Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Diaspora, Crowdfunded

Diaspora, the pro-privacy social network being built as an alternative to Facebook by four NYU classmates, announced today that it was able to crowdsource its first round of funding on Kickstarter -- and then some.

The group announced its project on April 24 and gave itself 39 days to raise $10,000 using the online fundraising site. The group reached its $10,000 goal in 12 days, and today, the group announced that it has been able to raise all of the money it sought -- some $200,000, plus an additional $642 -- from 6,479 people (including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg), each kicking in $5 or more to the project.

The group, inspired by a desire to build a social network that wouldn't force people (involuntarily or otherwise) to surrender their privacy to commercial interests, says it will distribute the software it is developing for free and will make the code openly available so other programmers can build on it. [Diaspora software will let users set up their own personal servers, called seeds, so they can control who-sees-what about their private data. Diaspora will aim to provide the same functionality as Facebook but won't rely on centralized servers.]

According to Max Salzberg, 22, one of the four co-founders, says the group began its work on the project in April, after hearing Eben Moglen, a Columbia University law professor, describe social networks as a form of "(corporate) spying for free." Diaspora has received much attention in the mainstream media in recent weeks amid Facebook's privacy woes. Diaspora also has been a buzz magnet across the social Web: there are now nearly 29,000 followers of "@joindiapsora" on Twitter.

"We're making Diaspora because we want to use it," says Salzburg.

Diaspora isn't the only "un-Facebook" social network that is being developed amid privacy concerns. Appleseed and OneSocialWeb also have been working on alternatives.

For more on the Diaspora project, see the four explain their objectives, below:

(Photo (from left to right) Diaspora Co-founders Rafael Sofaer, 19; Ilya Zhitomirskiy, 20; Dan Grippi, 21, and Max Salzberg, 22)

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