Alternative(s) to Facebook


#1

Dear all,

A few of my friends closed their Facebook accounts in the past few days. I wish to do same, however, as I live abroad, it would cut me off from family and friends I see about once a year. I set out searching for an alternative to which I could lure my non computer minded friends (and particularly my family). So far I am considering Mastodon and Diaspora.

I am a Librem 5 subscriber, all going well I will be a happy user in about one year from now. Therefore I would like to align my choice of social network with this phone. Is there any social networking programme previewed for the Librem 5? What alternatives are present Librem users taking up?

Any insight to share on this is welcome. Thank you.


#2

Hi @lads,

I believe there is no social network currently envisionned as “the social network of choice” from Purism. It will have a deep integration with Matrix.org, as they have partnered up. This is not exactly a social network though.

I do not believe the concept of social network is very popular among the niche of Librem 5 backers: most of us are very privacy-conscious. Most social network are not very privacy-oriented. Most of us are trying to squeeze off distractions. Most social network are very time consuming.

Still, if a social network was to be bound to PureOS (which I seriously doubt), it would probably be a social network from the Fediverse

My bet would even go to the quite popular Mastodon, which could be described as a decentralized Libre twitter-like.


#3

I’ve also been looking into this in the past week. As far as actually replacing the same sort of features Facebook has (primarily, photo/video albums associated with a person), I haven’t found much, except for possibly Friendica.

Pretty much all the others look to me to be more or less equivalent to Twitter, including Mastodon and Diaspora from what I can tell, except for being decentralized.

Given the partnership with Matrix, I would certainly encourage you to push your friends and family to switching over to a Matrix client like Riot.im for messaging. But I have family members who enjoy being able to go to a given person’s profile, and see recent pictures and videos involving that person, or look through old pictures and videos for nostalgia’s sake, etc. Having all of that history on the internet is not generally a very privacy-conscious thing, but I haven’t really been able to find something to replace that functionality for them.

I think the compromise is to host your own server for one of these services (perhaps Friendica) and restrict membership to the friends and family you want. But I’m still trying to think of the best way to stay connected with friends and family in a Facebook-like way while still following good privacy and security practices.


#4

My question is: who would build such a network, and how would they make it profitable? It would take a lot of work, and if successful, it would become costly to maintain servers to store user data, securely. If such a network were to exist, who would fund it? The network’s most valuable asset would be user data, which they would not be allowed to sell. Would you be willing to join if your data was encrypted and sold anonymously? Or, as a potential user, would you prefer to pay to join a social network, if you knew your data was secure? Have any of you used a paid browser, such as Brave? I’m curious to know what the most viable business model would be for something like this.


#5

My question is: who would build such a network, and how would they make it profitable?

In a decentralised network this would not be a question. Every time your client connects to web it pushes any new posts/images to those friends you locally configured to receive your updates. This is such a simple concept, I bet it has been implemented already.

Thanks for chiming in anyway.


#6

I’ve looked into many decentralized, FLOSS social network alternatives to Facebook. What I quickly realized is that the Diaspora, OStatus, and ActivityPub protocols are not modernized enough to be able to replace the key value propositions of a service like Facebook.

Hubzilla is made by the same guy who created Friendica after he realized these limitations. They moved on to create Hubzilla, and the ZOT protocol which it runs (but also has compatibility with these protocols to communicate with other Fediverse/Federation networks), seems to be the most promising.

While Hubzilla isn’t a finished, polished product yet (it’s more like a car with just a battery, electric motor, wheels, steering and chair), it is the only project I know of that has enough core components I think to be successful in the long term (rather than a Flintstone car). It’s more like an electric go-kart at this stage, but I’m hoping more involvement in the project will lead it to be as powerful as a symbol of a more promising future, as Tesla cars are to the petrol auto industry.

One of the major reasons why people have seemed reluctant to pick-up legacy social networks like Diaspora and Mastodon, is that if the person running the node you’re on, suddenly decides they don’t want to run anymore, all your data is lost. Hubzilla addresses this using nomadic identities and mirroring/cloning. This is one of many reasons why I think Mastodon will need to adopt the ZOT protocol (or something similar) as its main protocol, if it is to survive long term.

