Facebook alternative Diaspora goes live

Diaspora screenshot
Image caption The early Diaspora screenshots revealed a familiar look

An open source alternative to Facebook - called Diaspora - has gone live.

The "privacy-aware" social network was founded earlier this year during a period when Facebook came under fire for its privacy settings.

The community-funded project is currently only open to a small number of invited people.

Analysts have questioned whether the network can ever challenge more established sites such as Facebook, which now boasts nearly 600m members.

Diaspora says it hopes to begin adding more people in the coming weeks.

"By taking these baby steps, we'll be able to quickly identify performance problems and iterate on features as quickly as possible," the four US students behind the service wrote in a blog post.

The team say they will continue to refine the site in response to feedback.

"Our number one goal has been releasing something that works. Sometimes that means making a bit of a mess.

"Now that we have working features, we can double down on making the code more concise and straightforward, and improving our test suite."

Security alert

Their idea of building Diaspora started earlier this year during a period of intense criticism of Facebook.

Diaspora said it wanted to give users back control over the information they share on social networks.

One of the ways it aims to do this is by decentralising the service, allowing people to run their own Diaspora server.

Sites such as Facebook keeps its data in centralised banks of servers.

In addition, it aims to sell its service based on its privacy settings.

"Diaspora doesn't make you wade through pages of settings and options just to keep your profile secure," it says, in an apparent dig at Facebook.

However, Diaspora has not been without problems.

When it released its first code in September, developers quickly criticised it for containing multiple security bugs.

And some have questioned whether the team can deliver their vision.

It is one of several sites - including Appleseed, OneSocialWeb and Elgg - that aims to challenge Facebook's model.

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