Diaspora: The Social Network

Dias­po­ra: Per­son­al­ly Con­trolled, Do-It-All, Dis­trib­uted Open-Source Social Net­work from daniel grip­pi on Vimeo.

A new tech­nol­o­gy start­up is tak­ing form which might have inter­est­ing impli­ca­tions for the online genealog­i­cal community.

The grav­i­ta­tion­al pull of Face­book towards some source of rev­enue from the wild­ly pop­u­lar ser­vice, has had the com­pa­ny recent­ly forc­ing users to man­u­al­ly opt-out of shar­ing with every­one on the Inter­net the data they may have intend­ed to share only with their friends.This has cre­at­ed an uproar, per­haps not heard by all users of Face­book, but one in which many Face­book users are threat­en­ing to quit the ser­vice on May 31st.

In response to these pri­va­cy con­cerns, four soft­ware engi­neers in their late teens and ear­ly twen­ties are propos­ing an open source social net­work called Dias­po­ra, that would remain pri­vate and secure, and would be host­ed on your own “node”, on your com­put­er, not on cor­po­rate com­put­ers. They went to kickstarter.com to try to raise $10,000 in seed mon­ey; so far, they have raised $174,950 from 5,270 peo­ple. They are also get­ting lauda­to­ry cov­er­age in the New York Times, and elsewhere.

Why this might be impor­tant for any­one who shares infor­ma­tion on the Inter­net, and espe­cial­ly for geneal­o­gists, is that instead of hand­ing your research, pho­tos, notes, and so on to a cor­po­ra­tion designed to turn every­thing it does into mon­ey for itself, you would keep your data and share it as you would like, with whom you would like. As a dis­trib­uted net­work, each user/webmaster would have the ben­e­fit of run­ning inde­pen­dent­ly of any­one else, and deploy­ing fea­tures or meth­ods of shar­ing con­tent if and when they want­ed to do so.

Stew­art Brand said about the Inter­net that “infor­ma­tion wants to be free,” as the Inter­net activist and nov­el­ist Cory Doc­torow says, this is not real­ly the case. In fact, it’s more impor­tant to note that peo­ple want to be free.

Dias­po­ra is still in the for­ma­tion­al stages. We will have to see where it goes, and where these ide­al­is­tic col­lege kids take it, but I. for one, will be watch­ing, with the idea of free­ing my infor­ma­tion, and free­ing my own expres­sion on my terms, not on those of Face­book, Twit­ter, or those of any oth­er cor­po­rate entity.

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