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May 12, 2010

Meet Diaspora, the 'anti-Facebook'

Posted: 12:36 PM ET

Sick of the barrage of Facebook privacy scandals?

Don't trust a multi-billion-dollar corporation with your photos and personal information?

Well, there may be an online social network for you yet.

It's called Diaspora, and it's an idea from four New York University students who say in a video pitch that big online companies like Facebook shouldn't be allowed to have access to, and to some degree "own," all of the personal data that flows in and out of their social networks.

The site, which is still in development, has been dubbed "the anti-Facebook" by tech blogs.

The solution sounds a little wonky: Diaspora basically enables computers to share updates, photos and videos directly with each other. It eliminates the middleman, i.e. Facebook, Flickr, Google or Twitter, so no one has access to your data but you and your friends.

To set things up this way, each user has to have server space. In Diaspora-speak, these machines are called "seeds."

But, despite the potential technical confusion, the result, the site's founders say, is a fully private and secure network, without cutting down on the "sharing" aspect of the internet, which is such a trend at the moment.

"Social networks have only really existed for 10 years," one of the Diaspora founders says in a video introduction. "We don’t know what’s going to happen to our data. It’s going to exist into the foreseeable future. We need to take control of it."

"Because once you give it away once it’s no longer yours. You cannot stake claim to it," another chimes in.

Diaspora's founders - who look kind of like they jumped out of "Revenge of the Nerds," and, according to, consider themselves to be pretty nerdy - posted their idea on the crowd-funding site Kickstarter to get money for the venture. If you're not familiar with Kickstarter, it's a site where people post information about their projects and ask random members of the internet for funding.

So far, about 900 people have contributed a total of nearly $29,000. That's more than the $10,000 the Diaspora founders said they needed to start the site.

ReadWriteWeb says that the way Diaspora works may confuse some general users. But, the blog notes, Diaspora may offer a paid service that would be simpler to use. Positioning itself as the anti-Facebook may help, too:

"If Diaspora is realized, it will be up to technology advocates to position the turn-key service in a way that will make it sound simple and appealing to precisely those sorts of mainstream users if it is to ever succeed. Taking shots at Facebook's privacy issues may be a good course (Take back control with Diaspora!)," the blog writes.

"We would like to see Diaspora come to be, even if it never goes mainstream, because it would finally offer privacy advocates a real alternative to the increasingly data-hungry Facebook."

Check out Project Diaspora's website and let us know what you think. Mark Zuckerberg co-founded Facebook in 2004 out of his Harvard dorm room; it now has 400 million users worldwide. Is it too late for a challenger? Or do the latest privacy concerns leave it vulnerable?

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Filed under: Facebook • Internet • social-networking sites

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Another Mike   May 13th, 2010 12:11 pm ET

People are naive. If people are to trust and upload their personal data, photos and stuff on web, they should accept the fact of privacy's absence. Same goes to corporations, governments, etc. Everything that reaches the Internet is no more secret, and as such, there might be only unrevealed secrets of nature, that are still keept secret from most people. All personal data is no secret. In other words, I know whom your wife is sleeping with, and you know my shoe size.

eric   May 13th, 2010 12:49 pm ET

i totally agree with adam, quit your whining. if your gonna cry about facebook, then just dont have one. plain and simple.

eric   May 13th, 2010 12:51 pm ET

i now wish i could delete my last comment, rodger made a very valid point and i now agree. lol

C'mon Now   May 13th, 2010 2:31 pm ET

how about calling the site Diapera... that way if they eventually take people's info we can always say, "The original idea seemed quite fresh but it was only a matter of time before they became full of cr&p."

Anna   May 13th, 2010 3:23 pm ET

It's called Diaspora, and it's an idea from four New York University students who say in a video pitch that big online companies like Facebook shouldn't be allowed to have access to, and to some degree "own," all of the personal data that flows in and out of their social networks.


And you should be allowed? Eh it'll be another epic fail in about 10-20 yrs.

Timothy   May 13th, 2010 4:58 pm ET

Diaspora is an open source project. I'm sure they will create a GPL license that will set this program free in to the wild. Like Linux and a host of other open source projects, much of the work is done by people for free. It's hard to believe that people donate such energy for free, but Joomla, Drupal, WordPress.... etc all live by this for the most part. FaceBook will not be able to purchase Diaspora.

