The New York Times reports on an effort to build an alternative to social-networking site Facebook.
A few months back, four geeky college students, living on pizza in a computer lab downtown on Mercer Street, decided to build a social network that wouldnâ€™t force people to surrender their privacy to a big business. It would take three or four months to write the code, and they would need a few thousand dollars each to live on.
They gave themselves 39 days to raise $10,000, using an online site, Kickstarter, that helps creative people find support. […]
They announced their project on April 24. They reached their $10,000 goal in 12 days, and the money continues to come in: as of Tuesday afternoon, they had raised $23,676 from 739 backers. â€œMaybe 2 or 3 percent of the money is from people we know,â€ said Max Salzberg, 22. […]
They have called their project Diaspora* and intend to distribute the software free, and to make the code openly available so that other programmers can build on it. As they describe it, the Diaspora* software will let users set up their own personal servers, called seeds, create their own hubs and fully control the information they share. [Raphael] Sofaer says that centralized networks like Facebook are not necessary. […]
The Diaspora* group was inspired to begin their project after hearing a talk by Eben Moglen, a law professor at Columbia University, who described the centralized social networks as â€œspying for free,â€ Mr. Salzberg said. […]
There have been at least two other attempts at decentralized networks, [N.Y.U.’s Finn Brunton] said, but he thought the Diaspora* group had a firmer plan. Its quick success in raising money, he said, showed the discontent over the state of privacy on the social sites. â€œWe will have to see how widely this will be adopted by the non-nerds,â€ Mr. Brunton said. â€œBut I donâ€™t know a single person in the geek demographic who is not freaked outâ€ by large social networks and cyber warehouses of information.