22 votes

Are there any viable alternatives for Facebook?

A lot of people are currently switching over from WhatsApp to Signal right now, and the two are comparable enough that Signal can pretty much act as a drop-in replacement for WhatsApp. They have very comparable features, and Signal is easy enough to use that it's adoptable by non-techy people.

Does something similar exist for Facebook? I'm fully aware of the network effects that keep people on Facebook, but let's pretend a lot of people wanted to leave that platform and migrate elsewhere. Is there anything that has a similar featureset and that is usable by the general population?

29 comments

  1. [18]
    NaraVara
    Link
    No. Not really. Facebook is a many headed hydra and there’s nothing that replicates ALL its features. Twitter somewhat replicates the timeline, but it’s much more geared around following...

    No. Not really. Facebook is a many headed hydra and there’s nothing that replicates ALL its features. Twitter somewhat replicates the timeline, but it’s much more geared around following influencers rather than people you know. Groups exist as various independent sites with forums or disqus comment sections along with discord servers. Photo sharing can be done via Instagram, Flickr, or some other services. And if you want to have a personal page with a wall you can set yourself up with a Tumblr or turnkey Wordpress site.

    But some of those cost money and none of them can replicate Facebook’s network effect of having everyone you know on it.

    In a perfect world, we’d all have our own blogs and a sort of dedicated RSS feed that follows them. And that blog page could bridge or integrate all of our various feeds like Twitter or Instagram or whatever. But we don’t live in that world.

    If you want to drop Facebook though, I gotta say it’s not that hard. You can keep your own account and just stop visiting it. If you only visit mbasic.Facebook.com all the adware garbage to try and catch and keep your attention goes away. And even when I see something on someone’s timeline I’ve taken to just emailing them or texting them instead of replying within the Facebook platform.

    12 votes
    1. hook
      Link Parent
      If you do that, I suggest using the Facebook Container add-on in Firefox …you know what, I suggest you use that (perhaps also Multi-Account Containers add-on) regardless whether you use Facebook...

      If you want to drop Facebook though, I gotta say it’s not that hard. You can keep your own account and just stop visiting it. If you only visit mbasic.Facebook.com all the adware garbage to try and catch and keep your attention goes away. And even when I see something on someone’s timeline I’ve taken to just emailing them or texting them instead of replying within the Facebook platform.

      If you do that, I suggest using the Facebook Container add-on in Firefox …you know what, I suggest you use that (perhaps also Multi-Account Containers add-on) regardless whether you use Facebook or not!

      11 votes
    2. [2]
      KapteinB
      Link Parent
      What about the clones, like VK?

      Facebook is a many headed hydra and there’s nothing that replicates ALL its features.

      What about the clones, like VK?

      3 votes
      1. hamstergeddon
        Link Parent
        Personally I trust a Russian company about as little as I trust Facebook, Google, etc.

        Personally I trust a Russian company about as little as I trust Facebook, Google, etc.

        22 votes
    3. [14]
      mxuribe
      Link Parent
      What you've just cited there is a vast oversimplification of what forms the basis for the ActivityPub protocol [https://www.w3.org/TR/activitypub/] - which is the web standard used for software...

      we’d all have our own blogs and a sort of dedicated RSS feed that follows them. And that blog page could bridge or integrate all of our various feeds like Twitter or Instagram or whatever.

      What you've just cited there is a vast oversimplification of what forms the basis for the ActivityPub protocol [https://www.w3.org/TR/activitypub/] - which is the web standard used for software used on the federated universe of social networks ("the fediverse"). Some might be familiar with names like mastodon, peertube, etc...which are all software platforms using ActivityPub under the covers. I'm not going to persuade you to look into these networks as alternatives to Facebook, twitter and the like (I've stopped trying to bring people over)...However, there are most definitely highly-used alternative platforms that millions of other people throughout the world are currently using.

      2 votes
      1. [13]
        NaraVara
        Link Parent
        I'm familiar with ActivityPub, the challenge is that there's no obvious turnkey way to create a page for yourself that's as straightforward and user-friendly as a site like MySpace is. You'd...

        I'm familiar with ActivityPub, the challenge is that there's no obvious turnkey way to create a page for yourself that's as straightforward and user-friendly as a site like MySpace is.

        You'd ideally want something that 13 or 14 year olds would be able to get on with no help from parental figures and it would need to outcompete the TikToks and Instagrams of the world. Ideally, you want people to have some way to even port their important stuff from the closed platforms as well.

        5 votes
        1. [9]
          wervenyt
          Link Parent
          If there were an ActivityPub instance that a given 13 year old's friends used and suggested they use, it'd be easier for them to sign up than it is to sign up for Instagram. This isn't a problem...