Diaspora seems like it will use standard RSS. RSS (really simple syndication) always 'pushes' information to the subscribers (friends) and I would assume that you (the owner) will have complete control over the who, what, when and where. Diaspora is _not_ a P2P network at all. Diaspora is not trying to protect your privacy from your friends. You trust your friends with your information ...right?

The whole fight is about FaceBook 'selling' my personal information I'm sharing with my friends (who I trust) to companies (who I don't trust) with out my permission. And to top it all off, FaceBook lays claim to all my information on their servers as their property, to do what they like with it and to profit off my life/information/friends.

Timothy   May 13th, 2010 5:10 pm ET

@Anna – Diaspora is not a 'hub' for your information. All these kids are doing is making a program for you to run on your server/home computer. That's the whole point of Diaspora, your information lives on your computer and those who you wish to share that information with.

Example : Your my friend and "subscribe" to my profile/page/diaspora. I grant you permission to access my information I store on my PC/server. You can now access information or the parts I allow you to see. You do the same in return.

FaceBook : I log in to their servers. You request to be my friend, I accept. You have access to most all my information be default. My information lives on Facebooks' servers. I cannot control my information as I would wish... but this is really not a big deal. FaceBook decides to sell my information to Nothing I can do about it due to FaceBooks' ToS (terms of service). FaceBook keeps installing applications in to my profile with out my permission...nothing I can do about it.

christian   May 14th, 2010 9:42 pm ET

its just another thing to get people excited and will eventually fail just like myspace and facebook.

Caan   May 15th, 2010 8:48 am ET

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you: the internet! Give them a comment section and they will have the *stupidest* arguments!

egiscodr   May 15th, 2010 3:59 pm ET


Isn't this just a P2P network? Hardly a new concept.

Sency   May 15th, 2010 6:32 pm ET

Anti Facebook sentiment has been talked about all over the web – but this site don't look too great

Will   May 16th, 2010 8:23 am ET

The thing about facebook though is that because it's not on a computer, you know the stuff is safe from destruction. Like if my computer were to be destroyed today (as they often are... I've had 5 computers in 3 years... heavy user), then the information I have on facebook and flikr would still be safe.

aynrand67   May 16th, 2010 9:25 am ET

There are quite a few sites built on anti-facebook philosophy. The motto is complete control on privacy, content and connections. One such site is – you are the network. By default it is priviate.

nolajess   May 17th, 2010 12:19 pm ET

@Soylent – Thank you for articulating the problem for those of us who have been facebooking since before all the privacy change drama. It's easy for people to say "don't sign up" and "it's the internet so of COURSE it public" but that's not how FB originally operated, not what we signed up for, and something we no longer have a choice to 'opt out' of.

Asakuun D.   May 17th, 2010 12:46 pm ET

Firstly, Facebook is – NOTE THIS – just a way for the government to track you. I disapprove of Facebook users.

Secondly, I plan on checking out Diaspora soon.


John   May 17th, 2010 4:01 pm ET

These people deserve the failure, are pathetic.

Tommy   May 17th, 2010 4:42 pm ET

All of you are as pathetic as facebook!

Tommy   May 17th, 2010 4:46 pm ET

The fact is that some humans are as addicted to the internet as they can be of drugs. Most of you pathetic USERS could not stop if you wanted to. You are as addicted to the attention as a crack head to beaming up. I rarely comment on these sights but felt the need to point out how ridiculous and lost you all truly are.

smc, central PA   May 17th, 2010 5:46 pm ET

I can't believe people are dumb enough to throw money at some unproven undergrads who have written nothing. They don't even seem to be aware of other efforts toward open social networking protocols.

Michael   May 17th, 2010 6:18 pm ET

Roger, I'M sick of people complaining about people complaining about people complaining about complaining about Facebook. Really, if you want to complain about complaining, complain about complaining directly. sorry am rolling around laughing now. weeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Michael Durwin   May 17th, 2010 8:07 pm ET

The quotes just go to show you how little these kids know about social networks. Computers connected to allow sharing of media and communications is called the Internet. Social networks have been around since the first days of AOL, even though most Gen Y kids still think Friendster was the first, if they don't just use the fallback of MySpace.
Earlier commentors are correct, once a niche social network like Facebook, Twitter, etc. Becomes big business, it becomes about big business not about the users, or about being cool and new.

GD   May 18th, 2010 3:14 am ET

If people are STUPID enough to put their personal information on the web, they deserve what they get.

As for farcebook "friends", that's like saying your bank or credit card company is your "friend"...and if you believe that, you also deserve what you get.

