Facebook is under siege. The Cambridge Analytica situation has led to the #deletefacebook movement and led Mark Zuckerberg to officially respond in an effort to calm the masses.

Facebook was founded 14 years ago and has grown to more than 2 billion users with what must be the world’s largest database of personal information. The world has changed a lot in the last 14 years. People are much more confortable paying for things online, and there’s a greater awareness of personal privacy and security of data.

It’s time to consider what a viable alternative to Facebook may look like.

Monetisation

Facebook is free to use, which means as a user, you are the product. Your personal information and usage behaviour is all valuable data sold to advertisers, allowing Facebook to make a (huge) profit.

This is not unusual. Most of the Internet is funded on advertising which has also been the lifeblood of the traditional news publishing business for over a century. What is unusual, is the shear size of Facebook. Facebook needs to collect as much data about you as possible to enable highly targeted advertising.

Remove the need for advertising and you remove the need to collect so much data.

If there are no adverts, it is the user that needs to pay. How might that work?

1. Platform fee

Users would pay a fixed monthy fee to access the social network, much like people do to use Spotify music. Alternatively, the platform may have a freemium model, where you can use the social network for free and then pay to upgrade certain features.

2. Charge power users

Alternatively, the social network would be free to everyone – except those with a large following. Corporates and influencers would pay a monthly fee to gain extra tools for managing their social media presence and help communicate with their millions of followers.

3. Charge for content

Traditional news outlets are struggling financially and it’s increasingly difficult to produce good quality content that is supported by adverts. A social platform could provide a micropayment mechanism or charge small monthly fee to access high quality news services.

Fake news

The rise of social media has enabled the new era of fake news, in part fed by digital advertising.

A social network determined to tackle fake news would:

  • Quickly identify and stop the spread of fake news
  • Ensure industry / domain experts are heard louder than keyboard warriors
  • Provide tools for crowd sourcing factual corrections to news

As an aside, requiring a small monthly fee to charge for access to the social network would greatly reduce spammers / trolls creating 100’s of accounts for the sole purposes of spreading false news.

Living in a Bubble

When on social media, we all live in a bubble created by the algorithms that decide what to show in our news feed. This was illustrated perfectly when Theo Wilson went undercover in the alt-right.

A social network can help us better appreciate other peoples viewpoints and expose us to new ideas, rather than continually re-affirming the same messages. This could be facilited by:

  • Using algorithms or the community to promote related articles with a different perspective
  • Encourage people with an alternate opinion to share it in a safe environment
  • Provide visual tools to help people understand their bubble and help them shift it

What do you think?

  • Is there room for an alternative social network?
  • Would you pay $5 or $10 per month to use a social network without advertising?
  • Would you pay $1 / month to each of your favourite news sources / pages?
  • Do you want to hear different viewpoints, or are you happy with living in your own bubble?
Posted by Chris

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