          If there were an ActivityPub instance that a given 13 year old's friends used and suggested they use, it'd be easier for them to sign up than it is to sign up for Instagram. This isn't a problem of user-friendliness, it's of option paralysis due to competing instances.

          Ideally, you want people to have some way to even port their important stuff from the closed platforms as well.

          Is this possible? Doesn't Facebook (and Instagram by extension) have a vested interest in preventing that? Twitter, sure, you could scrape a user's tweets and backdate posts on an AP instance, but is there a demand for that?

          2 votes
          1. [8]
            NaraVara
            Link Parent
            The user friendliness problem comes from discoverability and interoperability. There is no point in a social network if none of your friends are on it. If you can't get your friends to follow you...

            This isn't a problem of user-friendliness, it's of option paralysis due to competing instances.

            The user friendliness problem comes from discoverability and interoperability. There is no point in a social network if none of your friends are on it. If you can't get your friends to follow you on a thing it's a non-starter.

            2 votes
            1. [3]
              Comment deleted by author
              Link Parent
              1. [2]
                NaraVara
                Link Parent
                Since one of the key features of a social network is socializing, they kind of end up being pretty tightly related. If the DIY nature of it puts people off, that diminishes the network effect...

                Since one of the key features of a social network is socializing, they kind of end up being pretty tightly related. If the DIY nature of it puts people off, that diminishes the network effect which makes people less willing to go through the trouble in the first place.

                3 votes
            2. [5]
              wervenyt
              Link Parent
              Discoverability is definitely a major issue. There's no easy way to choose a decent AP instance. However, I don't understand where interoperability comes into play.

              Discoverability is definitely a major issue. There's no easy way to choose a decent AP instance. However, I don't understand where interoperability comes into play.

              1 vote
              1. [4]
                NaraVara
                Link Parent
                They kind of go together. I'm thinking of interoperability as a way for people to just be able to go to a central hub where they can follow all their friends regardless of where they're hosting or...

                They kind of go together. I'm thinking of interoperability as a way for people to just be able to go to a central hub where they can follow all their friends regardless of where they're hosting or what kind of tool they're using AND without needing to do any specialized stuff on their end to have it look right.

                Tumblr is actually good at a lot of this.

                1. [3]
                  wervenyt
                  Link Parent
                  So you're proposing a website that links together Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, the Fediverse, etc?

                  So you're proposing a website that links together Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, the Fediverse, etc?

                  1 vote
                  1. [2]
                    NaraVara
                    Link Parent
                    I wouldn't go as far to say I'm "proposing" it. More like a site that lets you mix and match functions that map to what all those platforms let you do, but also has some easy way to follow and...

                    I wouldn't go as far to say I'm "proposing" it. More like a site that lets you mix and match functions that map to what all those platforms let you do, but also has some easy way to follow and discover it all.

                    So really, less of a site and more of an approach to open standards and protocols instead of platforms. An ethic of people being able to own their data and content and take it where they want.

                    1. wervenyt
                      Link Parent
                      Then we're in complete agreement. However, ActivityPub is about the closest to this dream that we have right now. Your earlier posts gave a sense that the issues you have are with Mastodon,...

                      Then we're in complete agreement. However, ActivityPub is about the closest to this dream that we have right now. Your earlier posts gave a sense that the issues you have are with Mastodon, PixelFed, etc. when it really seems like you take issue more with the current structure of the web as a whole. If you think "I want to join the Fediverse!", you can just go to joinmastodon.org, choose a server, and sign up. Like I said, it's easier to sign up for an account on a Mastodon instance than Instagram.

                      I see your more specific complaints about the various Fediverse servers and services, and I respect them. However, what you're really asking for is something along the lines of a global revolution in computer literacy and the destruction of any preexisting and proprietary networks than for anything technological. By those standards, there is no decent software for this (because you're conflating the size of the network and the value of the technology), and there probably won't ever be.

                      1 vote
        2. [3]
          mxuribe
          Link Parent
          Respectfully, i disagree; i feel many of the existing fediverse softwares are quite easy to use...Though i'll admit that if you don't feel that, its not my place to try and convince you of...

          there's no obvious turnkey way to create a page for yourself that's as straightforward and user-friendly as a site like MySpace is.

