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A GST About Existing and Potential Alternative Social Networks Other Than Facebook

Hexmage-PAHexmage-PA Registered User regular
edited February 2021 in Debate and/or Discourse
Is there a viable alternative to Facebook?

First off, let's differentiate between "social network" and "social media" (as the recent Australian law did).

In a social network it is considered vital that users are known, and a large part of their appeal is in forging and maintaining connections to people the user knows (friends, family, colleagues, etc). In contrast, communities like these forums are social media; the appeal here is what is being discussed and shared, with the true identities of the users obscured and not particularly important to the primary reason people visit the forums (this is true to varying degrees with other services; DeviantArt and Tumblr users don't typically-reveal their true identities, though public figures on Twitter often do and are verified by Twitter as being who they claim).

With that out of the way, let's get back to the main topic.

Is there a viable alternative to Facebook?

Facebook itself was a latecomer to the social networking game. Before its rise to dominance, various social networking sites had come into existence since the 90's to provide a means for people to connect online. These included Six Degrees (which is largely considered to be the first social networking website), Classmates, Friends Reunited, LiveJournal, MySpace, Friendster, and many others. However, despite its late entry to the social networking service competition, Facebook has thwarted its rivals and now has about 40% of the Earth's population as active users.

That's not to say that no one has tried to challenge Facebook in the social networking industry since then. A few smaller, more obscure services have arisen in the meantime, which I will provide links to as well as Wikipedia excerpts describing them:

diaspora*
Wikipedia wrote:
Diaspora (stylized as diaspora*) is a nonprofit, user-owned, distributed social network. It consists of a group of independently owned nodes (called pods) which interoperate to form the network. The social network is not owned by any one person or entity, keeping it from being subject to corporate take-overs or advertising. According to its developer, "our distributed design means no big corporation will ever control Diaspora."
---
The distributed design attracted members of the militant Islamist extremist group ISIS, in 2014, after their propaganda campaigns were censored by Twitter. Diaspora developers issued a statement urging users to report offensive content and helping pod admins to identify users' accounts associated with ISIS. Since the network is federated, there is no central point of control for blocking content. On 20 August 2014, the Diaspora Foundation stated that "all of the larger pods have removed the [ISIS]-related accounts and posts."
Wikipedia - Diaspora (Social Media)

Ello
Wikipedia wrote:
Ello was created as an ad-free alternative to existing social networks. It has pivoted from its earlier Facebook-like incarnation toward a Pinterest-like website showcasing art, photography, fashion and web culture. The Ello service claims several notable distinguishing intentions as a social network such as never selling user data to advertisers or third parties, never showing advertisements, and not enforcing a real-name policy.
Wikipedia - Ello (Social Network)

MeWe
MeWe is an American social media and social networking service owned by Sgrouples, a company based in Culver City, California. MeWe's light approach to content moderation has made it popular among American conservatives, conspiracy theorists, and anti-vaxxers. Due to concerns with possible pro-China censorship of Facebook, the site also gained popularity in Hong Kong in November 2020. The site's interface has been described as similar to that of Facebook, although the service describes itself as the "anti-Facebook" due to its focus on data privacy.
---
MeWe's loose moderation has made it popular among conspiracy theorists, including proponents of the far-right QAnon conspiracy theory, which was banned from Facebook in 2020, and the "Stop the Steal" conspiracy theory relating to the 2020 United States presidential election. According to Rolling Stone, MeWe has "played host to general interest communities related to music and travel, but it has also come to be a haven for anti-vaxxers, QAnon conspiracy theorists, and, as reported by OneZero, far-right militia groups."
---
Shortly after the 2020 United States presidential election, MeWe and other alt-tech platforms experienced a wave of signups from Trump supporters, following crackdowns on election-related misinformation and promotion of violence on mainstream social networks. On November 11, MeWe was the second-most downloaded free app on the Apple App Store, behind its fellow alt-tech social network Parler.

