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We should replace Facebook with personal websites (vice.com)
614 points by jbegley 57 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 306 comments



>most of what people like about Facebook—namely the urge to post about their lives online.

Where does the author get that idea? The majority of Facebook's 2 billion users do not post to their profile feed. Instead, the FB account is mostly used as a way to passively receive content. Some of the content is from family and friends, and some is from media outlets (NYTimes, etc).

Recommending "personal websites" is talking about a solution to a problem that most of the billion users don't have.

The way most people use Facebook is more of an RSS feed rather than a 1999 Geocities personal website. (But that doesn't mean RSS readers can replace Facebook because that technology is missing a "real names" reverse directory lookup database.)


When i try to think of what my ideal social media would look like, it always ends up sounding similar to an RSS feed, with the ability to lookup and requiring the other user's approval to get the actual content, you could use different clients, some could give you recommendations for events,etc based on your subscriptions if you so choose, or just run your own locally. life would be so simple


The magic usually missing from RSS is really good recommendation/discovery. I've got a list of feeds I follow, and that's all I'll ever get.


RSS is really just the content/transport method. For a decentralized FB, you would move the intelligence into your local client and it would like more like a web-of-trust network.

1. You connect to friends and you either manually assign or "grow" a bunch of weights to your amount of trust in them and your interest in various topics they might post.

2. You and your friends make posts and assign "topic" metadata to the posts. The value of the system depends on your friends properly assigning metadata to posts. But it makes it easier to filter out extended families' political shitposting (based on trust and negging untagged posts).

3. Your feed is selected based on the weight of your friendship times the weight you base on the interest of the topic. If your best friend posts something about computers and you have positively weighed that topic it would bubble up.

4. Friends-of-friends can transitively receive a proportion of the trust score you have in your friend. Highly trusted friends will make you trust their friends more.

5. Down-votes and upvotes would train your local agent. They could also be fed back to the originator IF votes were signed by trusted encryption keys to prevent your friend from faking his vote count on the "post".

This decentralizes the network out of FB and democratizes the algorithms / system for what and how you want to receive your information.


I think there's middle ground that likely is more commercially viable:

1. Everyone makes a website.

2. Those websites submit articles to content indexes.

3. Part of your website hosts your own reader client:

3.a The reader subscribes to a set of indexes.

3.b It can also subscribe to individual feeds.

3.c Your client decides how to mix the feeds into displays, eg, you could have several indexes feed into one "feed" and have all of your family feeds in a second "feed".

4. Most of this is actually done via cloud hosting of managed packages, rented.

There's still many strong factors in favor of centralization, but if it's built around interop, then having a few large providers than mesh together is still an improvement and begins a competition to provide better services.

It's what happened with blogs and RSS anyway.


Some of the concepts you noted - specifically #1, #3, #3b, and #3c - form the basis of some of the stuff that the IndieWeb participants discuss/work on; see https://indieweb.org. In fact - and i think someone else might have already mentioned these guys - https://micro.blog already provides such a paid service. (There are free features of this service, but IIRC the paid parts fulfill some of the items you noted above.)


> submit articles to content indexes

... aaaaaand, there it goes; the spammers already ruined it ;)


... aaaaaand, there it goes; the spammers already ruined it ;)

Like they did with email. Then you have companies come with robust AI tech and filter the spam, and also give good recommendations. A few of those companies come to dominate the market

... aaaaaand, there it goes; we're back to the situation we have now with Facebook and Google.


That's the point:

The situation for social networks would be strictly better if you could easily migrate accounts between FB, Google, etc and subscribe to feeds from multiple networks.

The situation you're calling out is exactly the point.


The situation for social networks would be strictly better if you could easily migrate accounts between FB, Google, etc and subscribe to feeds from multiple networks.

That's also my point.


Google almost had this nailed with Reader before they canned it. Unbelievably stupid move while drowning millions in Plus and You and whatnot.


