Why is everyone on Facebook? Because everyone is on Facebook. That’s the problem for many Facebookers who are increasingly becoming frustrated with the popular social networking site’s expanding bag of tricks for mining users’ private data and selling it.
A growing number of users say they want to quit Facebook, but where else are they going to find a social site with some 400 million other people available for them to meet, reconnect with or follow?
Maybe we don’t have to quit Facebook right now to eventually quit Facebook in the future. Here are some Facebook alternatives that are better on privacy, allow users to own their own content and otherwise won’t steal our souls. Frustrated Facebookers might want to give one of the following social networks or social networking platforms an experimental whirl while keeping their Facebook account.
If enough other people do, perhaps someday we’ll get the Facebook we really want.
Diaspora, an open-source, decentralized social networking project being developed by four New York University students, has been getting a ton of press this week as Facebook comes under fire for its user privacy issues. The idea behind the project is to replicate the Facebook user experience that’s proven so popular, but to run the Diaspora social network on users’ own personal Web servers -- called “seeds” -- instead of in the centralized fashion that allows Facebook and other large, proprietary social networking companies to claim ownership of users’ content and marketable data while running roughshod over their privacy concerns.
The catch: Diaspora doesn’t exist yet.
All the buzz around Diaspora must have the folks at WordPress scratching their heads. The maker of online publishing tools has offered its BuddyPress plugin for about a year now, providing WordPress users with an easy, open-source software package that transforms the publishing platform into a social network. If creating your own social network is the goal, why wait for Diaspora? BuddyPress is on version 1.2 and features the basic WordPress elements like themes, plug-ins and widgets.
The catch: The platform was never intended to construct a massive, global social network along the lines of Facebook, but rather to build out smaller, niche communities online.
The baby of Netscape co-founder Marc Andreeson wins lots of praise from social networking purists who loathe “walled garden” sites like Facebook. Unlike those networks, Ning plays well with the rest of the Web and is extremely versatile -- the platform can serve as a single destination like Facebook but it can also be a kind of behind-the-scene engine that aggregates from larger, loosely affiliated social networks.
The catch: Ning is going to be phasing out its free member services in July 2010, meaning you’ll have to pay to join.
This Google-operated social networking Web site has more than 100 million active users worldwide and is especially popular in Brazil and India. It’s free to join and has advantages inherited from Google, like the GTalk instant messenger that Orkut members can use to chat with each other from their pages. The social network hasn’t experienced user backlash over privacy or content ownership to the level Facebook has, though it’s suffered period bouts of spam, fake profiles and use by various hate groups.
The catch: You may not be Brazilian or Indian.
Launched in 1999, LiveJournal is a dinosaur by online social networking standards. Yet the blogging community is still going strong, with more than 17 million LJers around the world. Created by Brad Fitzpatrick and later bought by Six Apart, LiveJournal was sold in 2007 to a Russian media company, SUP. While more of a publishing platform than a Facebook-like Web site, Live Journal has incorporated some social networking tools in recent years.
The catch: LiveJournal is best appreciated by people who want to create a lot of content, so it probably won’t appeal to more casual social networkers.