          Respectfully, i disagree; i feel many of the existing fediverse softwares are quite easy to use...Though i'll admit that if you don't feel that, its not my place to try and convince you of that...Certainly because we've not defined any specific mechanism to measure user-friendliness (which do exist in UI, UX discipline). Nevertheless, if you feel the state of the art for fediverse software is less than ideal, you're certainly welcome to have your opinion.

          ideally want something that 13 or 14 year olds would be able to get on with no help from parental figures

          At the risk to my opsec, i will divulge that i have a child near that age range, and they and their friends do not at all struggle with ANY UI for social network software regardless if it is one of the propriatary silos or fediverse. Clearly, my response here lacks vast troves of data sets, but much like my first paragraph, this all feels subjective. If you feel the options of the fediverse don't make sense for any 13 or 14 year olds that you know, then yes, might be best to not expose them to it.

          would need to outcompete the TikToks and Instagrams of the world

          By "outcompete", not sure if you meant the interaction, or popularity. Whether any fediverse option is "better" than a proprietary one matters less if one's friends are not engaging with you on the fediverse. What is it they say, something about the value of a network is the people in it (and less so the software)? Personally, i think the experience (by this i mean user experience) on the fediverse is "almost there" when compared to tiktoks of the world, but maybe that's me. No one would argue that what the fediverse lacks, most definitely is the number of users, as compared to the tiktoks of the world. As far as porting data over, there's work being done here. Also, I think mastodon alone has support for posting to both twitter and mastodon simultaneously...but what i've learned is that from the connectins that i've made on the fediverse, many/most folks end up moving to the fediverse and drastically ghosting use of the proprietary silos, and not desiring to move their data...Many/Most tend to just start anew without worrying about brining too much of thei baggage/data from their legacy silos. Here, again, the experience of others may differ from my own.

          BTW, thanks for your remarks in this discussion!

          2 votes
          1. [2]
            NaraVara
            Link Parent
            I think we have some wires crossed here. I'm not really referring to any specific service or function in the Fediverse. They're all basically fine. My big gripe with the Fediverse is that all the...

            Respectfully, i disagree; i feel many of the existing fediverse softwares are quite easy to use

            I think we have some wires crossed here. I'm not really referring to any specific service or function in the Fediverse. They're all basically fine. My big gripe with the Fediverse is that all the services just feel like the standard platform monopoly, but federated. But those platforms were designed with data mining and ad tech in mind almost from the ground up. So there's lots of design decisions that revolve around making the choices for you on what content you see, how it's curated, etc. If you designed a tool without that stuff I think it would look very different. I'd like the design thinking behind it to focus more on replicating what kinds of interaction or activity people are trying to achieve by using Instagram or Twitter rather than the literal interactions we use with those services.

            What's really needed is like a way for people to create, manage, and own their own digital persona(s) and not to have the data that comprises those held hostage by any specific vendor or service. The older "Web 1.0" model did a lot better at this. People had personal pages, as with MySpace. Even Facebook, initially, mostly revolved around people's personal pages and group pages. The News Feed came later and it came around when Facebook starting trying to come up with monetization strategies. The feed exists to make you click on ads, but it takes control of what you see and do out of your own hands. Even if you're a federated service that doesn't serve ads, do ad tracking, or curate your timeline the interaction is still designed in a way that's meant to make you do it. I can't help but feel we can do better.

            The challenge with the old days was there weren't really APIs to make different services talk to each other easily. There still aren't that a novice can use.

            And yeah, by outcompete I meant popularity wise. My hope of having people being more in control of their personas and feeds kind of depends on portability of data, to be able to jump ship from one service or instance without losing their networks or their histories. Without those sorts of established standards for portability I think we'll be stuck in platform monopolist hell.

            3 votes
            1. mxuribe
              Link Parent
              Yeah, i can't deny that. It is early days, but i'm hoping more innovation, novel ideas flourish on the fediverse. Agreed. There's also the indieweb movement [https://indieweb.org/], but it does...

              My big gripe with the Fediverse is that all the services just feel like the standard platform monopoly, but federated......Even if you're a federated service that doesn't serve ads, do ad tracking, or curate your timeline the interaction is still designed in a way that's meant to make you do it. I can't help but feel we can do better.

              Yeah, i can't deny that. It is early days, but i'm hoping more innovation, novel ideas flourish on the fediverse.

              My hope of having people being more in control of their personas and feeds kind of depends on portability of data...

              Agreed. There's also the indieweb movement [https://indieweb.org/], but it does take plenty of upfront work. So not sure that the tooling is there for the layperson. (Yes, i know there are wordpress plugins, but far from perfect.) Much like the fediverse, it is all still early days for the indieweb...but i'm sure hoping things get easier for laypeople to adopt for all the benefits and reasons that you gave! :-)

              1 vote
  2. skybrian
    Link
    If you have a community that’s cohesive enough to do a group migration, it might be good to rethink what the community’s goals are and come up with desired features instead of “like Facebook.” For...

    If you have a community that’s cohesive enough to do a group migration, it might be good to rethink what the community’s goals are and come up with desired features instead of “like Facebook.”

    For example, a newsletter using Substack might be a way to get the word out via email and RSS. It supports comments.

    10 votes
  3. guts
    Link
    Diaspora is still around.

    Diaspora is still around.