On January 22, 2021, MeWe's CEO said in an interview with NPR that "MeWe is serious about putting limits on what people can say" and that he doesn't like sites where "anything goes", describing such sites as "disgusting". He also said that MeWe would be hiring more moderation staff. In the coverage, NPR noted that MeWe's stated rules are still "more lax than Facebook and Twitter," and that MeWe had not yet banned groups dedicated to QAnon
Wikipedia - MeWe

Minds
Minds is an alt-tech blockchain-based social network. Users can earn money or cryptocurrency for using Minds, and tokens can be used to boost their posts or crowdfund other users. Minds has been described as more privacy-focused than mainstream social media networks. Engadget and Vice have criticized Minds for its preponderance of far-right users and content.
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Minds was co-founded in 2011 by Bill Ottman and John Ottman as an alternative to social networks such as Facebook, which the founders believed abused their users via "spying, data mining, algorithm manipulation, and no revenue sharing".
---
A Facebook page affiliated with the hacktivist group Anonymous encouraged its followers to support Minds in 2015, and called for developers to contribute to the service's open source codebase.
---
In 2018, over 150,000 Vietnamese users joined Minds after fearing that Facebook would comply with a new law requiring them to remove political dissent and release user data to the Vietnamese government. Beginning in May 2020, over 250,000 Thai users joined Minds after growing concerns about privacy on Twitter, which had been widely used for political activism. This led Minds to add Thai language support to its mobile apps, and upgrade its servers to handle the influx of traffic.
---
A 2018 Wired article noted that hate speech was not disallowed, and reported that "The vast majority of content on Minds is innocuous, but posts do appear there that would constitute hate speech on other platforms." Ottman has said that he opposes removing hate speech and other objectionable content because he believes it can draw more attention to it, and that he opposes deplatforming extremists because he believes it only serves to push people towards more "other darker corners of the internet."
Wikipedia - Minds

NextDoor
Nextdoor is a hyperlocal social networking service for neighborhoods. Users of Nextdoor are required to submit their real names and addresses (or street without the exact number) to the website; posts made to the website are available only to other Nextdoor members living in the same neighborhood. Since 2015, Nextdoor has been criticized for enabling its users to racially profile people of color. As a platform, it also has been accused of operating as fear-based media, colonizing the public sphere, serving interests of real estate, private security, and police, reaffirming class and racial biases, and spreading conspiracy theories such as the stolen election conspiracy theory and COVID-19 misinformation.
Wikipedia - Nextdoor

Vero
Vero (stylized as VERO) is a social media platform and mobile app company. Vero markets itself as a social network free from advertisements, data mining and algorithms.
---
In March 2018, Vero's popularity surged, partly helped by an exodus from Facebook and Instagram following the Cambridge Analytica data scandal. In the wake of the scandal, Vero devised an advertising campaign aimed at defected Facebook and Instagram users, hoping the app's policies and privacy settings would assuage concerns over sharing personal information on the internet. Within the space of one week, the app went from being a small service to being the most downloaded app in eighteen countries.
Wikipedia - Vero (App)


So it's clear to see that may of these alternative social networks have their own problems. Diaspora seems promising...save for the fact that it's been in operation since 2010 and still only has 688,000 users (probably could've used a more memorable name, honestly). Its lack of central moderation also unfortunately meant it had trouble getting ISIS off the platform, too. Ello immediately surprised me upon accessing the homepage and looks nothing like I had expected, though it at least has manage to get 1 million users (however, at this point in its life it appears to be more like a wanna-be Pinterest, which itself has over 400 million users). Vero, an app that benefited from an exodus from Facebook, has managed to get 4.5 million users, which is relatively huge compared to these other sites by far, far, far short of Twitter's 350+million).

For the rest, it's surprising to see how many got boosts in their userbase following increased crackdowns on hate speech, misinformation, and other such content by Facebook and Twitter, as well as fears that Facebook would comply with government demands.

Minds in particular got a ton of Vietnamese users thanks to fears that Facebook would comply with the Vietnamese government, as well as Thai users afraid Twitter wouldn't protect activists' privacy, and now is looking to expand into India over fears that Facebook and Twitter are untrustworthy: Oulook India. Keep in mind that the people behind Minds are also against deplatforming hateful speech and content.

That said, for most of these I've listed, Google's "People Also Ask" feature gave the top result "Is x still a thing?"

So, with that in mind, are their reasonable alternatives to Facebook? Are there any, real or hypothetical, that could take-off? Even if they do, what's to stop them from developing the same problems as Facebook, or actually being worse?

Hexmage-PA on

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    Hahnsoo1Hahnsoo1 Make Ready. We Hunt.Registered User regular
    edited February 2021
    The only thing I know about MeWe is that a bunch of my conservative Facebook "friends" (folks I knew from college, basically) left for MeWe (although some went to Parler) after the 2020 election. Ell Oh Ell.

    Also, NextDoor allows you to see how racist AF your local neighborhood is. :/

    Also, what about Mastodon?

