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Ask HN: Do you think we'll see any Twitter/Facebook real-competitor?
42 points by henriquea on Sept 9, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 68 comments
Honest question here. Do you think we're going to see any new product that will possible replace Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn in the near future?

Which companies should we follow closely?

When AOL first entered the market, you could only send E-Mail to other AOL users. Eventually, faced with the potential of users leaving their platform for more interoperable (if less full-featured) alternatives, AOL relented and made their email system a proper, standards-based utility.

Now, granted that scenario is not a great example as email existed as a standard long before AOL came into existence, but I do think that as the number of users on Facebook/Twitter reach their inevitable peak, those companies, too, will be faced with the need to open the gates on their walled garden.

It's interesting that, thus far, both companies have delayed such a situation from arising by buying-out the other platforms people have been moving too (Instagram, Vine, etc.) and incorporating them ever-more-tightly with the parent platform. At some point, though, I think (hope?) this strategy will prove untenable and open interoperability will once again rule the web.

Call it crazy speculation, but I could foresee a resurgence of RSS/Atom eventually doing to Facebook/Twitter what SMTP/POP/IMAP did to AOL. If you think about it, the only thing that RSS/Atom was ever missing from becoming what Facebook/Twitter are today is a central aggregation point in the cloud. A smart startup that pulls a user's Facebook/Twitter feeds and mixes in any other RSS/Atom, as well as allowing users to post back to Facebook/Twitter/Atom could potentially spell the death of proprietary timelines.

> A smart startup that pulls a user's Facebook/Twitter feeds and mixes in any other RSS/Atom, as well as allowing users to post back to Facebook/Twitter/Atom could potentially spell the death of proprietary timelines.

A few years ago I would have said you were crazy. But after the race to replace Google Reader, the failure of Google+, the general sense of malaise that many people have with Facebook[1], and the political echo chamber and general bot fest that is Twitter[2], I think there's room for another player here.

[1] despite, importantly, continuing to use it all the time

[2] my default working assumption when someone follows me is now that it's a bot

History repeats itself, but not during consecutive events and not always.

I think natural way social networking would go forward is that there will be a lack of interest in general purpose social networking. These will be eventually replaced by cliques kind of things that are context specific. Basically, social structure would be integrated in most products, inherently. Now that might (or might not) require a centralized social graph.

But saying that RSS/Atom would replace proprietary general purpose networking gives an impression that there would still be interest in a Newsfeed going forward. It also assumes that we are at pinnacle of social networking evolution and all that needs to happen is even distribution of power. I think both statements are false. This is exactly the kind of thinking that drives FOSS products 10 years behind time.

The Web is not a distributed AOL. A distributed AOL would have failed. AOL evolved into Web. There are plenty of examples of distributed protocols being evolved into proprietary one. In fact, look at the usage numbers surging on messaging apps. Compare that to rate of e-mail and SMS.

AOL is definitely the best comparison. AOL had a 10 year run of dominance much like Facebook has had.

But we're already in a world where kids today see Facebook as something for their parents. And I know more and more people who (like myself) deleted their Facebook account years ago and don't miss it.

Facebook is headed toward irrelevance. It will probably always hang on like AOL and Yahoo still do. But it won't be the center of the online universe like it has been for so long. We're already on the down side of that hill.

I think Facebook is heading for the same kind of "irrelevance" as Microsoft or IBM.

Which is to say that they are irrelevant to a lot of people, particularly "early adopters", but they'll be around and profitable for a long time.

Microsoft completely dominating the PC software industry for nearly 30 years, reaping insane profits for that entire time. In some ways they still do dominate it, certainly in terms of productivity software and business email.

Similarly, IBM was computers for 30 years.

Comparing them to simply the most popular social website for the past 10 years is not really fair. The fact that Facebooks value approaches those other two companies only shows how insane the current bubble is.

You can't neglect the fact that while facebook's outward appearance is "social media site", which may indeed be on the decline, they do a lot of work behind the scenes just to manage such an incredible amount of data.

I could easily see facebook surviving long into the future in a similar way to IBM -- with a focus that is shifted from what made them big player, but still doing valuable work (and making money) in the tech "sphere".

is ibm big iron still not computers right now?>

I think you didn't understand my sentnce. The phrase "IBM was computers" means that they totally dominated the entire field of computers. It means that you didn't buy a computer that wasn't IBM. While in reality they had competitors, the hyperbole is still appropriate.

> Facebook is headed toward irrelevance.

