Let's Get Pivotal
Last night, news broke that Facebook had beta launched a new mobile ad network that allows advertisers to make bids on ads based on Facebook’s trove of highly specific user data.
It’s a natural move for a company that’s most prized possession is its database of fleshed-out stats, collected in painstakingly detail for every person who’s ever signed up for Facebook. The company knows your interests, your friends, your location, age and gender–after all, you volunteered that information for them to happily gobble up. Now, all that info is being channeled into ads for apps and websites outside the Facebook environment.
Earlier this month, Diaspora cofounder Max Salzberg told Betabeat that the team would turn away from the highly-anticipated, but daunting enterprise of building the anti-Facebook and instead devote its “main focus” towards Makr.io: a photo remixing tool that makes sharing and creating image macros more social. (All your memes are belong to friends, etc.)
It sounded an awful lot like the dreaded p-word to us, but Mr. Salzberg framed it as a natural evolution for an open source project. To that end, the team, which is working on Makr as part of Y Combinator’s current class, posted a message entitled, “Announcement: Diaspora* Will Now Be A Community Project,” on the company’s blog today.
On the phone with Betabeat this afternoon, Mr. Salzberg compared Diaspora to WordPress or Mozilla. “Lots of open source projects are community run,” he explained, referencing two incredibly successful standouts. “Some people are like, ‘Oh, you’re leaving?’ But that’s not it at all. We can have side projects.”
After the tragic loss of one of its core members, the team behind Diaspora–a Y-Combinator-backed open source “anti-social network”–went underground for a while, privately grieving while attempting to keep the well-funded and highly hyped company running. But the startup show must go on: AllThingsD reported today that the Diaspora team channeled their grief into a new site–launched today and called Makr–that allows you to easily remix and distribute photos.
Yesterday afternoon, this reporter was scrambling to finish reporting a forward-looking story about how banks are exploring the possibility of using social media data to judge loan and credit applicants. My editor wanted a quote from a privacy advocate, so I immediately thought of Eben “Spying for Free” Moglen, a militant digital privacy advocate, founder of the uber-secure personal server FreedomBox, and the inspiration for the decentralized social network Diaspora. In hindsight, perhaps I should have just called Cory Doctorow.
Mr. Moglen, a law professor at Columbia University, was not particularly interested in talking about banks using social media to spy on their customers.
Everyone who uses Facebook, Twitter and the like shares the blame for the serious and ongoing global erosion of privacy enabled by the internet, he said. Banks aren’t the problem, he said; the users tempting banks with their Twitter and Facebook postings are the problem.
As are reporters who write about privacy issues with social media without first closing their Facebook accounts.
The only startup perhaps to rival
BankSimple in pre-launch delays, Diaspora has suffered more setbacks than most. Its struggles started with overexposure and inflated expectations due to a massively successful Kickstarter campaign which was funded 20 times over; most recently, the company was tragically set back by the death of co-founder Ilya Zhitomirsky at 22, a possible suicide. CEO Yosem Companys also recently stepped down for “personal reasons,” which were later revealed to be a spat with the cofounders and the board.
TechCrunch broke the sad news last night that one of the four cofounders of Diaspora, the open-source, pro-privacy social network that started at NYU as a Kickstarter campaign that was funded 20 times over, has died just after turning 22. The cause of death won’t be public record until the case is closed, according to the San Francisco Medical Examiner’s office, which will take at least two weeks. The office has to process a toxicology report, a clerk at the medical examiner told Betabeat, which will likely take until 2012.
Damn the Man Save the Empire
Diaspora, the Facebook competitor brought to you by Kickstarter and radical privacy advocates lecturing at NYU, has been trucking along in the Pivotal Labs office in California. But from the outside, things don’t seem to be going so well. It’s been about 18 months since the company raised a monster $200,641 on Kickstarter, and Diaspora is still squeaking out invites at a snail’s pace.
CEO Yosem Companys has abruptly left the company three days ago “due to personal reasons.”
And Diaspora recently asked for more money, which we learn today via The Daily goes toward “stipends of $1,000 a month for housing and $2,000 a month for living expenses.”
Man, PayPal is totally The Man these days. The payments processor has put the freeze on everyone from Wikileaks to Occupy Wall Street, and most recently put a lock on about $45,000 for NYU-hatched anti-social network Diaspora’s community-donated funds. “Thousands of Diaspora supporters tweeted and emailed the payments company, urging that the funds be released,” DIaspora’s Peter Schurman said in a press release. “PayPal has sent an email to Diaspora* announcing that its account has been restored. A PayPal executive also apologized repeatedly during a phone call with Diaspora.”
Can I See Your ID
No Kickstarter this time. But Diaspora, the NYU-engendered, Bay Area-incubated, occasional Facebook shit-talking startup is asking for money, again, after a protracted development period. Last night, Diaspora blasted out an email to users. “You’ve been incredibly patient in waiting for an invitation. We’re still working as fast as we can to get yours to you, and we’re sorry it’s taking so long,” they wrote. “In the meantime, though, we’re reaching out to ask if you’d be willing to help us go faster.”
Remember when Google+ stole Diaspora’s thunder? Well there’s still something the indie social network’s got that Google ain’t. Diaspora recently broke its silence is sending out alpha invitations through October and has been sending alpha users long, high-minded emails about privacy on the web and freedom of data that often contain sly or outright references to Facebook. Last night’s email linked to an article on Inc.com called “Facebook is the most hated social media company.”