Hackernoon logoIt’s Time for a New Social Network by@samjarman

It’s Time for a New Social Network

Sam Jarman Hacker Noon profile picture

@samjarmanSam Jarman

Mobile Developer

…and I have a few thoughts. I’m interested in hearing yours, too!

For a while now, I’ve been pretty disastisfied with Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, to a certain extent. I’ve found the changes over the last few years kinda annoying, and I see more and more people becoming disgruntled. We, as consumers, always should have choice of where to spend our money and time, and right now, there still aren’t any good places to go outside of these big players. So it’s time for a new social network, one that has a few key principles that differ it from the others. One that gives users a choice of how they think about social networking sites, and choose what they prefer.

And while Facebook is in the news this week and last, I think it’s worth having that discussion again, and I’m motivated to write this post. So let me lay out my thoughts, and I hope you jump in with yours.

Paid For By Users

One of the biggest issues of Facebook is that the user isn’t the customer. There’s the old phrase “if you’re not paying for it, you’re the product”, and while this is true, I feel there’s just more to it. Sure, our attention is for sale to Facebook advertisers, but as the money comes from them, all features, either consciously or subconsciously are built for them. Every single decision inside facebook is one to make money, and its one to make money from advertisers by affecting users. Even with the best intentions or actions from those on an individual level, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc are fundamentally built the wrong way for your best interest.

So, “The New Network” (I’ll call it TNN for the rest of the post, don’t read into it), will be paid for. I don’t know the price, but I feel like $20–30 USD a year would be fair. ($50 is not, remember App.Net?) Like anything you pay for, you’ll get value out of it the more you use it, such as season passes to sports, gym memberships or Netflix subscriptions.

And think of Netflix for a second, they’re one of the companies that ask for payment up front, no free trials or freemium models, and they just focus on making a damn nice platform. Say what you want about it pacifying people, it’s a darn good product, with darn good content (unless you’re in New Zealand… but that’s another post…).

With users paying for TNN, we’ll see less bullshit. We won’t see feed manipulation, we won’t see thirsty features built to addict us and we won’t see feeds out of order, powered by weird AI (more on this later).

When your priority as a company is to make a product that people pay for that is delightful and worth the cost, then you’re in a pure and simpler place. You have something really simple, and all decisions are driven for the good of the customer, in this case, us.

No Paid Ads

Companies will be invited to join TNN. They can have a page, and they can post their content. If you’ve opted to follow that page, you’ll be able to see it in your timeline, and interact with it. Everyone who follows that page will see that post in their timeline. Post too often, you’ll spam your followers, post too little, they’ll forget about you. Post great content, you’ll get likes, post bad content, you’ll get dislikes and bad reviews. Easy. So simple.

I remember running a student club at my University, and feeling outraged that after all the effort we’d gone to get people to ‘like’ us on Facebook, we’d have to pay to talk to all of them. A common problem for non-profits. We went back to email (and the 1990s 🙄) to talk to people. Bad look for a technology-centric club.

Ads are NOT for sale on TNN. It solves a whole range of problems described above, and also gives me less code to write :P

Chronological Timelines

For obvious reasons. Without the need to be thirsty, manipulate timelines, etc, we can just make them in order. Guess what? Life happens in order (shock! horror!). So, why not present it like that?

No more posts that lose all relevance after a certain time window (Facebook never did add in expiry dates, right?). No more “I can’t wait to see you all this weekend” posts on the following Tuesday. No more “breaking news” from 3 days ago… (Yeah, I’m frustrated by this one).

Also, I don’t have to write AIs or features around promoting/demoting content. What a pain that would be.

Centralised

As a programmer, and with the rise of blockchain, a buzz word and tech right now is decentralisation. It might be tempting to apply this to social networks (and others have) but I think this is extremely foolish. Ordinary folks (not tech folks) just won’t get it. Can you imagine “Oh, add me on TNN” “Sure, which server are you on?”. How ridiculous.

I tried Mastodon, and thought it was dumb for the same reason. Our lives are already socially decentralised, and that really sucks. We’re not going to see our friend overseas at the local bar, or at a meetup, so centralisation solved that problem.

Facebook actually got this one right, and I think we should continue it. Let’s leave decentralised networks to real life, and to better tooling/avenues, such as Slack/IRC groups, Meetups or conferences.

Clear Privacy

Privacy is a massive thing to a lot of people, and they all have their own definition of what should be private and what should be public. The ‘line’ is different for everyone, so instead of guessing (and guessing wrong), TNN will have tools to control privacy on every bit of content that is uploaded. The choices would be clear, and simple to understand. Defaults would be set by the user, and they’d be regularly reminded to consider the pros and cons of public content.

Influencers

A big part of any social network, and their success, are influencers. Would Justin Bieber or Kim Kardashian (like them or not, they’ve got more influence than you) join TNN?

Well, their posts would go to all their fans, so no paying us to boost the post to everyone who followed them. So that’s a good start.

They could post content for brands, with more success. TNN would make it very clearly it was a sponsored post, though. Full disclosure is key.

But that’s about it, I don’t have (m)any Influencer specific features in mind, as that would take away from building for the core customers, everyone.

The Tech

I won’t go too much into this, but I feel something kinda scaleable (the proof is in the pudding) is much easier than it was 10 years ago. With technologies Kubernetes, AWS, Kafka, NoSQL, GraphQL, Redis, etc managing a lot of compute and data is actually becoming a solved problem. I imagine a full microservices architecture, with streaming being the nervous system. Events would be produced by user actions, and consumers would react to that, storing, processing, deriving and more. I don’t know what the cost per MAU would be, but that would obviously need to be a fraction of the monthly sub!

So those are some of my initial thoughts on a new social network. They would be the values. We’d look to those values every time we debated something, and see which ideas best match them. Together, they from the unique selling point of the product, something that stands it apart from the old networks. I’ll probably need more, you might have some ideas too.

Interested in trying something like TNN? Click the box below, and I’ll let you know if I get anywhere with it.

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