An open and robust alternative to Facebook turns control over to its users.


Without detracting from their importance, it’s easy to think these days that Kickstarter projects are thick on the ground. Two years ago, however, when the team behind the Diaspora social network quietly turned to Kickstarter to get their idea off the ground, and with 20 times the forecast $10,000 they were looking for, a quiet, elegant alternative to Facebook was born.

Today, Diaspora is used all over the world, and the team has now passed another milestone. Users of the service were informed this morning that the project, at last fully open for general sign-ups (it was previously in an invite-only beta stage), will transition to an entirely community-driven effort.

“As a Free Software social project, we have an obligation to take this project further, for the good of the community that revolves around it,” said Danel Grippi and founding partner Maxwell Salzberg, in the email received by Diaspora users. “Putting the decisions for the project’s future in the hands of the community is one of the highest benefits of any FOSS project, and we’d like to bring this benefit to our users and developers. We still will remain as an important part of this community, as the founders, but we want to make sure we are including all of the people who care about Diaspora and want to see it succeed well into the future.”

Diaspora is a free and open source service, and one of the driving concerns of the four founders (the other two are Raphael Sofaer and Ilya Zhitomirskiy, the latter of whom passed away last year) was to provide a social platform free of the privacy concerns of Facebook and other large, corporate networks.

It’s also highly user customisable, and designed from the ground up to integrate with the networks its endeavouring to replace, allowing users great freedom in how they post, and in turn use Diaspora to aggregate many forms of social media. It’s possible to host personal ‘pods’, or unique iterations of the platform, for individual networks to use; kind of like being able to create your own ‘facebook’, just for you and your network.

To date, Diaspora has been translated into fifty languages, and hundreds of pods have been created by communities around the web, making it one of the biggest projects to come out of the Github code sharing platform. 

In preparation for the transition, community developers can sign up for access to the Diaspora tracking tool, and the main site itself has become much more community-focused. Eventually, while the founders will remain a part of the project, their aim is for Diaspora to be completely community-driven and run.

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