seeds, rather than trusting commercial hubs for your connections. This model presumably sees more and more people gradually moving off the commercial grid to the distributed network, eventually reclaiming privacy and property rights for their rightful owners.

Getting started

If you would like to try Diaspora, all you need to do is visit the Web site for the project (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/196017994/diaspora-the-personally-controlled-do-it-all-distr). Once there, click the sign up link to get started. Don’t look for anything amazing yet though, because all that is available is some preliminary source code which you are welcome to try, but no one seems prepared to support it. Clearly, Diaspora is not presently in a format that is easily installable and usable by average social networking enthusiasts.

Security

In spite of what seems to be a very confusing Web site where the source code from Diaspora can be uncovered after a lengthy search, Diaspora seems to be a program that can be used right now. As reported by PC Magazine, potentially serious security issues have been discovered in the pre-release code. According to some who claim to have experience with the code, people should refrain from installing the current version of Diaspora on any server that is publicly accessible.

The concept embodied in the Diaspora project sounds nice, but the developers of the project may have done it a disservice by publicizing it without having a viable product.

Sources:

maxwell. “A Little More About The Project.” Diaspora. April 21, 2010. http://www.joindiaspora.com/2010/04/21/a-little-more-about-the-project.html (accessed September 21, 2010).

Murphy, David. “Facebook Competitor Diaspora Hit With Security Criticisms.” PC Magazine. September 18, 2010. http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2369339,00.asp (accessed September 21, 2010).

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