Diaspora is a new project that’s coming along on the 15th as an alternative to the popular social networking platforms, namely facebook. There are some huge differences between this and almost every other social networking site in existance. Such as:
1. Decentralization. This is the big one. On traditional social networking sites, your information is stored on the site’s centralized servers. Besides the fact that one breach can compromise everyone, it also means that the company controls everyone’s data entirely. Diaspora does things differently: you download the client software and all the data for your page is hosted on your computer exclusively.
2. Free/Open source software. Basically you can look at and modify all the code, and make your diaspora experience unique. Additionally, you can send the modified code to the maintainers for a possibility of it being integrated into the next version. This also helps with extensibility.
3. Privacy. In the wake of facebook, privacy is a major concern for the creators of diaspora; its the major selling point so to speak. All messages are sent directly from your computer to the computers of the friend(s) on the receiving end. They are also encrypted for additional security. To quote their video (paraphrasing a bit): “When we talk to each other, we talk directly. We don’t send our message to a central hub that passes it on to our friend. Why should social networking be any different?”
From what I’ve read, the only main difference in the setup would be that you have to download a client versus web browser access, unfortunately however, that might be something that kills the service for a lot of people. By the way, just a tip for windows users: be cautious, but the majority of files you download from legitimate sites are totally harmless. Don’t be a windows security freak, live a little.
Anyway, it looks like diaspora has a bright future ahead, with possible features including voice chat service, open ID integration and an IM protocol. I’m interested in contributing code and/or making extensions for the first and last, as well.