If you only consider relevant company to be one that is creating a new and disrupt technology as their core product then sure they will have to fight daily not to become irrelevant. However, if you consider relevance to mean something that impacts the daily lives of many people, within the last 30 days they had their first 1B active user day. It's just very hard to displace that many people and so many of them have their lives (and memories) on Facebook in terms of the photos and connections. I am not extremely active on Facebook but having an account just seems like that otherwise missing world directory mixed with a personal life timeline which only increases in value as the years pass.

And one other thing -- Maybe less younger people will sign up as time goes on (I don't disagree with the kids not wanting to be where their parents are theory of why FB will fall apart) but FB has shown the right instincts in acquiring (or attempting to acquire) the next social product of the moment or where the "kids are" so to speak. Everyone thought Instagram @ $1B was near insanity at the time and now it looks like the deal of the century in terms of what their estimated private valuation would be today ($37B+ in March [0]).

[0] http://www.businessinsider.com/instagram-valuation-2015-3

> within the last 30 days they had their first 1B active user day

I don't put too much stock in these types of numbers that companies release themselves. Facebook has long had issues with fake accounts created by bots, and has shown little interest in curbing that practice (since it inflates their numbers.)

Even if I accept the number at face value, I think that reflects mainly Facebook getting some penetration into other countries outside of the US. In the US it has already begun to decline, and while the Facebook "wave" may be at different points in other regions of the world, it is unlikely it will hold on for 10 years in those other countries given the increased relevance of other forms of social networking.

> If you think about it, the only thing that RSS/Atom was ever missing from becoming what Facebook/Twitter are today is a central aggregation point in the cloud. A smart startup [...] could potentially spell the death of proprietary timelines.

I've got the feeling you underestimate how important this central aggregation point actually is. Imho I'd even say it's the paramount reason Facebook/Twitter are still the top dogs, people are just attracted to the (unique) aggregator which already has the most people.

When you can follow and interact with your friends/fans through a neutral aggregator regardless of what network they're on, what does it matter where most people are?

I'm not saying your point is wrong, I'm just saying that the current situation is in total opposition with this statement.

some form of distributed set of nodes based on a blockchain would be cool to see.

Unfortunately, if we take instant messaging as an other example, the expected opening never happened in the 20 years that followed ICQ launch.

We've have multiple proprietary competitors, an open standard (XMPP), Google even embraced IM federation at some point but removed it later.

A similar idea I've had -- perhaps an impractical one -- is to create a social network based on email. Status updates, friend requests, etc. would all be sent via ordinary emails with machine-readable code inside, thus creating a decentralized social network with little new infrastructure.

I think you already see that younger generations don't prefer (or simply don't at all) using those social apps. Instead they use several social apps for specific things: snapchat for pics/text, whatsapp for text, vine for video, tinder/grinder for dating, instagram for social and pics, and more that I'm probably just not aware of because I'm 30. I think you're less likely to see a replacement and more likely to see them become places for "old people."

I'm 22 and I've opted out of Facebook.

Not because my parents are on it (they are), but because it's not fun.

It used to be fun in high school (4-5 years ago) when you could have semi-private conversations with friends through wall posts, back before every status and picture was gamified by "likes", back before everything you ever posted was pinned like a dead moth on your timeline for everyone to see in perpetuity, back before it turned into a bunch of roosters strutting around, sticking their chests out and seeing who can crow the loudest.

Many of my friends share the same sentiments and are dropping off the Facebook grid in favor of Snapchat/direct messaging (Groupme, Whatsapp)/real-life hanging out.

That said, I don't think Facebook is going anywhere anytime soon:

> Facebook pages/events are essential for businesses and organizations. It's a large inconvenience not to have one if you're a business owner or a college student, especially in countries outside the US with less developed internet infrastructure and resources.

> Huge room for growth internationally. In some nascent markets, people even think that Facebook is the internet. [1]

> Facebook owns Whatsapp, Instagram, and Oculus Rift. Very strong portfolio of companies with a lot of brilliant people behind them.

[1] http://qz.com/333313/milliions-of-facebook-users-have-no-ide...

SnapChat is a battery hog on my phone. I use WhatsApp with all my hometown friends as a way to group chat.

I guess most kids don't like to be on a social network that their parents also use. Quite an interesting problem for facebook to solve.

I use the book of faces specifically for keeping in touch with family from a distance. I think it will be the same for kids when they grow up. They move away and they will join facebook.

Facebook is still used heavily by younger people, especially in their 20's and late teens. I see Twitter falling a lot harder in popularity than Facebook. At the end of the day, "everyone" has a facebook. Most of my friends don't have a twitter and only use it when linked to it from Reddit or some other site.

Twitter does seem to be gaining in the international recognition, probably still residual effect stemming from the media attention gained by the Arab Spring and other social news events that unfolded on Twitter.

