Do you remember the first time you used the Internet? I used to fight with my sisters to “get online” after school so I could check my AOL mail, Neopets, and the occasion teen chat room. I went by FelicityRC. Many thought it was referring to the WB show, but it was actually the name of my American Girl doll.
Fast forward to 2011 where you are Googled by your boss, mom and ex-boyfriend. What used to be a friendly way of meeting future college peers is now a platform where brands can find you (I am one of people who gets those brands on Facebook, sorry). Facebook debuted Timeline last week, proving to me that yes, they can figure out the birth order of my sisters (though we don’t post the year for our birthday), how many friends I have made each year since I joined (less each year it seems) and that I will never escape certain pictures.
So appears Diaspora*, a community whose mission is “to build a new and better social web, one 100% owned and controlled by you.” The idea of Diaspora* was actually born from the controversy around the Facebook privacy features last year. Four NYU students decided to raise money to make an open source alternative to Facebook and they did so; over $100,000 with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg himself donating to the project. The main home base is not yet launched publicly, but you can sign up now to get invited to Diaspora*Alpha. If you are a genius programmer, you can learn how to set up your own Diaspora* pod here.
Once you are accepted into this new community, you use their software to set up and run your own social network, or more so a “pod” that will be connected to the overall Diaspora* ecosystem. You can set it up so your pod is just you, or your friends, or your family. While this sounds like Google Circles, the creators of Diaspora* claim they thought of circles first.
By setting up your Diaspora* Community, you will be able to have complete ownership of your own personal social information. Because you can decide how much personal information you want to share, you can build more authentic connections. This authenticity brings back the social freedom that made the Internet amazing in the first place and no corporation will ever own it.
The actual details of the interface is still unknown, but it will somehow serve as a home base for outbound posts for Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter (this particular function reminds me of Ping.fm). This glorious radical social network built by the people for the people will “bring an end to the indifferent, self-serving behavior that people can’t stand from the walled gardens that dominate social networking today.”
I am intrigued about the power of creating my own social network and dictating how it will be used. That’s what I love most about platforms like Twitter, Tumblr, and Pinterest; it’s so simple in design that I can create my own experience by what I choose to put on there. Even the background doesn’t have to have that much importance.
But is that just playing into a “social network society” where I would rather have limited choices than all the free will to do as I please? A growing trend is simple decision making, but obviously not everyone is comfortable about that. If I choose to create my own social network with Diaspora*, will I be overwhelmed by all the freedom? Will I be like a newborn baby opening her eyes for the first time?
But why I should I be scared of freedom? Why should I run scared from choice?
You see what I just did? I made the use of our social networks philosophical.
The idea of an open source social network fascinates me and has me looking forward to seeing how this might change the Internet as we know it now. Follow along on the Diaspora* blog.