The amount of distrust currently surrounding Facebook's approach to privacy may not be enough to get people to stop using the world's most popular social network. But it is plenty to get a few young upstarts some funding to create a competitor.
Four young NYU kids are now in the possession of $200,000. And all they have to do is create a feasible, scalable alternative to Facebook. By September.
The ambitions of these four college kids trying to create an open Facebook alternative site were quickly realized. They set out to get $10,000 on Kickstarter. They announced their intentions on April 24. It took 12 days to reach their $10,000 goal. And after a glowing New York Times profile on May 12, they went on to collect $200,000 from 6,500 backers.
The project closed this week. Now they just have to start coding.
As they wrote yesterday, “You may not hear too much from us in the coming months and we will try our best to provide regular updates, but our silence means we are hard at work.”
Considering how much talk — and little action — there's been about users fleeing Facebook, it will be interesting to see how this goes.
Plenty of bloggers have been sounding the alarm about leaving Facebook. And the company went so far as to reverse its recent privacy changes last week. But when it comes down to people actually leaving the network, those numbers aren't coming to fruition.
"Quit Facebook Day" came and went on May 31. Only 34,000 Facebook users vowed to "quit Facebook" on the dedicated page, and that's not even the number who quit, it's just those who professed to care about the cause.
Social networkers aren't read to quit Facebook cold turkey. As Microsoft researcher Dana Boyd put it on her blog:
"Those with the most to gain from Facebook are the least likely to leave, even if they also have the most to lose."
That's part of the reason that the idea of Diaspora has been so powerful with so many people. As one of the founders' NYU professors told The New York Times last month:
“Everyone I talk to about this says, ‘Oh my God, I’ve been waiting for someone to do something like that.’ ”
Meanwhile, the Diaspora founders don't have much started yet. As they wrote on their Kickstarter page:
"We have a plan, a bunch of ideas and the programming chops to build Diaspora."
That didn't stop people from contributing. Even Mark Zuckerberg is supposedly a backer. According to The Times:
"A few months back, four geeky college students, living on pizza in a computer lab downtown on Mercer Street, decided to build a social network that wouldn’t force people to surrender their privacy to a big business. It would take three or four months to write the code, and they would need a few thousand dollars each to live on."
Now they've got more than a few thousand to live on. But they have to build something worth $200,000. That's a bigger challenge than they bargained for. And it may prove outside their reach. But their Kickstarter campaign proves how powerful the right idea can be at the right time.
Even if Diaspora just turns out to be wishful thinking.