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Ask HN: What would it take to create a Facebook alternative?
32 points by chaddattilio 5 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 18 comments
The concept of Facebook is awesome (social sharing, pictures, events, groups, etc) but the approach Zuckerberg and team have taken has ruined it (tracking and monetizing every little thing anyone does on the site or app). What would it take to create a similar service that wasn’t intrusive or exploit privacy (i.e. the actual goal was community and not making money off people). How would we grab mindshare from a service that has 2 billion members?



The concept of Facebook was always terrible. Why do we need a single platform for people to congregate socially? We have a distributed platform built with common protocols and services that we can all use.

Let the web be distributed physically, organizationally, and socially. Let people congregate for purpose and not for the sake of congregation itself.

We are here on Hacker News because of a common interest. I belong to a number of sites fulfilling a way of connecting to people who share the same niche interests. I don’t want everything under one roof or in a single walled garden. AOL failed and the Internet succeeded—stop trying to bring it back because it’s more profitable for those that run it.


Facebook's goal was never community. Its original goal was to compare your life with your friends' lives (remember it was derived from Facemash). What you propose sounds like Nextdoor. Take the best features of Nextdoor along with the best features from other platforms (e.g. Twitter's quips and slimness, Snapchat's impermanence, Mastodon's decentralization), and provide something new, not something similar.


Did anyone use AboutFace?

"The day after college graduation was a busy day for Adam Grossman, a 1993 graduate of Williams College. He was becoming an entrepreneur, founding Atlantic Media Corporation (www.facebook.com), the creator of AboutFace. AboutFace is the computerized company-wide directory that maintains names, photographs, biographies, and floor plan locations for every employee in a company. AboutFace is accessible via a LAN or intranet from any computer within the company.

The idea behind AboutFace evolved while Grossman was still in college. He developed, printed and sold a facebook his freshman year that included students’ photographs, home addresses, and birthdays. By using information already available in the Williams College database, he eliminated hours of typesetting and reduced production costs."

https://web.archive.org/web/19991007181610/http://www.aboutf... https://web.archive.org/web/20071020073143/http://www.aboutf... https://web.archive.org/web/20171120120522/https://answers.y...


In my opinion what it would absolutely require is a 2-syllable, easy to remember, brandable, minimally SEO contested, .com domain

I realise that's not all it would take but so far I haven't seen any social network[1] without that succeed. It's some severe survivorship bias but I think it's probably a ground floor requirement

The real answer is that the person or people that have the secret sauce don't know they have the answer and are already working on it without knowing it'll be the next big social network. We'll find out in a few years if they don't give up on it

[1] The full fat social networks where you have all of your friends, not ones that target a smaller segment of the pie (e.g pictures - Instagram)


How many "full fat" social networks are there though, really? In the English speaking world it's pretty much just Facebook. I don't think I'd even count twitter as a place where you have "all your friends", because most of the people that follow me are total strangers


What are you thinking of besides FB? MySpace you can count. Sure Friendster came first but its popularity was pretty small compared to now. Is there any other example if you’re excluding Instagram?


myspace, friendster, twitter, bebo, orkut were the ones that came to mind

Not all great successes but more success than most


Facebook’s downfall as a service won’t be another social service that has the same features but is distributed/blockchain/FOSS/quantum/whatever. Facebook has an enormous amount of resources and talent that will allow them to keep their moat in the social networking space.

No, its downfall will come from a paradigm shift in technology that renders the feed-style social network obsolete. This is how most behemoth companies fall, they don’t get outcompeted at their own game, the game just changes around them. Maybe it’ll be VR, maybe it’ll be a virtual social assistant that has no browsable UI but helps you keep in real-time contact with the people you care about, maybe it’ll be a new kind of device or screen or wearable that completely changes the game. But it won’t be another social networking service.


I think we are already in the middle of a paradigm chance for everyday, social networking needs to more and more capable chat clients. Like Wechat, Telegram or even things like discord or slack.


I would suggest that the first and most important thing to have is a business plan that does not rely on any data gathering/advertising/tracking/privacy exploits. Without that, it’s going to inevitably turn into Facebook (or Google, linked in, etc).


How to make money then? It at least has to be sustainable.


It has to be an alternative to Facebook, first.


Any alternative wouldn't be that different from today's Facebook because when common users looks for social media platform they will always go to the one with the higher users base, most of them at least will do. Number often win on quality in that context, especially when money can buy well crafted PR campaigns. Pay a thousand handsome guys/girls to appear there, get some popular actors/bands on board, create controversial content and channels where people can fight each other and users will flock in.

We already have the technology and part of the infrastructure to build a decentralized alternative for people wanting more, they're called Usenet and p2p. I believe the NNTP protocol could be extended to exchange data using binary only compressed and encrypted blobs for text and small binaries. Should an user upload a bigger binary, it could be automatically diverted to a p2p trackerless environment (torrent+magnet for example) and its corresponding link (magnet link) added to the post so that followers can download at their will or choose to opt out. This could be either left to the server or the client, which of course need to be modified anyway to reflect the protocol changes. NNTP clients UIs could be updated to become more modern (discussion centered) not that different from the Geary email client (plus some gfx) for example.

I'm not expert in either of these platforms, that's just an idea that came to mind some months ago. Would it be feasible to invest in a NNTP resurrection rather than starting over?


The higher user base is important that´s right. But pay them to join might not be the best way. I would say, you need to analyze Facebook and their weaknesses. Then aim to solve those weaknesses with your product and use such failures of Facebook like last weak to convince Facebook user to join your product.


Would this be possible to do this on top of regular email. I mean, it would be a glorified email list manager.

What is the core "thing" a social network provides that email is missing in emails?

Another thing that just occurred to me is that, Facebook really took off because of the creepy/stalking aspect of it. Because people shared stuff with people, that they wouldn't have shared other wise, exploiting their innate drive to show off...

To answer my own question, an email list will never let that happen.

And something like that ll never take off because of that. Or may be in the light of recent events, if those ends up reaching into the physce of the society deep enough, something like that just might...


Email falls apart with just regular work communication. I'd say forums were a lot better at it.


Didn't get you. What do you mean by "Email falls apart"?


Back in the day, we used a mix of IRC+forums for community. There was nothing wrong with this back then and I imagine something similar is done by medium sized communities like EVE Online groups. Services like Slack make onboarding a lot easier than IRC too.




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