I encourage you to check it out.

https://project.hubzilla.org/page/hubzilla/hubzilla-project


#7

Considering how close Tesla is to some sort of liquidation, I sincerely hope this is not the case.

Thank you for the notes on ZOT and Hubzilla. I am somewhat amazed at how such a concept remains under-developed.


#8

First of all, before writing my opinions - if you want a quick answer, try going to Prism-Break.org, choose your OS, and scroll to the “Social Media” section. Lots of more trustworthy alternatives there, although I doubt any of them are comparable to what you’re used to they could at least be a start.


I’m not nearly as social as most people so take what I say for what it’s worth.

But I’ve thought for a long time that people need to change their outlook on what a healthy social life really is. Things like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr are terribly unhealthy in my honest opinion.

Why? Well, three main reasons.

First is that it’s turning people’s social lives into a game of numbers. Nobody can really be friends with more than roughly 150 people (see Dunbar’s Number - I personally believe it to be far less, but I think the number depends on your social energy level and personal interest level in maintaining your social life, and mine is probably lower than most). People are adding anyone they happened to have passed in the hallway once in middle school. It’s just stupid and insane.

Second, it makes people compare their entire lives to only the highlights of others. Making people worried about not achieving as much as others. It’s also making people care about all kinds of other things that they normally wouldn’t care about, and extends peer pressures and bullying to home - you can never escape it anymore, if you’re a part of these.

Lastly, it’s reinforcing people’s vanity. Everything’s a “Look at me!” contest. This is a smaller nit-pick and has been how humans, especially affluent ones who lack self-awareness, have been for a long time - but social media is really exacerbating it to far worse extents than ever. It’s really bringing out the worst in people.

Overall, I think people who are on social media find that many of their interpersonal relationships are empty because they don’t bother to focus on building just a few meaningful ones, and they’re more often depressed because they compare themselves to others too much.


The solution?

You don’t need social media in the way that Facebook wants you to think you do.

You just want to be able to communicate with your close friends, to have a channel you’re able to talk with them over at any time even though you’re not physically in front of them.

Just get a good chat client and add your real friends to it. Don’t worry about the thousands of fluff people that really don’t bear much meaning in your life.

I’d recommend an open-source Linux client (see Prism-Break.org - choose your OS and scroll down to the “Social Networks”, Instant Messaging", “IRC”, or “VoIP” categories), but I know that getting people to join those things is nearly impossible. Skype and Discord are what I’ve had to deal with. They’re not clean of evil either, but it’ll have to do. If you’re really sensitive about security, just be sure to run them on a separate device and network band (preferably different router entirely) from your secure one.

It’s far better than messing with actual social media sites.

I don’t have to listen to people go on about their vacations, “the gym”, or post “I Am Very Deep” poems or song lyrics and other vaguebooking nonsense from people I barely know. These are frankly people I can do without.

Now everyone’s right there in my chat client and I can just ping them whenever I want to talk.

And that’s all in addition to the massive security / privacy issues… which are the real main point, but you all already know about that so it wasn’t worth bringing up.


#9

In my personal case this logic does not apply. Two main reasons:

  1. Many of my friends and relatives do not use messaging programmes, only social media.

  2. Facebook groups do not have a direct correspondence in messaging programmes.

Cheers.


#10

I was just speaking an opinion, more or less.

Being honest, I’m in the “Facebook is crap. I’ve never been on Facebook, and here’s why I think I’m better than everyone because I don’t use social media” circlejerk. I’ll at least admit to it though.

I’d be telling my friends to get messaging apps. Otherwise, ya know… add their number to your phone and just use SMS with them. I’d assume they all have a mobile phone number at least.


#11

What about Telegram? Open source, no ads or datamining, and OS agnostic. There are options for public channel, 1-1 chat, group chat, and end-to-end encrypted chat.


#12

Well, I’d like to get off Facebook too but it’s how my social group communicates everything. Look into MeWe. Supposedly a privacy-oriented (as in no data mining) replacement for Facebook. I’m skeptical, but will see.


#13

That’s interesting. I hadn’t seen MeWe before. Looks like your data still stays on their servers, but if they actually do the things they say they do, they are definitely better than Facebook.


