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Four Nerds and a Cry to Arms Against Facebook


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NYU students reinventing online social networking

David Goldman for The New York Times

How angry is the world at Facebook for devouring every morsel of personal information we are willing to feed it?

A few months back, four geeky college students, living on pizza in a computer lab downtown on Mercer Street, decided to build a social network that wouldn’t force people to surrender their privacy to a big business. It would take three or four months to write the code, and they would need a few thousand dollars each to live on.

They gave themselves 39 days to raise $10,000, using an online site, Kickstarter, that helps creative people find support.

It turned out that just about all they had to do was whisper their plans.

“We were shocked,” said one of the four, Dan Grippi, 21. “For some strange reason, everyone just agreed with this whole privacy thing.”

They announced their project on April 24. They reached their $10,000 goal in 12 days, and the money continues to come in: as of Tuesday afternoon, they had raised $23,676 from 739 backers. “Maybe 2 or 3 percent of the money is from people we know,” said Max Salzberg, 22.

Working with Mr. Salzberg and Mr. Grippi are Raphael Sofaer, 19, and Ilya Zhitomirskiy, 20-- “four talented young nerds,” Mr. Salzberg says--all of whom met at New York University’s Courant Institute. They have called their project Diaspora* and intend to distribute the software free, and to make the code openly available so that other programmers can build on it.

From The New York Times
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