When Facebook launched in 2005 only the user’s name, picture, gender and network affiliations were displayed to the Facebook public. No information whatsoever was shared with the broader Internet public.
In 2007, some elements of the user’s profile were opened up for all Internet users to see (not just Facebook users) and each subsequent year, Facebook’s default settings have become more and more open, encouraging a gradual “outing” of the individual’s online persona.
As of the writing of this post, EVERYONE on the Internet has access to ALL aspects of your personal profile save one – your birthday. Facebook will be the first to tell you that you can control those privacy settings, but for the most part people don’t bother to change their defaults because they trust that Facebook will take good care of their data.
But here’s something to be aware of … your data is technically not owned by you. Facebook’s Terms & Agreements clearly states that everything you publish on Facebook’s website is owned by Facebook — all those drunken photos, break-up messages, video uploads, and fan pages, everything.
A bunch of media and legal experts are getting very worried about this. When you interact with friends and family via a social network, is it really fair that the social network gets to archive (and monetize) all your personal interactions? Imagine if your local bar required you to surrender a copy of every photo taken at your last birthday party.
This is a long way of introducing a very exciting alternative to Facebook called Diaspora which has just received a sizable cash influx via the crowdfunding platform called KickStarter. This morning they had far exceeded their modest $10,000 goal for the summer. By afternoon they were at $40,000. They're now fast approaching $100,000.
Created by four college students (sound familiar?) Diaspora will be the “anti-Facebook,” allowing social networking to happen computer to computer. Instead of putting all your photos on Facebook’s servers which then relays them to your friends, you get to share with your friends directly — no middle man. It will also seamlessly integrate a bunch of different applications — like Twitter and Flickr – making sharing content easier.
And the solution, if it is successfully deployed, could mean big energy savings (assuming people actually ditch their Facebook pages for Diaspora). Facebook currently uses 30,000 servers which could theoretically be eliminated if millions of independently owned and operated mini servers (i.e. computers) were linked together to make one giant decentralized communications network.
This summer we shall see if our wunderkinds will come up with a long-awaited Facebook-killer.
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