Remember the outcry when Facebook changed its privacy settings every 6 weeks? A group of university students decided to make an alternative social network that gave ownership and control of information to the users, and they called it Diaspora. Raising over US$200,000 from Kickstarter, they set about designing and building a network focussed of freedom and privacy.

Central to Diaspora’s operation is the understanding that we all have different groups of people that we associate with, and our approach to them is different. What I share with my co-workers, for example, is different to what I share with my family or with my close friends. With Diaspora, managing that is easy – you can put people in different (fully customizable) ‘aspects’ of your life – Family, Work, Friends, General Public for example. For everything you share you determine which aspects have access to it. Facebook does this as well, but it’s a much less straight-forward approach.

The long-term plan for Diaspora is to decentralize it as well – so you can run it on your own Webhost and you’re not then subject to Facebook’s network. That’s not such a big deal now, but whenever you’re relying on one  company or party there’s always the risk that they can shut you down  – breaches of terms and conditions, for example. With Diaspora being distributed, and open-source, there’s no one organisation that can kill your account. That’s the future, though, at the moment it’s all running from the one spot – http://joindiaspora.org.

I’ve managed to score some invites, so I’ll be handing them out to some friends soon. It’ll be interesting to see how Diaspora goes, given the formidable competition they’re up against in Facebook.