NYU Students Aim to Invent Facebook (Again) - to Bring Back Your Privacy, and the Way it Was


(WIRED) Remember when Facebook really was a private club? In the days before we called anything a “social network?” When “sharing” and “connecting” wasn’t bait for the switch of “monetizing” the stuff and nonsense of our lives? Well, four NYU students do, and they are so nostalgic for those halcyon days way back in 2004 that they have set out to re-invent that wheel — for the good of mankind.

The New York Times reports Wednesday that Ilya Zhitomirskiy, 20; Dan Grippi, 21; Max Salzberg, 22; and Raphael Sofaer, 19, decided that Facebook had become so … Facebook that the world needed a safe online haven, one that could fulfill what had once been the fact and promise of Facebook. A place secure from the Big Bad Wolves who walk right though an open door to cull, scrape, decipher and analyze our timelines, and who see a commercial opportunity every time we go for coffee, buy a movie ticket or change partners.

Even though there is some evidence that only old fogeys are annoyed by Facebook’s latest change in the definition of “private” and “friend,” the NYU Four (as they shall henceforth be known on Epicenter) were surprised to discover that their sense of being fed up was shared by so many others.

“We were shocked,” Grippi told the Times. “For some strange reason, everyone just agreed with this whole privacy thing.”

There’s a practical component to the millennial crowd for keeping some things close to the vest that meshes nicely with a re-emerging visceral need: Students entering the job market have to explain their drunken escapades and make-out sessions and perhaps even drug use (we’re looking at you, Michael Phelps) that hiring managers now will know all about.

The Times story is well worth reading, so here are only a few details: The NYU Four used Kickstarter to raise $10,000 in 39 days. They calculate they’ll need a few months to write the code — and these guys are students at NYU’s elite Courant institute for math brainiacs, so they probably have that right. They call their project “Diaspora,” so you kinda get how serious they are about this.

We’re stoked because we’ve posited that Facebook has gone rogue and have called for just this sort of project. So while it’s way too early to know if anything will come of this, stranger things have happened. At the very least this news is apt to give a cranky Ryan Singel a reason to crack at least a little smile.

Boys, live long and prosper. When the big money guys start pulling up in Maseratis they say could be yours tomorrow, stick to your guns. Remember another promise that a couple of other college guys made when you were in grade school: Don’t Be Evil.

You can start by not suing us for using the picture we downloaded from your site, joindiaposra.com.

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