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Could a start-up called Diaspora knock Facebook off its perch?

For now, Diaspora is a work-in-progress. But if all goes as planned, Diaspora could go head-to-head with Facebook, the reigning king of the social media world.

By Matthew Shaer / May 13, 2010

For the team behind Diaspora, the future is wide-open – and open-source. That's good for us, and good for Diaspora. But what does it mean for Facebook?

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Facebook is a behemoth. Facebook has 400 million active users. Facebook – for one, memorable day – was more popular online than Google. But is Facebook beatable? According to the team behind a site called Diaspora, the answer is yes – and they're raising money to prove it.

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In an open appeal to potential investors, the Diaspora developers – all current students at NYU – argue that there is room on the Web for a smart, open-source answer to Facebook. "We believe that privacy and connectedness do not have to be mutually exclusive. With Diaspora, we are reclaiming our data, securing our social connections, and making it easy to share on your own terms," Team Diaspora writes.

Interestingly, the Diaspora kids never mention Facebook by name. But as concerns over Facebook's default security settings continue to mount, the blogosphere has championed Diaspora as the anti-Facebook – a site that will encourage users, in the words of the Diaspora developers, to "replace today's centralized social web with a more secure and convenient decentralized network."

In order for Diaspora to become a reality, of course, the four NYU students want to be able to spend a summer developing the site, and they've turned to the fundraising platform Kickstarter to get things going. So far, so good: as of this afternoon, 2,849 people have pledged upwards of $112,000 to the Diaspora effort. That far surpasses the $10K goal originally posted by the Diaspora team.

In recent weeks, Facebook has come under fire for its "open graph" proposal, which will effectively expand Facebook's presence on the Web. Critics have argued that personal information could be exposed accidentally by inexperienced users. In an open letter published today, the Article 29 Working Party, a group of European data protection authorities, called Facebook's current default security settings dangerous to users and legally "unacceptable."

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