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Diaspora, the open-source based social network touted as a privacy-conscious alternative to Facebook, has opened up for business.

For now, stepping aboard the alpha-version of the decentralised service is strictly on an invitation-only basis. Although anyone can request to join the alpha test, the numbers are limited. The closest that most members of the great unwashed will get to joining the site is inclusion on a mailing list, if our experience is anything to go by.

Diaspora aims to address some of the multitude of privacy and content-control issues that have arisen over Facebook in recent months.

The social network software is designed so that users only share photos and comments among a group they define. Users retain the copyright of anything uploaded onto Diaspora.

The developers behind the software - students at New York University's Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences - also promise to make privacy controls both clear and straightforward.

Diaspora is still in alpha.

Early versions of its code were offered up for scrutiny in September and quickly discovered to be riddled with all manner of security holes, as we reported at the time. So its just as well its developers are proceeding cautiously towards a full launch, and adopting the open source ethos of quickly fixing bugs as and when they arise.

A blog entry by the developers lists development goals for the project including a continue focus on security, greater extensibility and third-party client APIs and cleaner code. ®

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