‘Secure’ social network Diaspora releases source code

A new competitor to Facebook which promises to preserve users’ privacy has released its code to developers, and is promising an October launch.

The Diaspora social network was created by four New York University students as a reponse to the high-profile failure of Facebook to keep user details private.

“”Even the most powerful, granular set of dropdowns and checkboxes will never give people control over where their content is going, let alone give them ownership of their digital self,” say its creators.

As it stands, the service looks pretty similar to Facebook. Users can share status messages and photos privately and in near real time with friends through ‘Aspects’, friend people across the internet and upload photos and albums. All traffic – aprt from photos – is signed and encrypted, say the site’s creators.

The Alpha release in October is set to add Facebook integration, internationalization and data portability.

But one thing the site isn’t so hot on right now is, er, security.

“Feel free to try to get it running on your machines and use it, but we give no guarantees,” warns the team. “We know there are security holes and bugs, and your data is not yet fully exportable. If you do find something, be sure to log it in our bugtracker, and we would love screenshots and browser info.”

Of course, the problem with any social network is that it critical mass of users, and this is one area in which Diaspora is likely to fall down. Users are a fickle bunch, and anger with Facebook over its privacy lapses has largely died away. Even back in May, the Quit Facebook Day campaign failed to muster nearly as many members as its organizers hoped.

Diaspora received a lot of hype when it was first announced, with some even describing it as a ‘Facebook killer’. The site’s creators said they’d had interest from a very large number of Facebook users.

But the word ‘diaspora’ means a scattering or dispersion – and that’s just what may happen to these potential users by the time the service actually launches.