    Hahnsoo1 on
    8i1dt37buh2m.png
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    OrcaOrca Also known as Espressosaurus WrexRegistered User regular
    Unrelated, but I periodically see the acronym GST pop up on this forum. What does it stand for? The closest I could find in the acronym finder was General Studies Thematic which feels at least in the right direction, if still not correct.

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    syndalissyndalis Getting Classy On the WallRegistered User, Loves Apple Products regular
    Orca wrote: »
    Unrelated, but I periodically see the acronym GST pop up on this forum. What does it stand for? The closest I could find in the acronym finder was General Studies Thematic which feels at least in the right direction, if still not correct.

    A "gosh darned" separate thread.

    Alt Answer: Explosive ordinance disposal.

    SW-4158-3990-6116
    Let's play Mario Kart or something...
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    Hexmage-PAHexmage-PA Registered User regular
    edited February 2021
    Orca wrote: »
    Unrelated, but I periodically see the acronym GST pop up on this forum. What does it stand for? The closest I could find in the acronym finder was General Studies Thematic which feels at least in the right direction, if still not correct.

    GST - Goddamn Separate Thread.

    Usually used when a course of discussion would significantly derail an established thread.

    Hexmage-PA on
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    OrcaOrca Also known as Espressosaurus WrexRegistered User regular
    syndalis wrote: »
    Orca wrote: »
    Unrelated, but I periodically see the acronym GST pop up on this forum. What does it stand for? The closest I could find in the acronym finder was General Studies Thematic which feels at least in the right direction, if still not correct.

    A "gosh darned" separate thread.

    Alt Answer: Explosive ordinance disposal.

    Thanks for the explanation. Now to see it go unused until I forget it and then be confused the next time someone uses it. :P

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    Hexmage-PAHexmage-PA Registered User regular
    edited February 2021
    Hahnsoo1 wrote: »
    Also, what about Mastodon?

    I'll look into that one later and add it to the OP if it seems like it belongs there.

    That goes for any others people feel deserve to be mentioned in this thread.

    Hexmage-PA on
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    evilmrhenryevilmrhenry Registered User regular
    A reasonable alternative to Facebook is an inherent contradiction. The reason people have a Facebook account is because their friends and family are on Facebook. My mom isn't on Diaspora or Ello or what not, she's on Facebook. The value of a social networking site is in the network.

    Because of that, decreasing the power of Facebook can't be done on an individual level, or through consumerist action.

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    Hexmage-PAHexmage-PA Registered User regular
    edited February 2021
    A reasonable alternative to Facebook is an inherent contradiction. The reason people have a Facebook account is because their friends and family are on Facebook. My mom isn't on Diaspora or Ello or what not, she's on Facebook. The value of a social networking site is in the network.

    Because of that, decreasing the power of Facebook can't be done on an individual level, or through consumerist action.

    It could be done if Facebook, for whatever reason, either became unappealing enough to a large amount of people or another service came around that a significant mass of people genuinely liked more (although Facebook already has a huge advantage in its colossal userbase). Those concerned with privacy concerns (particularly Cambridge Analytica) left for Vero. Conservatives who believe that Facebook is biased against them (which of course isn't actually true) look for alternatives like Parler, MeWe, and Minds.

    Minds in particular is interesting (and concerning) because it's drawing people concerned with both: the service both allows hate speech and other objectionable content AND has been drawing people in Vietnam, Thailand, and India concerned with privacy and distrustful of Facebook and Twitter. It also provides means for users to receive donations of money from other users as a reward for providing popular content, which seems like something that could attract people hoping to post on a social network AND make money at the same time.

    I agree that the value of a social networking site is the network, and that Facebook has a massive advantage. Lots of justified criticism is being levied at Facebook, but I'm curious what could replace it without repeating the same problems, or if it's even possible.

    Hexmage-PA on
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    FeralFeral MEMETICHARIZARD interior crocodile alligator ⇔ ǝɹʇɐǝɥʇ ǝᴉʌoɯ ʇǝloɹʌǝɥɔ ɐ ǝʌᴉɹp ᴉRegistered User regular
    We're collectively asking the wrong questions.

    The myriad technologies that we now generalize as "The Internet" were largely developed by consortiums of loosely-affiliated companies, universities, governments, and interested nerds to be interoperable rather than beholden to any single company. For example, email: as massive as Gmail is, you can leave Gmail without becoming disconnected from your friends using other email providers, because email is a standard. It's defined by committees and described in publicly-accessible documents. No one company owns it.

