Diaspora, the social network founded by NYU students as an alternative to Facebook with funding from Kickstarter in 2010, is continuing to chart a non-Facebook-esque course with its decision to turn the network over to the community -- in other words, giving its members collective control of the platform. Not exactly a move Mark Zuckerberg will be copying anytime soon.
That’s the idea behind handing the keys over to the community itself. In an email to users, Danel Grippi and Maxwell Salzberg wrote: “As a Free Software social project, we have an obligation to take this project further, for the good of the community that revolves around it. Putting the decisions for the project’s future in the hands of the community is one of the highest benefits of any FOSS project, and we’d like to bring this benefit to our users and developers.”
Readers who have followed Diaspora may recall that one of the four founders, a brilliant Russian programmer named Ilya Zhitomirskiy, died in November of last year at the age of 22, after apparently committing suicide. Some press reports speculated that Zhitomirskiy grew depressed after Diaspora failed to grow as fast as hoped, or succumbed to the generally high-pressure environment of young programmers, but there is no substantiation to support these, or other theories about his death.
In any event, Zhitomirskiy’s creation is still here, and while it’s hard to find reliable counts of user numbers (one estimate puts the total number of users worldwide at around 1.9 million) the fact that Diaspora has been translated into some 50 languages suggests that somewhere out there someone is still interested.