Facebook has continually come under fire for privacy issues and a general disregard of user data usage. Unlike Google, Facebook’s mantra is definitely more along the “do evil” lines than anything benign, and Mark Zuckerberg makes no secret of his contempt for user privacy and control.
A few months back, a little concept called Diaspora was floated through the internet. Invented by college students, it claims to be an Open Source Facebook contender that allows users to own and control their own social data. They used social media tools and social marketing to raise their seed money (specifically a service for fundraising called Kickstarter). The public has already embraced their idea, though many with some skepticism.
I am rooting for Diaspora, but I think they will have some issues translating adoption out of the early adopter/techno geek realm into the arena of the typical Facebook user (e.g. your less tech savvy grandma or mom, for example). For many people, terms like “open source” are scary. Folks like the illusion of safety inherent in walled gardens, even when that walled garden, like Facebook, routinely does things to undermine trust.
If you want to root for Diaspora, you can watch them develop their open source code on GitHub, in real time, collaboratively. You can even sign on to participate using the links in this article. This openly viewable model is true open source coding in real time. They also encourage people to develop relate things using their code, another facet of having this be open source. If they can pull this off – this could be a true game changer, and this early adopter type is excited.
One thing all users will like once they get past any mental stumbling blocks – the wide variety of privacy options built into every level of the Diaspora code so far. There are enough ways to keep your data safe and your own that any one should find something to make them happy once this leaves pre-alpha stage.