Where profit or privacy complete in a social environment, profit will always win.

Tony   May 18th, 2010 1:07 pm ET

Please check this out.

Untangle just came out with the new SaveFace. It is a very easy way to lock down your privacy setting on your Facebook account.

Saul Bejarano   May 18th, 2010 4:34 pm ET

And how long will it take for this guy to be the same?
So far I like Facebook, I put what I want and I am not concern a bit about my privacy or what they can do with my information at the end your are part public part private.
You have a name which people knows and calls you, you have a house which is listed in any telephone book and anybody who sees you riding an expensive car or fine jewel knows that you have money.
So what is all this crap about security that we hear all the time???
Just that CRAP!
Live a life stop making it more complicated.

DW   May 19th, 2010 7:48 pm ET

This is ridiculous! Although Facebook began as a social network, its popularity has been soaring because of its functionality as a targeted marketing tool. In other words, the reason businesses use it is BECAUSE information is readily available.

If you took away all of the marketers (which includes all facebook gamers who market to build up their Mafia, neighbors, friends, etc) you'd only have about 10% of the total number of users on facebook. (granted that number is purely speculative.)

Social forums where you can only see information from people in your network already exist. for example. Even they all combined they'd never come even close to what facebook has become in terms of online power and utility.

poobear   May 20th, 2010 5:51 pm ET

OK, so there hooking up a website to already existing P2P services. And it will cost 10G to do so, wow, I'll do it for 5G.

Dodo is a tard   May 22nd, 2010 12:11 pm ET

As usual there are nothing but negative comments. Seriously Dodo ... if you hate Myspace and Facebook ... s ... t ... f ... u about these guys ... ANYONE doing anything to combat those horrible sites is a good thing. Who knows if it will become ultra commercial. To me this stuff is more akin to Linux than actual Facebook or Myspace. That isn't meant as a compliment ... Linux did get commercialized to some extent ... and it largely failed. But hey it provided an alternative to the industry standard. Anything that isn't Facebook or Myspace is good.

Entropy   May 25th, 2010 1:31 am ET

What's with the 'Revenge of the Nerds' comment. It's rude!

swright   May 29th, 2010 6:36 am ET

@ Dave – Yours was the best comment on here.

facepuppet   June 20th, 2010 2:48 pm ET

Wow talk about ... in agreement – very much in line with my blog
facepuppet dot com cheers to all

Rob Stan   September 5th, 2010 11:48 pm ET

I looked at some screenshots of the Diaspora Preview that someone was able to get their hands on. The preview looks pretty basic, but there is now telling how old it is. Good luck to Diaspora and I hope to see the concept succeed.

Anyway, here are some screenshots of the Diaspora Preview.

Mike Zucko   September 23rd, 2010 5:02 pm ET

LOL, is this a joke? Theres already a website out that is going to be the REAL anti-facebook, even the color scheme is the complete opposite.... the site is .... its

Kyle DiOrtegi   September 23rd, 2010 5:12 pm ET

I Made a profile on that earlier this month. It really is what you say " the anti- facebook" I love it. I aren't even Google-able haha the website gives me the option.

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SOS!! Gram to protest on Independence Square in Ukraine (the press is silent) Live 22.10.2010

Mike   November 30th, 2010 5:53 am ET

Myspace and Facebook are both easy to say and remember. Diaspora? Not so much. Try something easier to pronounce and not something you think sounds awesome, but everyone else thinks sounds like a noise you make while sneezing.

David Salter   December 17th, 2010 12:02 pm ET

What's the problem? Sure Fakebook uses your information – but I believe it is used for targeted marketing. Those little adverts you get in the sidebar – seem to be strangely aware of what you are likely to buy. Now personally I don't like Facebook, I have an account so that any old friends that might be looking for me can get in contact, and I occasionally browse through my friends' comments to see what they are up to – but I don't use it for chatting, and put vry little information of my own on there. One thing that Facebook is very good for though is for spotting the twats. Even people you thought you knew for many years show their true colours. For example, someone who has collected 400 friends (who they have never met – and who are strangely mostly of the opposite sex with attractive photos) and who has hundreds of pictures of themself – depicting how wonderful their life is, and that they have taken themself) – this person obviously has a few issues.

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I love the concept. But you will not get a huge migration of Facebook followers over to that site any time soon. Face book is a beast and
people talk so much garbage about it and it still is one top of the social media ranks.

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