Social networking site Diaspora, which aims to be the Facebook of the open source world, has opened its doors to a limited number of users in an attempt to iron out the final bugs before a full launch.
The service, which has been in development for quite some time, began as a response to perceived privacy issues with Facebook - in particular, the company's terms and conditions that give it complete rights over all your personal data and the inability to remove your user account completely from the site.
Diaspora, by contrast, is based around the premise of giving its users full control over their personal data at all times. In the words of the site's founders, 'you own your pictures, and you shouldn’t have to give that up just to share them. You maintain ownership of everything you share on Diaspora, giving you full control over how it's distributed.
As well as seemingly improved rights and privacy controls, Diaspora's unique selling point over other social networking services is its use of 'aspects' - groups of connections that allow you to share different material with different users. A user can create, for example, 'work,' 'friends,' and 'family' aspects - sharing updates on a project with one aspect, stories from the pub with another, and photos of family gatherings with a third.
The open source nature of Disapora also means that its source code is freely downloadable, and the company offers a guide for users to set up their own Diaspora servers for private collaboration.
In the past, however, this has caused problems: when the source code for Diaspora was first released, coders were quick to criticise it for major security failings - issues which have now, hopefully, been put to bed prior to this semi-public launch.
For those interested in an alternative to Facebook, the company has launched a queued registration system
Do you think that Diaspora can compete with the might of Facebook by addressing people's privacy concerns, or will it end up being nothing more than a niche site? Share your thoughts over in the forums