diaspora*, the privacy-aware, decentralized social network which puts users in control of their data security and was touted by the media as a "Facebook killer," celebrates its first anniversary as a community-run project on 27 August.

The project was started by four young programmers from NYU’s Courant Institute in 2010, and raised a record $200,000 via Kickstarter. It broke new ground in establishing a social network which respects users' privacy and helps them to own their data by giving them the power to decide where their data are stored.

Through many trials and tribulations, including finding workable solutions to technical issues which had never been solved before, difficulty in raising funding and the tragic death of one of the founders, the project kept growing.

On 27 August 2012, the remaining founders handed over the diaspora* project to its community. So what has happened since then?

The last year in diaspora*

Community manager Sean Tilley and core developers Jonne Haß and Florian Staudacher took over the reins and got diaspora* galloping once again.

In that time the community has:

  • Adopted Loomio as a central hub for consensus-based decision making. Anyone in our community is welcome to voice their opinions, ideas, and plans on how to take the project further.
  • adopted a semantic versioning system for software releases;
  • released several major software updates, including significant performance and architecture improvements and many features;
  • developed numerous improvements in terms of designs, making the user experience in Diaspora even better than ever before.
  • launched a new project site, diasporafoundation.org, as a hub for the project;
  • launched a wiki at wiki.diasporafoundation.org as a hub for help for everyone from new users to developers;
  • done a lot of work on packaging the installation of diaspora* for different operating systems, to make it easier for people to set up their own server.

Diaspora's project infrastructure evolves

As development has shifted over to a community infrastructure, so too has the structure supporting the project itself. Since the beginning of the project, much of the principal development was done largely by Diaspora, Inc, a small for-profit start-up dedicated to coding the decentralized social communication platform.

Times change, and the project has grown and matured beyond what a start-up could provide. In a collaboration with Eben Moglen of the Software Freedom Law Center, the Diaspora project now officially runs under a non-profit infrastructure under the Free Software Support Network. The FSSN will act as a 501c3 non-profit collaborator, and will provide the following for the community:

  1. A respected place to hold all of the assets of Diaspora; the trademarks, the code copyright, JoinDiaspora and our money. It is a transparent organization which acts in the interest of the project and the community. If we decide we want to spend money doing code bounties or give swag to our top contributors, FSSN will work together with us to decide and put forth a course of action.

  2. Take tax-free donations. FSSN is a 501c3 charity. Money that is donated to FSSN in Diaspora’s name will go to help our project. This is huge in keeping the ‘back room’ of Diaspora clear, and means hackers can focus on being hackers without being bogged down by legal paperwork.

  3. A partner that shares our values. Together, we hope to take the project to the next level in terms of what our community can do together.

Where now for diaspora*?

The next steps for the project are:

  • separate the code which governs inter-server communication into its own layer to make our code base more stable;
  • create an API so diaspora* can communicate with other apps and platforms;
  • try to develop a standard protocol in collaboration with other decentralized social networks;
  • build more features into the software to attract more users.

The good news is that the diaspora* network is healthy and growing in the hands of its community. There is now a thriving but small community of volunteer developers contributing to the project. New developers are joining all the time, and progress is speeding up exponentially. However, we can always do with new people to help out. If you think you can contribute to the diaspora* project, we'd love to hear from you!

If you want to talk to us, please send us an email to press@diasporafoundation.org!