    8 votes
  4. skybrian
    Link
    It will depend on which features of Facebook are important to them and how people are going to access it. Are they using a web browser? A mobile app? For a desktop web app, Mastodon seems like an...

    It will depend on which features of Facebook are important to them and how people are going to access it. Are they using a web browser? A mobile app?

    For a desktop web app, Mastodon seems like an obvious choice. Although it's closer to Twitter, it does mean each person can post various things to their timelines.

    There will be a question of which existing server to join, or perhaps someone in the group could set up a server for everyone else to use. But they don't all have to be on the same server to communicate.

    6 votes
  5. Saigot
    Link
    Facebook is a very early social media, I don't think it has the same focus that modern social media has. It's a lot of different things to different people. For me and people in my circles...

    Facebook is a very early social media, I don't think it has the same focus that modern social media has. It's a lot of different things to different people. For me and people in my circles facebook functions as an address book and a Lowest common denominator chat client (large group chats where no one is close enough to be on the same messaging platform). Right now the newest post on my facebook feed is 4 days old simply because the people in my social group very rarely want every single person they know to know any particular thing, the intersection of things I'm happy for my friends, old highschool acquaintances, work and family to all know is astonishingly small. In short the purpose of the platform for me comes entirely from it's ubiquity, for anything specific there are specific social media platforms that are better.

    However to others Facebook is a games platform, or a political platform, or for hobbiest groups. If facebook is ever going to die (and I believe it is well on it's way to that) it will be death by a thousand cuts, as users replace different aspects of facebook with a different platforms. The use of facebook as a public photo album has already been mostly consumed by intagram, and the days of short "whats on my mind" posts have mostly migrated to twitter. I believe going forward we will see other parts of facebook entirely die in favour of more focused social media.

    Gone are the days of a single monolithic social media, now we each subscribe to many social medias that cater to our specific use cases, I don't think any social media is even trying to do that anymore.

    4 votes
  6. floweringmind
    Link
    minds.com is the closest thing but has a ton of hate speech on it.

    minds.com is the closest thing but has a ton of hate speech on it.

    3 votes
  7. [3]
    Amarok
    Link
    The one I keep seeing all over is Minds. I've no idea if it's any good or what's on there, and don't much care since I never used Facebook either. It just seems to come up in every online...

    The one I keep seeing all over is Minds. I've no idea if it's any good or what's on there, and don't much care since I never used Facebook either. It just seems to come up in every online conversation about Facebook alternatives.

    2 votes
    1. kfwyre
      Link Parent
      Interesting. It definitely has the polish and availability aspects that would make it usable by non-techy people, but there seem to be two major red flags. The first is its monetization scheme for...

      Interesting.

      It definitely has the polish and availability aspects that would make it usable by non-techy people, but there seem to be two major red flags. The first is its monetization scheme for content. It might very well be legitimate, but at first glance it smacks of crypto-pyramid-scheme or something similar. The second is that a lot of reviews praise the site for being a haven for voices banned from other networks, which implies that it’s chasing the voat/Parler crowd.

      If anyone here has used the site or is familiar with it, I’d love to hear about your experience on there.

      4 votes
    2. mrbig
      Link Parent
      Is that a cryptocurrency thing?

      Free your mind and get paid for creating content, driving traffic and referring friends. A place to have open conversations and bring people together.

      Is that a cryptocurrency thing?

      1 vote
  8. [2]
    punk
    Link
    please check privacytools.io for alternatives.

    please check privacytools.io for alternatives.

    2 votes
  9. psi
    Link
    Amusingly, there's currently a semi-relevant thread on /r/selfhosted. Of course, the answer to your question depends on what you're looking for in a Facebook alternative. If you're just looking...

    Amusingly, there's currently a semi-relevant thread on /r/selfhosted. Of course, the answer to your question depends on what you're looking for in a Facebook alternative. If you're just looking for something more privacy-focused, obviously the best solution is self-hosting (eg, something from the aforementioned link or maybe something from this list); however, that requires some amount of technical know-how, and your work will be for naught if you can't convince anybody to join your self-hosted social media application. But if you don't mind the technical route, I suspect you could emulate most of Facebook's features without any sacrifices to you or your user's privacy. (But then again, maybe not -- I've never tried!)

    Perhaps a better compromise is joining someone else's Mastodon instance or hosting your own using a service (eg, Mastohost, which I just discovered via a cursory google search). My understanding is that Mastodon is more like Twitter than Facebook, so feature parity is probably lacking. But each Mastodon instance integrates into the larger whole (the "Fediverse") by allowing users to interact across instances, so there's less pressure on building a "critical mass" of users. Plus you'll probably be more successful convincing friends/family to join a facebook/twitter alternative that's already widely used.

    2 votes