Twitter is for me unique that it is used a lot by opensource developers and more broadly IT envagelists/figures. It's a goto resource for news related to frameworks, dev conferences,... LinkedIn aspires also in this area, but it's not relevant yet.

I find it highly ironic and counterproductive that so many "open source" developers and users live on a proprietary platform like Twitter. Free alternatives exist, but they need the critical mass that a community like that could bring.

That's a very good point. Keeping the youths from poluting the platform with their inanity, and then engage them increasingly more, once they have matured enough to be part of newsfeeds may be what FB are shooting for?

I can anecdotally confirm this and even place an age limit. My daughter (25) is an avid FB user while my son (17) is not. He has an account, just never uses FB except for the federated login. Seen this pattern among their friends too.

EDIT: Can anyone explain what is causing downvoting? Are anecdotes not valuable information?

Totally agree with your point. I'm 33 and aware the young generation is using a different toolbet.

We moved both my extended families to u .

That has been working extremely well. The only thing that I miss os the opportunity to go back to arbitrary points in time like I could on the old blog.

I find "social" in social network is a form of social that I am mostly not comfortable with.

Whatsapp and Instagram were acquired by Facebook and Vine was acquired by Twitter. Tinder/Grindr are fads that are already fading. Snapchat, it's probably a matter of time before they get acquired or people get bored with it.

For a company to replace Facebook (or even scale to a point where they're a legitimate competitor) they would have to turn down offers from Facebook/MSFT/Apple/etc to buy them. If Facebook buys then they just stop being a competitor and become part of Facebook. If anyone else buys then they're unlikely to want to go up against Facebook consider Facebook's marketing power. That alone makes it highly unlikely.

There is one the notable exception though - a startup that got enough traction to worry Facebook and then sold to Google might actually come out on top. Google actively wants to compete with Facebook. The problem for such a startup would be Google's track record in social, so they'd need to resist Google's desire to assimilate them too much. That would (probably) be quite hard.

Good point! Feels like a lot of products start having the "quick exit" mindset, only a few are trying to build a product that last.

I wonder if we'll see a fresh approach here with the new Alphabet organisational structure. Perhaps Google's finally structured in such a way to let such a company be separate from the rest of the products.

If you're growing like crazy, it's not that hard to turn down offers. Indeed that's what Facebook itself did, so there's your model.

Facebook turned down Yahoo's $1bn offer because Mark Zuckerberg realised that Yahoo didn't really understand social, and that they were making an offer because 'social is the hottest thing right now'. It's entirely understandable that a founder wouldn't want to sell their business to someone who wouldn't know what to do with it.

A Facebook competitor faced with an offer from Facebook would not have that problem. It's very likely that the competitor and Facebook would be very well aligned strategically. Selling would mean the competitor would get to where they want to go. Very few founders would say capable of saying no.

"Replace" is a loaded term in the sense that it implies these are categories dominated by one player. I think the reality of these kinds of services is that they overlap each other to various degrees rather than replace. People can use facebook, twitter, linkedin, HN, etc. etc. simultaneously.

So if you mean will other services in that general fuzzy category become popular, the answer is 100% yes. It's happening all the time. Whatsapp, snapshot, whatnot. These pop up all the time and many get traction.

If you mean will Twitter & Facebook loose popularity, that's harder to answer. But, I think it's reasonably likely. They're basically mediums for online culture and online cult evolves fast. It also depends on your horizon. If the question is "will a large portion of humans check Facebook daily in 100 years?" that seems pretty unlikely.

I think (hope) that eventually these centralised monoliths will be taken over by distributed versions.

The Internet Of Things IoT will be a precursor to any device being a node in a massive mesh net. That means that I can run my own private, secure personal social node on my cell phone, or even on my toaster.

The front end app will literally just be a front. The backend processing can be done on any number of nano-cloud processing instances run by companies like Amazon or Microsoft.

Storage similarly will be outsourced, but all data will be protected at rest using strong encryption.

Really like the idea about our own distributed/private-cloud version but I struggle to see ordinary users using it.

Same. I'm very excited about sandstorm.io, though. A lot of very smart people behind it, and the idea of being able to install "SaaS" apps onto your personal server at the click of a button from an app store, but where you own the data and can move from Linode to AWS to a home server, etc, is very cool.

Plebs can't handle decentralization.

Yes, that is inevitable. Growth is slowing down for FB and the platform has grown to the size where it can't pivot hard. Any new player in the marketplace simply has to reject FBs success and present a wholly different way of interacting, free of the all-inclusive strategy employed by FB.

One thing we are seeing a bit and may see more of is microplatforms. They will focus on specific interactions instead of the generic type FB goes for (thinking bangwithfriends (some would even say Tinder is this type of SN), sector-specific Linkedin, regional social networks).