Google Reader was the only Google product I used regularly.


The nefarious problem with FB is the illusion of recommendation/discovery. They're not trying to find new and interesting things for you the way say, the cultural aspects of HN performs this feat; they're trying to define your profile and then serve up more of the same to increase engagement or capture your entire sphere of awareness so they can manipulate and shape your perception.'


so they can manipulate and shape your perception.'..... then group you together with people like you and sell those groups to advertisers, claiming they have some exclusive access to groups like "yoga-loving cat owners"


> they can manipulate and shape your perception.

That sounds pretty malicious for what basically amounts to attempting to serve you the content and ads you want.


That sounds pretty malicious for what basically amounts to attempting to serve you the content and ads you want.

Basically, serving you the content and ads you want can turn out to be pretty malicious. By doing so, a big company can manipulate and shape your perception. Year by year, data processing is making big companies ever more potent at doing just this. Is it any wonder that it eventually got to a point where we started seeing problems?


They've already intentionally manipulated emotions of a "small number of users" (700k), proved it was possible, and released a paper on it: https://slate.com/technology/2014/06/facebook-unethical-expe...


>> capture your entire sphere of awareness

Malicious sounding, indeed.


Follow feeds that post from a variety of sources. I follow a HN rss, a couple multireddit RSS feeds, and even newsletters from nyt and la times will include stories from a variety of places.

“Discover” hardly ever means, “check out what’s interesting,” usually it’s “check out this targeted ad”


Ah, but if I'm too broad, then I get a firehose of news. RSS gives you everything that comes down the pipe- unless you set up filters, I suppose


For reddit you can get a feed for the top posts only, and for HN you can set a score threshold. I even follow newsletters over rss (killthenewsletter), which if you subscribe to some daily digests you get exposed to stories from a variety of sources on many topics. I can still run through like 250 headlines in about 30 minutes, reading or saving what I like to pocket and skimming over the rest. There is definitely set up and optimization with RSS, getting the right mix of feeds that you want, but I don't see any targeted posts or advertising when I browse the internet now.

Its also really good for following journal articles in my field. Pubmed has active search RSS, for instance, and every journal pushes their new articles to RSS.


> [F]or HN you can set a score threshold…

How does one do that? I'm interested.



Recommendations + Discovery = Filter Bubble. These mis-features are exactly what we should be moving away from!


I'll take good recommendations, thank you.

I'm surprised so few people here have picked up on the fact that "filter bubble" is a rhetorical trick about as obvious as the "pro-life" and "pro-choice" dichotomy.

People like getting good recommendations, and they'll always like them. "Filter bubbles" are here to stay.


Sure, we all want good recommendations, but how do we define "good"? I see some obvious problems with the way tech recommendations are playing out that have nothing to do with the filter bubble issue.

First, we are outsourcing recommendations to profit-driven corporations. At best, the recommendations I want to see will be mixed with the ones advertisers want me to see. Revenue expectations of social media companies currently ensure this is a non-trivial issue with no easy middle ground.

Even assuming the recommendations are reasonably good, you still have the problem that these ML-type recommendations require massive datasets and therefore it naturally gravitates towards a winner-take-all situation. Having one giant borg of a recommendation engine is bad.

We are replacing a rich tapestry of individual word-of-mouth and small-scale communication channels with a massive mono-culture. Scalability is worshipped in tech companies (it's great for getting rich!), but it's not a inherently a good thing. In nature we find diversity trumps scalability, and I feel the same way about culture.


Google News claims to include other sources in a story's feed, to expose the readership to other points of view. That sounds like a great way to burst the "social media bubble".


Good recommendations are like a convenient browser that comes with your OS. The problems come in when it's just one company that has the public locked in to their particular solution.


What problems?


IE 6


No discovery = isolation bubble


I found this out when I switched from Pocket to Instapaper. Instapaper has a curated list of articles updated about once a month, and I don't read half of them. Pocket recommends articles based on what you read, and it's not just more of the same. I'm probably going to switch back.


