I acknowledge this is more of a Debate & Discourse sort of thread, but I'm genuinely curious how the opinions of SE++ regulars would diverge from those of D&D regulars.
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 - Diaspora (Social Media)Ello
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 - Ello (Social Network)MeWe
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 - MeWeMinds
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 - MindsNextDoor
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.
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 - NextdoorVero
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 - Vero (App)
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.
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?