FB will be around for a long long while thou. It was a twist of genius implementing federated logins, in effect becoming your passport to the internet.

I foresee Google being replaced by something else. As a search engine Google has been stagnant for a while.

I still cannot black- or whitelist websites that I want or don't want to show up in my results. Really, I want to control what I see!!!

When another search engine gives me the flexibility to control my results, I'll jump ship. But currently even with annoying results that I don't want to ever see again, google's results are still better than anything else.[1]

[1]- Although yandex is definitely better for search results in Russian.

That's what browser extensions are for. Google has had blacklisting for a spell (last year?), and whitelisting, but IMO it failed to pass the 80/20 threshold.

google custom search could be used for whitelists

I don't think there will be a direct competitor, I think we're going to start seeing the decline of the social network.

People are realizing that the benefits of social media are curses in disguise. Instead of a stream of interesting dialog between friends, they have a raging river polluted with the rantings of every person they ever met or any company they ever liked. It's hard to have meaningful interactions with people when that girl you met one night at a friend's party, your crazy uncle, and Starbucks are all screaming in your face.

Just as people are getting sick of Social Networking, businesses are starting to realize that the promise of the Social Network as a way to connect with customers isn't happening.

Case in point, I was shopping online the other day for an office chair and was prompted to take a survey (I'm a sucker for surveys). The survey went something like this...

Will you be sharing anything on our site with social media? No. Have you ever shared anything on our site with social media? No. Have you ever shared anything on any of our competitor's sites with social media? No. Have you ever shared anything from an online store on social media? No. Do you find any value in social media buttons on online stores? No. When you are shopping online, do you utilize social media? No.

Wouldn't a open standard for social networks be preferable to simply yet another centralized system - an SMTP for social networks?

You would need a big player with long-term vision to enable such a system. Google really can't do it, they have lost credibility in the space. We could see a surprising backbone for it like a massive cloud hoster (Thinking Cloudflare, Amazon, Rackspace).

Twitter yes, Facebook no.

Mark is smart enough to buy his competition before it bites.

I think the consensus is that Twitterr is already dying, fast. They lack direction and a way to engage with new users. Facebook won't go down as long as Zuckerberg cares. Beating their core product is pretty impossible, and he's made smart acquisitions of products that young people are favoring over the core product. Now they're taking over in video ...

LinkedIn is clearly the worst of these three. Please let an ethical competitor kill them ...

Whats the issue with Linkedin?

Everything ends. Given how fast these companies rise up, I expect they'll be replaced just as quickly. For instance: myspace.

I would doubt that we see one in the near future. The one that had the biggest potential, Instagram, was quickly bought out by Facebook. A competitor not only has to overcome the huge userbase, thereby convincing everyone and their mothers to switch, a competitor also has to resist the urge to cash in and risk not making it.

I can't imagine what it would be, but less than 10 years ago a colleague was lamenting that Microsoft was invincible and would never have any competition. Google looks that way now. But no company maintains their lead forever.

The next wave of social networks will most likely be decentralized. At the moment the concept is not yet clear, so no company to follow yet.

Yes, I like the concept but as I mentioned before can't see ordinary people using it.

I mentioned in another comment the idea of a blockchain based system.

At the moment the Bitcoin blockchain is 40+ GB, meaning everyone involved in the network should have it locally. This is not possible for mobile devices.

Relying on blockchain technology is needed only when everyone should trust on something, but once you have the peer to peer connection this is no longer needed.

Already there: WhatsApp, Instagram, Tumblr to name the biggest ones. For example Instagram has more active users than Twitter!

Well Instagram and WhatsApp are owned by Facebook :)

Not before we get a chip inside. Then it will connect us to "the matrix".

There won't be a direct replacement, rather some other network will grow while one of them gets 'legacy' status (and will be eventually shut down)

FB (the company) is hedging their bets by acquiring Instagram and Whatsapp and not relying only on Facebook (the platform)

Reddit is making a lot of policy changes to bring in more users.

They might end up with more users, but I've noticed that the content on Reddit is consistently declining in quality. Kind of worrying to me. Smaller subreddits might be enough to save the site though.

I'm very annoyed that anytime I see an insightful, top-level comment on Reddit, there is just a string of meaningless puns starting a comment or two below it. So essentially I just browse, read the top-level comment, read the child comments until I see the first pun, then move immediately to the next top-level comment down. It really just became a race to the bottom.

With no doubt: wechat

Twitter at least helps people from different countries follow global current events, but do we even want a competitor for Facebook?

That's true! Twitter is used a lot in the news industry. Hmm, good question I use it to share news with my family and friend since I live abroad.

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