You can follow hn and other aggregators like reddit via rss. I have it set up for hn where I only get posts that have hit 100 points, otherwise it’s a firehose.


> Recommendations + Discovery = Filter Bubble.

Yep. When it decentralized you can control how strong are the bubble walls and can try different bubbles from time to time.


The way I grew my feed was to look around any time an article in my feed linked to another site.

The thing is though we want to talk about the stories and ask questions. I mean, that’s why we’re all here, right? Comment forums on a million sites don’t work.

In the early days of the web someone had the idea that you should be able to run your own group commentary without the site aurhor’s permission. You’d register for the service and your browser would tell you or show you that there’s a conversation going about this page.

I still feel like we need this.


There are some w3c tools around open annotations that might be a good fit for this.


Is there discovery on Facebook?

Most people I add because I meet them in read life. Actually, 100% of the people I add on FB after I've met them in real life.

Maybe if there was a good search and easy add mechanism for people I've met, it would fulfill the discovery aspect. I agree with you, it does feel easier to find people on FB.


No, discovery of news & sources. Your friends who know about <your hobby> are a great news source/filter. Whereas with RSS there's not a good method to find new news you care about.


Can't you just have a website like Medium that acts as an aggregator (of RSS feeds) instead of a platform? The issue I have to whether stick with RSS feeds, which seem like it's dying, or to use ActivityPub, which doesn't seem to be developed that heavily.



I think in addition to this an aggregator, you also need a website that helps create an RSS feed for each user while simultaneously abstracting that notion away. Thanks for the pointer though :)



I think something like personal AI, like something out of a William Gibson novel could fix this issue.


I use Feedly for my rss-feeds and they do recommend other sites to follow if you search for a feed.


Maybe someone should create an RSS feed that curates other RSS feeds and forwards them to their recipients.

I'm not sure how to monetize this, but it would add some discovery to rss.


You described a link blog. kottke.org and Daring Fireball are good examples.


> I'm not sure how to monetize this

Make it good enough to pay for.


For glorified opml export?


For research and curation of content.


It's hard to compete with HN and Reddit...


we're working on this problem with mendoapp.com

but instead of following "feeds" you follow people, and it queues up links they've shared on twitter


Blogrolls worked quite well for me.


RaaS? Recommendations as a Service? Disaggregated.


When i try to think of what my ideal social media would look like, it always ends up sounding similar to an RSS feed, with the ability to lookup and requiring the other user's approval to get the actual content

That last phrase could add a lot of friction.

you could use different clients, some could give you recommendations for events,etc based on your subscriptions if you so choose

That would indeed replace Facebook. However, then you have a chicken and egg problem. Those clients won't be much good unless people provide data by using them, and people won't use them because they don't already have the data to provide good recommendations.


There's already a lot of aggregators which are partially-social. For example theoldreader tells me that someone likes a specific post from RSS feed. Not sure if they have recommendations, but they could certainly generate them if they wanted.


One thing that could be really cool, would be the UI of RSS readers applied to social media. Like, you could have the ads and recommendations in their own branch of the tree.


>When i try to think of what my ideal social media would look like, it always ends up sounding similar to an RSS feed, with the ability to lookup and requiring the other user's approval to get the actual content, you could use different clients, some could give you recommendations for events,etc based on your subscriptions if you so choose, or just run your own locally. life would be so simple

Up until you get to "different clients" you're basically describing classic Google Reader.


I still miss google reader. If was such a fine product that just worked so of course it had to go.


That sounds a lot like ActivityPub / Mastodon.


My ideal social media was FriendFeed, and yes it was in many ways similar to an RSS feed: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FriendFeed


I've been actually building something like this on the side with the Friends plugin for WordPress: https://wordpress.org/plugins/friends/ (source at https://github.com/akirk/friends)

It's based on the idea that you'd publish to your personal website either publicly or privately. The private posts can only be read by your friends (who own personal websites themselves and have established a friendship connection using a friend request).

