4 students at NYU made headlines this week by announcing their intent to create a decentralized social network that would provide all of the user control and privacy that is now significantly lacking in Facebook. The project, which they named Diaspora, is lofty in ambition and is generating a lot of attention in the tech circles.
Aside from Diaspora itself though, what's really cool is the NYU team's use of Kickstarter to raise the money for their project. Kickstarter is a site that helps people execute crowd funding. Users post ideas that would take a certain amount of capital to execute on, and use Kickstarter to raise the money that it would take to get started.
The NYU team specifically set a goal of $10,000, which they believe is enough to fund them working all summer without any pay. People who choose to fund the project are given a certain value of return when the project is complete based on their support. For example, the Diaspora team set contribution levels starting from: $10 gets you a copy of the program on CD and some Diaspora stickers at the end of the summer; $25 gets you that and a T-shirt; thresholds go all the way up to $2000, which gets you a brand new computer delivered with Diaspora installed already on it when the project is complete.
I love the idea of people that want something to be created coming together to fund it. As more and more traditional revenue streams go the way of the dinosaur, crowd funding could be a huge opportunity to provide cash necessary for things that collectives of people want. For example, fans of a band could crowd fund the studio time for a new album. A certain group of professionals might fund a particular research study.
I donated $10 to the Diaspora project; I look forward to following its progress this summer, and will certainly explore the finished project when it launches. I also expect to start contributing to more crowd funded projects in the future.