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article imageOp-Ed: Diaspora* moves forward in building 'a new and better social web' Special

By Leigh Goessl     Sep 30, 2011 in Technology
Diaspora*, the startup that was thrust into the spotlight in spring of 2010 after an amazing online fundraiser, is still steadily making progress.
The fundraiser, hosted on Kickstarter, garnered a lot of attention, including a feature in the New York Times. The project sought to raise $10K, however by the end of the fundraising period, the support for the project was tremendous and total donations came to $200,641.
Since last summer the group has been hard at work building Diaspora* which is community-run and open-sourced. Last September the network went into Alpha mode and the company openly published its code for the first time.
Fast-forward a year, and the group is making much progress. Along the way the growing community has passed many milestones in their journey to "build a new and better social web, one that’s 100% owned and controlled by you and other Diasporans."
Initially Diaspora* had been dubbed in various media outlets as the 'anti-Facebook' or 'Facebook killer', however their platform does not appear to be designed to compete with Facebook. In fact their framework has been coded to be able to interact with a variety of social networks; the big difference being users can control their own data in an open network.
As the project continues to take shape, it has become even clearer that the Diaspora* visualization of the social market's future appears to be something truly unique and nothing like Facebook. Perhaps the two probably shouldn't be compared at all. As Diaspora* comes closer to fruition as a fully functioning product, it sounds as if contrasting the two networks will be like comparing apples and oranges.
In an email interview with Digital Journal, Yosem Companys, Consiglieri at Diaspora*, shared, "you own your own personal data, and it is never used for commercial purposes. It also means that our users run the network, doing everything from writing the software code to translating to spreading the word to providing support to fellow users."
Companys added, "On Diaspora, users can request the features they want to see, as their tech-savvy fellow users will build those features for them, meaning that users get access to all the features they want to use and none they don't."
Français : Diaspora : logo
Français : Diaspora : logo
Diaspora Team
No one entity will take control of data that streams through. Since the product is open sourced, users can modify code as they see fit and maintain control of their personal information and who gets to view it. Information is stored on individual "pods", either run by individuals or groups, and the pods can "connect to the larger Diaspora* ecosystem."
Companys had posted earlier this month, "D* is not trying to kill FB or G+. Like the WWW before it, D* is trying to reinvent the social web from one that relies on walled gardens to one that is open to all players."
From the sounds of it, this is indeed very different from Facebook's model in which users are restricted to using what's connected to Facebook's infrastructure. With Diaspora*, the social web dynamics can change since there is a lot more freedom and control.
Additionally, unlike both Facebook and Google+, Diaspora* members are welcomed to use their own name or a pseudonym rather than adhering to stringent policies that demands 'real' information. It's a nice concept which brings back some of the philosophies the web was once built upon, including the anonymity factor.
When asked how many members the network currently has, Companys said,
"We limited the number of users on our JoinDiaspora pod to 50,000 during the alpha period. We started rolling out beta invites at the beginning of the month, and we have doubled the number of users since then to 100,000. It's hard to estimate the total number of users across all pods, since there are many personal pods run by individuals that are private and over 20 community pods."
Diaspora* estimates the network currently has an approximate 200,000 members in the community.
(A full list of community pods is available here).
At this time a date for the open beta launch has not been set, however many in the web community are actively watching and rooting for this project, this writer included. With privacy an ongoing issue that emerges with social media, access to open source software that is user controlled and privacy-friendly is appealing to many web users.
In the history of the web, billions of digital footprints have been left with little control on the user's part, unless one chooses to abstain from social networking altogether. However, from the looks of it, with Diaspora* rising brightly over the horizon, social media users will soon be able to determine for themselves just which direction they want their footprints to go.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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