The implementation is just a (not yet standardized) friend ship request REST protocol plus authenticated RSS feeds (using a secret key exchanged by the above process).

Since the whole decentralized social network idea is a chicken-and-egg game, I've constructed the plugin in a way so that it is useful to use by yourself: You can subscribe to RSS feeds, filter feeds with your own rules, and get full-content e-mail notifications for all or selected posts.

The plugin also implements Emoji-Likes on posts and allows recommending posts to your friends. It doesn't have an automatic recommendation engine (yet?).

Actually, there is no need to have this restricted to WordPress since it uses very much established technology, so it could interoperate with any other compatible platform. I just implemented it with WordPress for its ecosystem and that you can use existing mobile apps to read on it and share to it.

Overall the whole endeavor allows you to have your personal social network decentralized, ad- and spam-free since you select who you listen to.

The plugin is already well usable but it only progresses at side-project speed, so help is welcome (not only development work but also trying it out, posting about its features with screenshots/-casts, etc.)!

You can read more about some technical details at https://alexander.kirk.at/2018/11/03/decentralized-social-ne... and take a look at the presentation: https://alexander.kirk.at/2018/11/08/wordpress-meetup-presen...


Maybe more of an email list than an RSS feed then? You can control who is a member of the list to receive content. It would be cool if social media could be done through email, sort of like Usenet.


Yes, but ideally it would be 2-ways, and there is still the problem with discovery, more in general i just think there shouldn't be social media sites, "social media" should be a protocol


You mean like newsletters? No need to reinvent the wheel.


Email/newsletters are a promising protocol, but you would have to rethink the UX to be more like a newsfeed, where a concise version of the message is shown once, and then automatically marked as read.

I have noticed friends reverting back to RSVP e-mails via Paperless Post Flyer. I'm still not sure if one person in this social group is not on Facebook, causing the change, but it has been a welcome adjustment. If Facebook Events can be replaced by an e-mail approach, I don't see why other products can't follow suit.


>where a concise version of the message is shown once, and then automatically marked as read.

So like a rule to push it into your newsletter folder?


Didn't you just describe Twitter?


Twitter could be great if you could truly tune-out the stuff you don't want to see.

For a long time I held onto my account, trying to mute anything part of SJW or communist discourse, but to no avail. Twitter shows you stuff you didn't sign up for anyway, I suppose to maximise engagement.


>the FB account is mostly used as a way to passively receive content...

And HN user "jsgo" wrote...

>If it is more difficult than Facebook, it can't hope for being anything more than a niche...

These are the sorts of common sense observations missing from so many "let's replace Facebook/Twitter/Whatever" debates. If we're serious about replacing FB/Snapchat/Twitter/Whatever then we need to consider realistic alternatives. Using the Mastodon-like distributed media and personal website ideas to get rid of Facebook/Twitter is like using the People's Front of Judea and the Judean People's Front to get rid of the Romans. You just have to ignore a lot of reality to assume it would ever work.


That said, if someone can strike now, it is possible to displace FB. Or at least put up enough competition to sadly/ironically get bought out by them.


Google Plus, now's your moment!


This x1000

We would need some sort of aggregator. Currently, you could call Facebook an aggregator of personal websites. Of course all of the personal websites are also hosted there, but it technically is an aggregator of those webpages. Let's not forget most of the people that I am friends with on Facebook would never be able to create their own personal website without a lot of help which is what makes something like Facebook so convenient and popular.


> We would need some sort of aggregator.

It could be a protocol, independent of the browser. But the browser could support it inline, so you could just click a button to follow a content stream. It shouldn't be complex, it should be simple. Really simple. Syndication.


Open source social media dashboard? That way you could still use all the traditional social media apps without being reliant on any single one.


