What alternatives to Facebook and Twitter?
Whether you think Twitter/Facebook should ban users or not, the crux of the matter is that Facebook/Twitter have a lot of influence.
Mastodon.online provides a more decentralised version of Twitter.
The most robust option is for everyone to have their own website and to link websites together in feeds. This isn't fully slick, but it's a smart step from a business or audience building standpoint.
Are there good reasons to get off Facebook and Twitter?
Let me go through a few angles and philosophies that I see on this question. Hat tip to my friends Ste and Greg for discussions and ideas on the below.
A. Getting de-platformed.
If you've built up a big following (which I haven't!), then getting thrown off Twitter is pretty annoying. Personally, I don't think that I'll get thrown off Twitter or Facebook, nor will many others. Although maybe I'm being complacent...
Clearly Trump getting thrown off Twitter is not arbitrary given his contribution to the US State Capitol being over-run by a violent mob. At the same time, it's hard to find a rule - consistently applied across the Twitter platform - describing why Trump was thrown off. It is sad, but a reality, that there are many Twitter accounts inciting violence - including accounts of major national figures and governments.
My position - and maybe it is a naive and hopeless position, although I think not - is that the problem is in having a small number of platforms (aka Twitter, Facebook) with large reach. The pragmatic solution I see is in having more platforms. This is my review of some alternatives to Twitter/Facebook.
B. Having to pay for ads
From a business angle (my experience running www.Point5Brewing.com as an eCommerce business), the power that platforms like Facebook have, is huge. Even if you build up a large following, Facebook completely controls who sees your posts, and has the system set up to encourage you to pay for ads.
As a business, if you can develop your own distribution channel/audience, that's always going to be better and lower risk.
Alternatives to Facebook and Twitter:
1. Social Media as a Public Utility
There is a substantial Wikipedia article on the topic. I won't dwell further on the idea because I think that social media is too dynamic and amorphous to make a public utility. Myspace fell apart and was replaced by Facebook. Facebook is now increasingly driven (at least economically) by Instagram. In ten years time, who knows what the landscape will be. The landscape is changing too fast to make it a public utility.
2. A Slightly More Decentralised Version of Twitter
One candidate here is Mastodon.online . Mastodon (terrible name btw) is decentralised in the sense that there are different servers hosting Mastodon (think Twitter) accounts. You can join a server and, if they kick you off, you can go to another server and keep your data and followers (more or less).
I created an account here (https://mastodon.online/@RonanMcGovern) if you'd like to check it out.
One criticism of Mastodon is that the servers/hosts can still be targeted, so you can get shut down temporarily before you move to another server/host (if someone will accept you).
The larger issue with Mastodon seems to be that it's too similar to Twitter. For a new platform to succeed, it needs to be substantially more unique than what is already out there.
3. A domain based approach to social media
Another approach is that everyone has their own website, and they only use that website to send out blogs or tweets and/or a newsletter. You can see how I've set mine up in this way at www.RonanMcGovern.com .
Balaji Srinivasan (www.balajis.com - you see how I did that!) is a big advocate of this approach and even has a guide on how to leave Twitter and bring your followers with you (start by putting your Twitter username as your website).
The benefit of each person having their own website is that it can be fully decentralised. You can control your own hosting of your website and you control distribution (your e-mail list) - you can make it very hard to be taken down. People can also subscribe to your content using your RSS feed (e.g. www.RonanMcGovern.com/feed/ ) using a feed reader (like this one - https://www.feedreader.com/) - so you can also control your distribution. A bit old school - but sometimes old is the new new.
My reservation with everybody having their own domain (read: website) is that it seems a bit clunky and not as slick as Facebook and Twitter. Perhaps if it was attached to a phone number instead of a website, it would be easier.
Conclusion - having your own personal website is a smart business decision.
If you're worried about Facebook/Twitter having a lot of influence, I think creating and spending time on your own website and e-mail list is the way to go. Tools like wordpress.org make it easier to do this. That said, it's not a fully slick approach.
If you're not that worried about Facebook and Twitter, I understand that too. Still, it can be worth checking out personal websites from your friends who do have them and signing up to their feeds/newsletters.
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