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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