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Genuine question : do you think a privacy oriented social network where users pay a small annual fee (around $5) would work? Think Whatsapp (use phone number as an id, no native discovery, only connect through phone contacts, encrypted user data only to prevent database leaks from causing damage) + Facebook (feed like feature, share photos, videos, direct messaging, group messaging). No user tracking, no ads, just a no bullshit social network where the average Joe would feel right at home and also one which the HN crowd would use, assuming social networks have a place in their lives.



Not a chance. You want people to pay for that ? Even free alternative social networks like Diaspora or Ello failed to gain any traction. The network effects are just too strong.

The next wave that will eventually unseat Facebook (the product) will have to be something entirely different. And it might even come from Facebook (the company).


Agreed. app.net was such an attempt to offer a paid alternative to Twitter, and that went exactly nowhere.


I'm not sure it has to be entirely different. It could gain traction if it was better, and if it initially attracted the attention of a specific userbase (which would counteract the network effect).


As much as people say they hate how much social networks track them, it's really the thing that makes them work so well. The more info Facebook has on you, the better it can work for you. A privacy-oriented social network isn't social at all, it's...4chan. It would basically just be a forum, and we have plenty of those already. You could go minimal privacy, but then where is the line drawn?

People want to be able to find their friends, so you need some way for discovery to happen. If there's no tracking locations and relationships, then how do you do it? Usernames are the only privacy-concious way to accomplish that, and then you've just described MySpace. Facebook works because when you drunkenly befriend someone at a party, you can find them the next day online. It's bootstrapped discovery. Like it or not, that's what most of the world likes about Facebook.

Google almost solved this problem with G+, but they did it by scanning your email contacts. Is that still a privacy breach?


I don't think you can get such a service for "average joes."

Though...Bloomberg Chat meets your criteria (ex-fee). It consists of ~300K financial users who pay ~$25K/year/terminal. Many argue this is the killer feature of Bloomberg. I agree. It's like an exclusive, digital country club.


... Though the privacy is more from non-Bloomberg users than from Bloomberg itself. Eg: https://www.theguardian.com/media/2013/may/10/bloomberg-gold...


The paywall is not the only entry requirement though. You can't click 'Pay' and enter. It's more in line with academia discussion boards that require university mails.


Are you drawing a distinction beyond self-checkout v. calling a sales rep to setup an account?

I'm not following.


I think he means that even if you have the money, you need to be a member of a financial institution to be allowed access.


> do you think a privacy oriented social network where users pay a small annual fee (around $5) would work?

I don't think it would work in the world we live in because people are long used to getting things for "free" (from the days of "free email"), where they exchange their attention and personal information for some services. Somehow people have also been trained to avoid even tiny costs in monetary terms (one reason why iOS App Store pricing is always a bad trap for most developers). In my own experience, the cost-benefit ratio takes a longer time to analyze and convince myself of in certain cases.

But if there were such a platform, I would certainly want to try it if it provided similar features (not lagging like Google+ and not including features in "New" that were in "Classic").

When Ello started a few years ago, I really wanted to use it and see it grow fast. But it turned out to be a platform that self-targeted some niche artistic crowd and didn't focus on features I wanted (like groups).

I keep pushing people in my circle to try new things as much as I can possibly do (like Telegram, Wire, Signal). So I'd be very interested in breaking out of Facebook.


Hate to say it but I think the lack of privacy is a big part of what makes social networks sticky in the first place. Facebook noticed that I went to a restaurant and now it suggests other similar places; uses social graphs to suggest new friends; tracks my clicks to give me a more engaging feed...

MySpace died because they weren't evil enough.


I believe there is room for a private social network that is peer-to-peer, encrypted, with no central servers and an open spec. It would make my world a better place, but I don't think it can be monetized. (Maybe donations? non-profit?) Also, privacy breaks down when you run a client on Windows 8 or above. :-( I think a lot of tough computer science challenges are inherit in this model. And yes, there is the network effect dilemma, but I don't require mainstream adoption to use it.


>I believe there is room for a private social network that is peer-to-peer, encrypted, with no central servers and an open spec.

We already have this. It's called "Diaspora". It's a great idea using all the things you talk about: decentralized, peer-to-peer, etc.

No one uses it.

>but I don't require mainstream adoption to use it.

Then I encourage you to set up your own Diaspora account. Maybe if enough people do so, it'll eventually get somewhere.


hmmmm... Diaspora would fit my (paranoid) requirements if every account was hosted in a unique pod on the local device. But, that's just me.

Diaspora is many steps in the right direction and looks like a great alternative to fb. (Slightly disappointing to see support for non-privacy oriented social networks being baked-in. I guess that's a strategic move.)


I don't think it would work unfortunately.

The average person just doesn't care about privacy at all.

I always feel that I come across as a tinfoil-hat wearing conspiracy theorist when I'm trying to explain to friends why I don't use Facebook.


App.net tried this, though it was $50/year. Unfortunately they couldn't make a go of it: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13387723


The opposite may work. Paying users to use your site. After all, the data is supposedly insanely valuable, we're doing unpaid work for FB in a very real sense.


Facebook publishes ARPU numbers every quarter. Users in the US and Canada were worth $19.81 each in 2017 Q4, with $4.83 being the worldwide average. [1] This pays for the programmers, storage, offices and other costs.

Facebook had a net income of $3.6bn from 1.86bn monthly active users, or $1.93 per user.

I don't think many users are going to work for what Facebook could reasonably pay out of that....

Worse, any remotely attractive payment might well lead to the rapid creation of billions of fake accounts.

[1] http://static2.uk.businessinsider.com/image/589259d8dd0895fb...


Why would you spread it out evenly? Of course that makes no sense.

It's more like, you pay out to the users that generate a lot of views, and after a threshold. If 1/100 users is a great content generator, the idea that they may make $100/mo is very attractive to switch (and take their followers with them).

As for fake accounts, you bundle in the proof-of-identity stuff and whatever else current networks use to keep bots out. It's its own engineering problem.


So you don't think there's enough clickbait fake news on Facebook, and you want to incentivize its creation?


I don't subscribe to the theory that "fake news" won Trump the election, so I find this criticism of the idea incredibly asinine and besides the point. As a left-winger, I see "fake news" trotted out mostly by bitter liberals who refuse to accept any personal blame for the democrat's loss.

If anything, I place more blame on "legit news" and their "80+% WIN!" predictions for Clinton, ensuring that anyone who thought about casting a protest vote stayed home.


Maybe if it offered free accounts for your family members.




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