#14

I also recommend Hubzilla for a “Facebook alternative”; it is the most sophisticated option available right now. People often see the low popularity of Hubzilla and its rather bland UI and get the impression that it is something new and experimental, but the truth is that it has been continuously developed and used by a dynamic decentralized network of servers for longer than most (if not all) of the other open social networks. Social networking is one of its most popular use cases, and much of the development work is dedicated to making it useful as such; however at its core, Hubzilla is actually a decentralized access control system, providing a framework for publishing content with with detailed permissions. Hubzilla has encountered and solved many of the real-world problems decentralized open social networks experience, including the major problem of how to maintain your identity, connections, and content when servers go offline temporarily or permanently.

All that being said about how great Hubzilla is, in my personal experience, I’ve only had success getting family and friends to use Riot (Matrix project) as a family “social network”. I run a personal Matrix homeserver so I can retain some control over our data. The reason it has been successful is that the mobile apps for Android and iOS exist and work well, so the technical barrier to participation is as low as you will find among free and open source projects. It has been very satisfying to see over a dozen family members participate in a family room where we can share photos and videos, video chat, and post messages, all in the privacy of our own server, yet with the freedom to grow and connect with people on the federated network.

The last thing I’ll mention is that you will not be able to overcome the network effect, which is primarily what gives Facebook its power. People will not leave Facebook because everyone else is using Facebook. Practically speaking, you will need to accept that for this social (not technical) reason a Facebook alternative does not really exist, and that there will be sacrifices for leaving the platform. You will have to be that annoying outsider who asks if everyone else can share information with you some other way if they want you to participate in their group. On the bright side, if enough people like you ask for such things, eventually the network effect will begin to favor the use of some decentralized communications network. We can only hope this network will be more sophisticated than the email system.


#16

Having had an instinctive distaste for proprietary social platforms since MSN Messenger rose to dominance in the UK, I have thought about ways to replace Facebook a great deal over the last decade, so this thread interests me.

My position is somewhat similar to @Alex’s, in that I think much of the functionality of Facebook is actually superfluous.

So far as I can tell, the core features that make Facebook worthwhile are:

  • Provides a global directory of people, so you only need a name and a face to contact someone or find their content.
  • Makes it easy for unskilled or off-duty people to publish and organise content for widespread consumption.
  • Facilitates a variety of access and ownership controls for the content people publish. (Groups being a sophisticated example of this.)

It also has some other important but not particularly worthwhile features:

  • Aggregates and presents the content people post in a manner that encourages engagement and interaction.
    • Feeds
    • Notifications
    • ‘Liking’
    • There is room for innovation here; Facebook’s profit motive is counter to the user’s interest in a lot of these design decisions. A different business model might provide a better outcome for users.
  • Promotion of the concept of publicising your friends list. (To some extent this aids with the people directory function, but it’s also an invasion of privacy and encourages people to compare themselves to others.)

Hubzilla sounds interesting. I hadn’t heard of it. Maybe I’ll get some time to try it eventually. Reading its website, it’s hard to tell what it is supposed to do and how, so I would need to have a play with it to figure that out.

Personally I think federated models for social networking are a bit wrongheaded. People need to be able to trust the server their social software runs on, and federation makes that harder. Sure, I might be able to run my own Diaspora pod (for example) that I can trust, but most people aren’t expected to do that. Running social servers for friends and family creates a weird power dynamic, which personally I feel uncomfortable with, and public providers need to be sufficiently large to build up brand recognition and trust among users, without being so large that the network is no longer really federated.

The only way I can imagine federated social networks taking off is if a powerful regulator (maybe the EU) moves in on Facebook and other large platforms and forces them to open up to competition by implementing a federated protocol. If that happens, then we could have a situation like we do with email; a few very large providers, many smaller ones, and the possibility to run your own private mail server if you really want to.

Totally peer-to-peer networks have their downsides too, in terms of being more difficult to design and architect, but I think they are the ideal.

I’ve often wondered if it would be possible to build a social networking platform on top of IPFS, which has ambitions to supplant HTTP in many roles. This might provide a much more peer-to-peer solution, but with the advantage of using a general purpose abstraction for the peer-to-peer part. Maybe it’s possible to marry Hubzilla and IPFS together in some way.

But these are all very incomplete thoughts of mine.