The breakaway leaking site formed by several WikiLeaks defectors has gone live early, ironically after the design of the site was leaked.
OpenLeaks, created by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's former right-hand man, Daniel Domscheit-Berg, promises to be a more democratic organisation than WikiLeaks and plans to work with other organisations, including media, to release documents publicly, as opposed to publishing them itself.
The world has known about OpenLeaks since late last year, when it was revealed that Mr Domscheit-Berg and Mr Assange had fallen out. Chat logs showed Mr Domscheit-Berg accusing Mr Assange of being autocratic and behaving like "some kind of emperor or slave trader", failing to consult his team on important decisions.
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Swedish press had reported at the time that the OpenLeaks launch was imminent but it has evidently been a harder task than first imagined.
This week, long-time leak site Cryptome, which was launched a decade before WikiLeaks in 1996, published virtually the entire contents of the then hidden OpenLeaks website. That forced the site to go live in an "alpha" version, but organisers say they don't expect to begin leaking documents until the second half of the year.
Mr Domscheit-Berg has labelled Mr Assange a control freak and this was highlighted recently by a profile in Vanity Fair, which details the now fractured relationship between The Guardian newspaper and Mr Assange.
Mr Assange reportedly threatened to sue The Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger if he published documents leaked by WikiLeaks before Mr Assange was ready.
The New York Times executive editor Bill Keller is another media heavyweight who has fallen out with Mr Assange, describing him in a new feature article as "elusive, manipulative and volatile".
"We regarded Assange throughout as a source, not as a partner or collaborator, but he was a man who clearly had his own agenda," Keller wrote.
The falling out between Mr Assange and some of his biggest media partners could play into the hands of OpenLeaks.
"OpenLeaks considers itself a non-profit community and service provider for whistleblowers and organisations, media, and individuals who engage in promoting transparency," the site said.
"OpenLeaks will not accept or publish documents on its own platform, but rather create many "digital dropboxes" for its community members, each adapted to the specific needs of our members so that they can provide a safe and trusted leaking option for whistleblowers."
On its FAQ page, OpenLeaks said it saw itself as not a competitor but a "complementary project" to WikiLeaks, arguing the fact that it was not involved in direct editing or releasing of documents meant it was "a mere conduit between the whistleblower and an organisation of their choice".
However, in an interview conducted late last year, an OpenLeaks member took a veiled swipe at Mr Assange by saying that OpenLeaks would be "democratically governed by all its members, rather than limited to one group or individual".
"There are two major parts to the process of leaking: submission of material and publication of it," OpenLeaks said.
"By concentrating on the submission part we attain two desirable goals: 1) increasing the security for all parties involved, 2) improving scalability by minimising bottlenecks and reducing complexity in our organisation."
Mr Domscheit-Berg resigned from WikiLeaks after it released almost 400,000 classified US documents relating to the Iraq war. He and other WikiLeaks members felt Mr Assange released the documents too early without taking the time to edit names of US collaborators and informants in Iraq properly.
"You are not anyone's king or god," Mr Domscheit-Berg told Mr Assange in an online chat, a transcript of which was obtained and published by Wired.com.
"And you're not even fulfilling your role as a leader right now. A leader communicates and cultivates trust in himself. You are doing the exact opposite. You behave like some kind of emperor or slave trader."
Mr Assange shot back, saying he was suspending Mr Domscheit-Berg for a month and that if he wanted to appeal, "you will be heard on Tuesday".
Domschelt-Berg instead resigned and began working on OpenLeaks. He is writing a tell-all book on his three years at WikiLeaks, titled Inside WikiLeaks: My Time at the World's Most Dangerous Website.
Australian journalist Andrew Fowler is also writing a book on Mr Assange, a biography dubbed The Most Dangerous Man in the World. It is due for release later this year and the movie rights have already been snapped up.
This week, five people in Britain, including three teenagers, were arrested for allegedly carrying out cyber attacks on major companies including Visa and MasterCard in retaliation for them cutting off WikiLeaks. One of those arrested had reportedly given interviews to the BBC about his involvement in Anonymous, a loose-knit group of online troublemakers who co-ordinated the attacks.
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