    Imagine a social media system where you can choose your front-end, but that front-end shows you social media posts from other users on their own front-ends. One where I can post a video to Facebook, and it automatically shows up on your MeWe, because you've subscribed not to "Facebook" but to me as an individual. Imagine that my video on Facebook gets encapsulated in an open protocol and that chunk of information is sent over to MeWe, Twitter, and other social media services, without me going through the clunky and often unreliable process of 'linking' each possible pair of social media services. This sort of open standard is what diaspora* and Mastodon want to be, and in a science fiction far flung universe have the potential to be, but they aren't remotely ready for prime time yet. Yes, there's the common awkwardness of open source software, but it's even worse than that. They're open source and archaic. Using diaspora* and Mastodon are frustrating experiences, much like using a 10-year-old Linux distribution.

    Think back to pre-Y2K online service providers like AOL, Prodigy, Compuserve, et. al. These companies provided walled gardens, which satisfied people until they learned what the Internet could do, at which point those service providers had to offer actual Internet access... and then over a few years, their proprietary walled gardens went fallow and faded away.

    The public was satisfied with AOL and its competitors, despite the fact that being on AOL meant that you couldn't directly communicate with Prodigy users, or vice versa. The Internet had to emerge before the public saw the value of it, and even then it wasn't instantaneous. Many people, especially older users, remained in their walled gardens for years.

    The vast majority of the public doesn't generally think about technology in terms of interoperable standards. They habitually think of tech in terms of products and services. In the 90s, if you didn't like AOL, quit and go to Prodigy and just suffer the inconvenience... or don't go online at all. Today, if you don't like Facebook, quit and go to Twitter and just suffer the inconvenience... or don't use social media at all.

    There was no great public demand for an internet based on interoperable standards. Demand for the Internet was driven by institutions with political power and money, who needed it to do business and research with each other. There is no comparable demand for interoperable social media standards today. The people who demand them are a thin assemblage of privacy nerds and open source software enthusiasts. Assemble together the entire diaspora* and Mastodon development communities, tally up the people and skills, and they simply don't have the time and skills to develop open standards for social media and the real-world implementations of those standards, including the web and mobile front-ends, and produce them with the spit and polish that Facebook and Twitter can.

    Corporations and institutions still have it in their blood to develop interoperable standards and open-source protocols like they used to. It still happens, especially for systems with commercial applications like VOIP, video streaming, and machine learning. Netflix and YouTube make money by streaming video to you; Apple and Samsung make money by creating devices that can display that streaming video without destroying your battery; VMware and Citrix make money on enterprise systems that stream a desktop to remote workers; consequently they'll collaborate on H.265 video compression. And it doesn't just have to be for-profit companies; something as useful as video compression also has government and educational applications as well.

    We just aren't seeing that sort of widespread institutional push for unwalling social media. At least not yet. Will we in the future? I honestly have no idea.

    In my ideal science fiction scenario, the governments and universities and corporations of the world recognize that these walled gardens will ultimately become archaeological ruins just like AOL's and Prodigy's non-Internet proprietary online services did, and will find a reason to work together to create interoperable social media standards. I don't know how to get there from here. I do know that it isn't going to happen if we just switch from one walled garden to another.

    every person who doesn't like an acquired taste always seems to think everyone who likes it is faking it. it should be an official fallacy.

    the "no true scotch man" fallacy.
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    ForarForar #432 Toronto, Ontario, CanadaRegistered User regular
    A reasonable alternative to Facebook is an inherent contradiction. The reason people have a Facebook account is because their friends and family are on Facebook. My mom isn't on Diaspora or Ello or what not, she's on Facebook. The value of a social networking site is in the network.

    Because of that, decreasing the power of Facebook can't be done on an individual level, or through consumerist action.

    It's essentially just a spin on the messenger wars of the 90's/00's.

    Eventually you had people on ICQ, Yahoo, AIM, MSN, etc, etc, and it became a mess (then Trillian came along and let you have one program that could run multiple accounts at once, but it was still kind of a pain).

    Facebook essentially 'won' that in a way, and I'd say the vast majority of the friends and family I want to keep in touch with (along with dozens of acquaintances) are in a single spot.

    Going back to a segregated "I'm on Mastodon for X reasons, and Parler to keep up with the racists in the family, and etc etc" is only so realistic. And sounds like a reason for a Trillian style aggregator, if that could even be done (I'm not site programmer, I have no idea if you could even do that smoothly, technically or without being blown out of the water via litigation of one sort or another).

