By Frank Shyong
Updated September 17, 2010 at 08:35 PM EDT

Earlier this year, four NYU students set out to create an alternative to Facebook that would restore control of personal information to the users. Their Twitter account, JoinDiaspora, acquired over 2,000 followers in just a few weeks, and they raised $10,000 in 12 days through crowd-sourced fundraising.

Their crusade was covered in The New York Times, and the project is nearing completion. The developer version was released on the Diaspora blog today, along with screenshots of the early build.

The alpha release in October will include Facebook integration, internationalization, and data portability, whatever that means. However, still no word about the fate of Farmville and Restaurant City on the new social networking platform, which is, let’s be honest, the only things any of you care about.

Diaspora looks pretty slick and the developers’ commitment to privacy seems sincere. Although I’m rooting for them, however, I’m hesitant to promise that the site will catch on. “Diaspora” seems like one of those names that is really cool conceptually, but turns out to be really clunky and awkward in practice. For those of you not up-to-date on your SAT-esque vocab, the word means a dispersion of people outside their homeland, and it’s supposed to allude to the website’s unique method of protecting information, which is to empower users to set up their own servers and host their friends’ information in a cybertronic “diaspora” of data. But “Diaspora me” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, and “find me on Diaspora” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it. It’s twice the syllables of Facebook! Who has the time for that?

But judging by the screenshots, the design looks clean and functional, and I need a site to keep in touch with my friends that doesn’t ravenously devour my personal information. Especially since I’ve always found Facebook a little creepy. Poking was never a part of my normal human interaction anyway, and I’m also increasingly disturbed by Facebook’s suggestions as to whom I should be keeping in touch with and what photos I should be looking at. You don’t know me, Facebook! You’re not even sentient!

What do you think, Popwatchers? Would you ever sign up for Diaspora?