01 September 2010

Diaspora*: "You're Only Open Source Social Network"

The privacy aware, personally controlled, do-it-all, open source social network.

The Diaspora* team from NYU includes Daniel Grippi, Maxwell Salzberg, Raphael Sofaer, and Ilya Zhitomirskiy. These young computer science programmers are hoping to build an open-source, distributed social network as an alternative to other social networks like Facebook, apparently after the issue concerning privacy. They decided to try raise $10,000 which they did successfully with the help of Kickstarter.

What does "diaspora" mean?

A diaspora (in Greek, διασπορά – "a scattering [of seeds]") is the movement or migration of a group of people, such as those sharing a national and/or ethnic identity, away from an established or ancestral homeland.
The word diaspora usually refers to the scattering of race, people or nationality like the Jewish, Lebanese or African American diaspora. Here it's referring to just as "scattering" I think as an "open source". I might be wrong though.

So what is Diaspora* the site?

Enter your Diaspora “seed,” a personal web server that stores all of your information and shares it with your friends. Diaspora knows how to securely share (using GPG) your pictures, videos, and more. When you have a Diaspora seed of your own, you own your social graph, you have access to your information however you want, whenever you want, and you have full control of your online identity. Once we have built a solid foundation, we will make Diaspora easy to extend to facilitate any type of communication, and the possibilities will be endless

What is the Diaspora* project about?

"We believe that privacy and connectedness do not have to be mutually exclusive. With Diaspora, we are reclaiming our data, securing our social connections, and making it easy to share on your own terms. We think we can replace today's centralized social web with a more secure and convenient decentralized network. Diaspora* will be easy to use, and it will be centered on you instead of a faceless hub."

Why they needed money?
"We have a plan, a bunch of ideas and the programming chops to build Diaspora. What we need is the time it takes to iron out a powerful, secure, and elegant piece of software. Daniel, Ilya, Raphael, and Maxwell are all ready to trade our internships and summer jobs for three months totally focused on building Diaspora. We want to write code all the time, everyday. Once we have made our first solid iteration, we are going to release our code as free software so everyone can make Diaspora even better. $10,000 buys the software for everyone who wants to use it, forever. We think it can change the way people communicate and empower individuals to permanently take control of their online identities.
After we open source our source code, we hope to also provide a paid turnkey hosted service in the vein of Wordpress.com to make it easy for people who want to use Diaspora, but don’t want to deal with the fuss of setting it up.* We will make it easy to export your data and configuration, so if you decide you want to graduate and host your seed yourself, you are free to do so at anytime.
Our goal is for everyone to have full control over their data and to empower people in to become responsible, secure, and social Internet dwellers. We believe offering this service will be helpful to non-technical users who are also worried about their data and privacy online."

Their Promise.

"We promise to you that Diaspora will be aGPL software which will released at the end of the summer."

Diaspora* Technical Specifications

    * Full-fledged communications between Seeds (Diaspora instances)
    * Complete PGP encryption
    * External Service Scraping of most major services (reclaim your data)
    * Version 1 of Diaspora's API with documentation
    * Public GitHub repository of all Diaspora code.

What is a Decentralized Social Network?

So what is Diaspora anyway? Instead of being a singular portal like Facebook, Diaspora is a distributed network where separate computers connect to each other directly, without going through a central server of some sort.

Once set up, the network could aggregate your information - including your Facebook profile, if you wanted. It could also import things like tweets, RSS feeds, photos, etc., similar to how the social aggregator FriendFeed does. A planned plugin framework could extend these possibilities even further.

Your computer, called a "seed" in the Diaspora setup, could even integrate the connected services in new ways. For example, a photo uploaded to Flickr could automatically be turned into a Twitter post using the caption and link.

When you "friend" another user, you're actually "friending" that seed, technically speaking. There's not a centralized server managing those friend connections as there is with Facebook - it's just two computers talking to each other. Friends can then share their information, content, media and anything else with each other, privately using GPG encryption.

Diaspora*, the Turn-Key Solution

Because not everyone will be technically capable of (or interested in) setting up their computer to function as a "seed," there are plans to offer a paid turn-key service too, similar to Wordpress.com, the blogging platform. Wordpress itself is software you can install and configure on your own server, if you're inclined to do so, but if you're less technically-savvy, you can opt to quickly start a blog via Wordpress.com instead. Diaspora would function in a similar way.

If a lot this sounds reminiscent of Opera's Unite project, the Web browser maker's overly-hyped plan to "reinvent of the Web," it should. In Opera Unite, users can share documents, photos, music, videos and run websites and chat rooms by directly linking two computers together.

However, in Unite's setup, there are Opera-run proxy servers involved, which led to issues - especially when those servers went down. Diaspora wouldn't have that problem.
Mainstream Success?

Still, the concepts behind Diaspora, while the sort of thing tech geeks will eat up, may be harder to grasp for the everyday Facebook user who is still trying to figure out how post a link or video to their Wall. Distributed, decentralized, open-source what?

If Diaspora is realized, it will be up to technology advocates to position the turn-key service in a way that will make it sound simple and appealing to precisely those sorts of mainstream users if it is to ever succeed. Taking shots at Facebook's privacy issues may be a good course (Take back control with Diaspora!).

I got most of the information from the links below. Take a look and read. It is very interesting to read people's comments and thoughts on Diaspora.

When will Diaspora* be released?

The team also meantioned that it will be out maybe on the 15th of September which is just 2 weeks away! 

I got most of the information from the links below. Take a look and read. It is very interesting to read people's comments and thoughts on Diaspora.

And of course their official site is  Diaspora*
Another interesting video that I found is:

I think the coolest thing I learned from this video is about the Quit Facebook Day site. It's amazing I didn't think people would be feeling so much hatred towards it. Also, check out All Facebook site. :)

I hope all this helps and that you found all this interesting ;) 

I really like the idea of it especially as they will help people control their information, seeing as many problems happend with Facebook. I think if they achieve this I'm definitely on board! ;)

What do you guys think about this? Would you join it and support them? Do you think it is a good idea and will it ever take over Facebook?

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