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Who Wants a Facebook Alternative?

May 14, 2010

Almost everyone I know complains about Facebook. Sometimes its the constantly changing interface, the privacy debacles, the spam, or even just service outages that are the cause of these complaints. Sometimes I think it’s like people riding a train complaining about it; sure the train could be better, but who is going to do anything about it?

Some guys from New York – freshly minted college guys of course – have put their money (or in this case, their summer and perhaps the rest of their lives) where their mouth is. Their project is called ‘Diaspora‘:

Diaspora: Personally Controlled, Do-It-All, Distributed Open-Source Social Network from daniel grippi on Vimeo.

They’ve already raised over $100,000 ($135,815 as of this writing, according to KickStarter) from people who want to see this live. (They originally thought they might raise $10,000!)

The skinny is this: Unlike most ‘aggregation’ services, this is not some site somewhere that is trying to grab as much of your data for itself as it can (like, um, Facebook?) but rather a piece of software – a seed as they have it – which can be planted in a variety of places including (it seems) your own website, interact with everywhere else (Facebook, Twitter, etc) but let you choose how much data you want to share, and your own data remains your own (such as a list of friends) so long as you do not wish to share it.

It appears that there will also be a ‘turnkey’ service available – for hosting it no doubt – which raises the single question everyone might be thinking right now. In all probability, running Diaspora will not be ‘free’. Now, Diaspora will not cost anything itself, but you will be responsible for hosting it, or paying for the turnkey service (which logically must be a form of hosting with Diaspora pre-planted.)

My prediction is thus: If they can make the turnkey cheap enough, they can bust Facebook’s bubble. It might take a miracle, or a disaster (a privacy-related disaster no doubt!) for this move to take place.

To me, it is quite pleasing to think of this as internet homesteading; I log into my own seed, and there I get everything I have on Facebook, but not on Facebook at all. And if someone isn’t on Diaspora yet, I can still interact with them (via Facebook’s open graph) and best of all, Facebook does not know who all my ‘friends’ are.

And if you can’t pay or figure out how to host it yourself, chances are someone you know and trust can. Now that’s a local internet.

From the irrepressible Mashable.

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