The widespread backlash against Facebook has had another effect–coding. Four geeks at NYU decided that Facebook’s divergence from privacy should be countered with a social network that doesn’t require constant sharing of data in such a public manner. The enthusiasm with which Facebook has taken to opening user content with sneaky default settings has left a bad taste in many users’ mouths, including these four students that have set out to create a more private network.
Called Diaspora, the anti-Facebook social network will be a way to communicate with friends, without having to compromise your privacy to a large corporation, reports The New York Times. It will, in a sense, let you network without necessarily selling your soul. While the project is still in very early development, its growing interest is indicative of the changing sentiment towards Facebook’s new ways.
For Diaspora, the four students would need about $10,000 in funding. In less than 30 days, the team has raised nearly ten-times that amount. The students turned to Kickstarter, a site that lets backers pledge money to your project, which they pay if the project reaches its monetary goal within a set time. Several are jumping on board to support a project that turns away from the current trend of openly sharing information, oftentimes without knowing how much is being shared, and to whom it’s being shared with.
For the past few months, Facebook has become more aggressive in launching features that make more information public by default, while incorporating new mechanisms for providing that shared information to third parties. Granted, Facebook is making a smoother transition than it has in the past, and this is in part due to the willingness of more people to share information on the web.
It’s tricky to pinpoint the actual source of the privacy issue, because of this willing participation to share on both ends. But the education of consumers regarding their options towards customizing their privacy settings, along with Facebook’s responsibility in making that an easy process for users (say, as easy as making everything public), is something that’s still lacking for the social network. Looking at the early interest in Diaspora, it appears that the public is ready to see new options around private social networking.
If the story of Diaspora sounds familiar, it’s because it’s alarmingly similar to the purported intentions of an early
anti-MySpace Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg’s Harvard-specific social network made its first step towards opening its site when it allowed anyone with a valid .edu email address to register. And then the floodgates opened. Facebook’s fast rise in popularity meant that everyone wanted “in” on the private network, pressuring it to become more open.
Pretty soon, high school email addresses were being accepted into Facebook, then everyone could make a profile. The vicious cycle meant funding was necessary for scalability, in order to support the massive amounts of data-sharing that was taking place on the social network. And how can all thatactivity be monetized?
While Facebook has created a standard around social networking, nearly extinguishing the need for others to create a destination site, Diaspora suggests that another method towards social networking may gain some traction. Perhaps the next generation of social networks will have a new method for generating revenue, such as a series of premium service options users can pay for themselves.
While this has been done before, the rising disdain for Facebook’s sharing methodology may foster new attitudes towards premium social networking options. Though a new destination site is unlikely to topple Facebook anytime soon, a premium service that overlays with your existing Facebook profile (or a network that pulls highly specific content from your Facebook profile) could begin to put some control back into the users’ hands.
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