Diaspora Is Aiming To Decentralize Social Networks

People are fuming mad about how their privacy is being treated, and even how difficult Facebook makes it to delete their accounts.  The problem is that MySpace has become a joke, and while sites like Bebo and Orkut are big in other countries, there is no real viable alternative currently for people to move over to.  Enter the concept of Diaspora.

Perhaps it was just a coincidence of timing, but of all the times for a social network to come along and talk about how it will focus on security, and handing control of user’s information back to those very people, there has never been a better time for such an idea to appear.  The Diaspora project is the brainchild of four young computer students in New York City: Dan Grippi (21), Max Salzberg (22), Raphael Sofaer (19) and Ilya Zhitomirskiy (20).

disaporaSo what makes it different? The full explanation is a bit over the top with talk of people running their own “seeds” and so on, we’ll try our best to translate it into English. Essentially the concept behind the network is that every person will be able to run their own node, what they are calling a “seed” which will allow them to have complete control over how much data they share  with other people in the network.  The idea is to completely decentralize the architecture of the project.

The reason for this is that this way you should have full control of your data, and if you want to take it offline, you do.  With sites such as Facebook, you can tell theme to delete something, but will they necessarily do it, or will it linger somewhere on their servers?  The way Facebook’s Terms of Service works basically gives them the right to do whatever they want with your photos and other data as they please once you upload it.

To get the project off the ground, the four gentleman figured they needed to spend this entire summer working on it, and to be able to afford to do this they figured they would go to the micro-funding site Kickstart and try to raise $10,000, but to their surprise that happened in just ten days.  This garnered them a profile in The New York Times, and … all heck broke loose.  I can tell you at the time I am typing this that the donation total is at $126,000 and climbing with 18 days to go.  By the time you read this, who knows what the total will be at.

My big issue with the idea, which I admit I am excited for, is are these “seeds” going to be built in such a way that your average John and Jane Doe will understand how to run it?  Will your average working Joe who just likes to go on Facebook to play FarmVille will be able to run it?  This system has to be drop-dead simple so that your must un-tech savvy person will be able to understand it, but feel comfortable with running it.  It doesn’t how much control this gives back to the average user, if they can’t understand it, they’ll never adopt it.

All that being said, I wish these guys luck, I hope it works, and I have to applaud their timing.

What say you?  Does this project interest you?

Sean P. Aune

Sean P. Aune has been a professional technology blogger since July 2007, but his love of tech dates back to at least 1976 when his parents bought...