Diaspora, an upstart social networking site, had a goal of raising $10,000 online to help get the fledgling network going. You see, its founders — four programmers from New York University’s Courant Institute – were amongst those revolting against what many perceive to be unethical privacy violations by Facebook. (Read here).
So raising $10,000 from strangers for an unproven product sounds a tad ambitious, you say? But what if we told you they have now raised nearly $140,000 and counting. Surprising? Oh yes. And is Diaspora ready to topple the social networking giant? Doubt it, but time will tell. But they are giving Facebook something to think about as far as its policies toward its users are concerned. But there’s a valuable lesson here: Your business is never bigger than your customers, so please treat them well and when enacting new policies, put yourself in their position.
An excerpt about Diaspora:
What is the project about?
We believe that privacy and connectedness do not have to be mutually exclusive. With Diaspora, we are reclaiming our data, securing our social connections, and making it easy to share on your own terms. We think we can replace today’s centralized social web with a more secure and convenient decentralized network. Diaspora will be easy to use, and it will be centered on you instead of a faceless hub.
Why are we building it?
This February, Eben Moglen, Columbia law professor and author of the latest GPL, gave a talk on Internet privacy. As more and more of our lives and identities become digitized, Moglen explains, the convenience of putting all of our information in the hands of companies on “the cloud” is training us to casually sacrifice our privacy and fragment our online identities.
But why is centralization so much more convenient, even in an age where relatively powerful computers are ubiquitous? Why is there no good alternative to centralized services that, as Moglen pointed out, comes with "spying for free?” Why do we keep our personal data in a thousand places? We have the technology, someone just needs to take the time to figure out how we can communicate smoothly and intuitively, without the hidden costs of “the cloud”. As good programmers, when we noticed that the application we need doesn’t exist, we set out to fill the hole in our digital lives.
Hat tip to @mitchmaxson of MediaSauce, an Indiana Chamber member.