The project aims to create a social network that puts users in charge of their own data — or as Diaspora puts it, a “privacy-aware, personally controlled, do-it-all open source social network.”
Diaspora was started by four New York University students earlier this year after hearing a talk from Free Software guru Eban Moglen, who said Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg had done more harm to the world than anyone his age ever had.
Diaspora’s idea of taking on the social network giant gained momentum and wide publicity in the spring, following yet another controversial Facebook attempt to make users share more information publicly.
Riding the backlash, the four turned to the crowd-funding site Kickstarter to pull in an astounding first round of investment that didn’t require them to give up any equity (Facebook founder Zuckerberg says he donated, seeing them as not unlike his college self).
According to Thursday’s post, the group has been working hard on making it “intuitive” for people to share information with different groups — distinguishing, for example, co-workers from family — and has been working with user-interface designer Janice Frasier and collaborating with the already-extant tech community that has been working on open identity standards.
The Sept. 15 release will be open source, meaning that the code will be available for anyone to see, modify and perhaps even contribute changes to.
We are spending a good chunk of time concentrating on building clear, contextual sharing. That means an intuitive way for users to decide, and not notice deciding, what content goes to their coworkers and what goes to their drinking buddies. We know that’s a hard UI problem and we take it seriously. [W]e have pushed back more technical features like plugins and APIs in favor of simple and high value features. Our original goals remain the same, and these features are still in our timeline.
It’s not clear yet what Diaspora will look like — whether it will be a standalone social networking system, or whether it will let you use it to post to other social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Flickr — as well as to its own service, the way the much-praised but underused Friendfeed did. (Facebook has since bought that company for its tech talent.)
The four say that they will continue working on the project after the initial release.