    I've all but given up on Twitter (will begrudgingly end up there occasionally to follow a given thread shared here on the forums or by a friend), and understand that Facebook is an evil in the world. It is one that I (sadly) tolerate, for simplicity of keeping in touch with dozens of people in nigh infinite combinations for arranging events, chatting, and whatnot. Frankly, I barely use FB itself. As FB intended (ages ago, when they separated out the Messenger aspect into its own app, rather than being part and parcel of the FB app itself), it would be annoying enough to completely bail on the convenience it brings that I remain a member, and because of that, my participation (on some small level) incentivizes the participation of others. I doubt anyone stays on that site just for keeping up with me, but I may be a part of the dozens that are there that they do stick around for.

    Getting them all to up and move to something else is unlikely, and while many have written the positive aspects of gutting Social Media's stranglehold on their lives, I don't foresee myself walking that path.

    So, I agree. It's the big dog, and until someone manages to somehow drop a real game changer on things (and does so in a way that isn't just bought up and rebranded by Facebook themselves), that's the barrier to entry that'd need to be overcome.

    First they came for the Muslims, and we said NOT TODAY, MOTHERFUCKER!
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    Hexmage-PAHexmage-PA Registered User regular
    edited February 2021
    One scenario I've seen brought up is that laws like the one Australia just passed will lead to a fracturing of the Web as different countries begin enforcing different standards. Plus, there are individuals who don't want Facebook or Twitter or whatever to cooperate with their country's government.

    The most troubling aspect of this IMO is that Minds (the blockchain-based social network that allows hate speech and has a means for users to donate bitcoin to other users) apparently is getting an increasing presence in countries where people are wary of Facebook and Twitter not protecting their privacy and cooperating with their governments. It's still minuscule compared to Facebook but has more users than a lot of the other services I mentioned in the OP (it's also grown by over 1.5 million users in the last two years), and if it successfully gains a foothold in as populous a country as India that could have troubling consequences.

    Hexmage-PA on
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    electricitylikesmeelectricitylikesme Registered User regular
    Alternatives to Facebook is a weird question though. For example I still have a Facebook account, but I don't use it and log into it anymore. The primary reason to have it is to squat on my real name on Facebook.

    Long before that recent development for me though, Facebook wasn't Facebook - it was Messenger for me. The WhatsApp drama recently then let me push everyone onto Signal - which delivers, to my eyes, an identical experience in an everyway.

    So replacing Facebook in the networking vs media sense is weird: Facebook as it is behaves much more like social media then a social networking platform - it's oriented towards that "yelling into the void and hoping the void acknowledges you" sort of dynamic.

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    Hexmage-PAHexmage-PA Registered User regular
    I'm reminded that someone I follow posted this last year. Seems relevant:
    People with their OWN webpages or entire webdomains used to be all there was to the internet. There wasn’t a youtube, facebook, twitter, reddit, tumblr or wiki; anyone who produced content was doing so on a site they ran themselves! As people shifted to those big-name social platforms, not only did that practice die off but the millions of personal sites once comprising almost all internet content experienced a mass extinction event as their very hosting services shut down and nobody cared to maintain or renew them.

    Source

    The greater context for this is that his website had recently been falling apart, so he sought a service called Neocities to preserve it.

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    AngelHedgieAngelHedgie Registered User regular
    Hexmage-PA wrote: »
    I'm reminded that someone I follow posted this last year. Seems relevant:
    People with their OWN webpages or entire webdomains used to be all there was to the internet. There wasn’t a youtube, facebook, twitter, reddit, tumblr or wiki; anyone who produced content was doing so on a site they ran themselves! As people shifted to those big-name social platforms, not only did that practice die off but the millions of personal sites once comprising almost all internet content experienced a mass extinction event as their very hosting services shut down and nobody cared to maintain or renew them.

    Source

    The greater context for this is that his website had recently been falling apart, so he sought a service called Neocities to preserve it.

    Yeah, this is "walked to school in the snow uphill both ways" grousing that misses why the old model died out. I've coded pages in raw HTML and CSS (hell, I can remember when CSS was a revolutionary new thing that was going to change how websites were created) as an exercise in understanding what design tools are doing under the hood. But the reality is that once you understand what is happening, you're better off handing over the scut work to automated systems that let you focus on the actual design.

    It turns out that owning your own domain and hosting your own website is a lot of little (and not so little) headaches, and thus once tools and services popped up that offered to remove those headaches, it's not surprising that people moved over en masse.

    XBL: Nox Aeternum / PSN: NoxAeternum / NN:NoxAeternum / Steam: noxaeternum
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