Or Facebook on the Blockchain
With the recent backlash against Facebook, there’s been a surge of interest in the next Facebook. Angel investor, Jason Calacanis started a challenge to help build a better Facebook. Several privacy-focused social networks have launched and a ton of discussion has been had about this idea of “the Next Facebook”.
What will the next social network that swoops in and dominates our lives the way Facebook did look like?
The major problems with Facebook that were highlighted in recent weeks are:
- A lack of trust
- A history of putting growth before users
- An ad platform that is easily abused to detrimental effects
- Users’ data being used in unintended ways to manipulate others.
- And it’s ability to be abused by governments to influence political processes
These are all huge problems that the next platform should aim to solve. Some of these issues stem from Facebook’s core design that makes it susceptible to these abuses. Any platform that knows so much about its users and lets 3rd parties target them to the finest detail can and will be used for manipulation. Any platform that allows users to share content that can eventually reach millions can and will be used for sharing fake news.
A Facebook alternative that solves these issues and is more trustworthy would be great. A distributed, secure platform that is not controlled by a single entity that depends on ads would be perfect.
But it would never be successful.
Network effects are the biggest advantage Facebook has over any incumbent. Everyone you know is already on Facebook. Why switch to another platform that lacks them?
A distributed, secure platform isn’t enough of an attraction to the average user to negate Facebook’s massive user advantage. The average person doesn’t care about privacy or security. Most still struggle to have more than one unique password for all their accounts.
Other Successful Networks
To carve out a large chunk of the social pie a platform needs to offer more than technical advancements or improvements. The non-Facebook platforms that are thriving today all found an audience by providing intangible benefits to their users.
- Photos only — The focus on photos and lack of links instantly eliminates the majority of the bullshit you find on your Facebook feed today.
- Filters — Allowed regular people to create artistic photos
- Ephemeral messages — Eliminated the pressure of social media posts and messages lasting forever
These features drove a huge audience to these apps because they empowered users in new and interesting ways. The platforms by their design avoided the problems of Facebook and offered a unique way to connect. The underlying technology and improved privacy was not what made these features attractive.
A secure/distributed Facebook brings none of these benefits. The thought of your data not being controlled by a single entity will never be as attractive to someone as “I can send my friend silly pics that aren’t going to last forever”.
So, no Facebook on the Blockchain?
Now, this isn’t to say a secure, distributed, ad-free network could never work. It can and hopefully it will. But just like successful non-Facebook apps it needs to offer some empower users in new, interesting ways. It needs to be attractive to the average person.
Facebook but more secure is not enough. It needs to be “a new format for connecting with friends that just so happens to be distributed”. The average user will not be convinced to move their social lives for security or trustworthiness. They will move for an interesting new experience.
In summary: Don’t go building “Facebook, but on the blockchain” and expecting it to attract the masses.