Several years ago facebook gutted a lot of RSS features. You used to be able to follow your notifications via RSS, but that went away when facebook realized people wouldn't stay on the site as long.


Is there no possible workaround? Zapier supports custom RSS feeds from popular social media sites, so it's definitely not impossible.


There's https://github.com/RSS-Bridge/rss-bridge, but it's a PHP app, run it on a disposable VPS.


Yes, a sort of "Global Yellow Pages". I personally still have it for event invitations from a handful of friends.


There are also a number of people who primarily share content rather than create/write it as well.

Me, I personally treat it like a blog in the sense that I'm there to either "like" it, go past it, or go to the comments section.

Regardless, reproducing Facebook via personal websites would be daunting if not impossible. One, not everyone is going to feel comfortable doing HTML/CSS/JS or even working in a CMS w/ drag-and-drop/WYSIWYG. Two, if I know your name (and if it isn't unique enough, we either share connections or I know some other details about you you've posted), I can search for you on Facebook. How easily can that be created with personal websites when you're also searching against the broader web (good luck searching for your friend Mercedes's personal site. Have a friend named Mike Rowe and you guys joke about how his name is like that one guy with the tv show? Best of luck finding his site too).

And we can argue "but the user can take back control of their data" which on face value is true, the problem is that I think for a lot of people I know on Facebook, they don't care. At least the convenience outweighs the concerns. And that's fine, that's their right. They weighed the pros/cons and found Facebook to have agreeable compromises. As do businesses that sell on Amazon I'm sure.

I do want a solution that gets away from Facebook. The problem is it needs to be something that is easy enough for a non-tech user to manage and consume. If it is more difficult than Facebook, it can't hope for being anything more than a niche.


> that doesn't mean RSS readers can replace Facebook because that technology is missing a "real names" reverse directory lookup database

But that's the point, isn't it? Personal websites isn't what will "solve the customer's problem", persé, but it is what will allow Facebook to no longer be irreplaceable, which is the real reason why people stay on the platform. The question isn't whether personal websites can replace Facebook, but whether personal websites will allow room for a real Facebook competitor (which improves the passive consumption experience) to grow.


> Personal websites [...] is what will allow Facebook to no longer be irreplaceable, which is the real reason why people stay on the platform.

No, you're making a common mistake of looking at the surface level of what Facebook shows to users (the so-called "webpage"). Therefore, the seemingly "obvious" solution to beat Facebook is -- Everybody Has Personal Websites.

Since I've seen many smart techies and programmers (e.g. the author of the article we're discussing) make that same claim, I think Mark Zuckerberg has (inadvertently) pulled off the most stunning "Keyser Söze"[0] type of misdirection about the real competitive advantage of Facebook. Programmers are mislead into looking at one thing (e.g. "personal websites") when they really should be looking at something else: The Real Names Lookup Database.

The Real Names Lookup Database is what makes the other features such as "point-to-point messaging", "chat", "calendar events", and finally "personal blog platform" aka "personal websites" -- all work so well with minimum friction.

To put it in more computer science syntax, Facebook has the following SQL table (approximate pseudocode) that's very valuable:

  create table real_ids (
    real_name,
    real_phone_number,
    real_email_address,
    ... other metadata ...
  );
Facebook has accumulated approximately ~2 billion rows in that table with those special primary keys. The end users of Facebook also find that table very useful. (My previous comment about this.[1]) Do not get distracted by things like "personal webpages". It's that special SQL table that makes Facebook hard to replace.

To continue the Facebook analysis via psuedo SQL, when a user wants to see something relevant from somebody she knows, it's:

  SELECT posts FROM real_ids WHERE real_name = "Jane Doe";
Getting relevant calender events & invites is the same idea:

  SELECT event_invites FROM events,real_ids WHERE real_name = "Jane Doe";
Here's where some observers get sidetracked: Even though the SQL columns "post" and "event_invites" are eventually rendered in HTML, this does not mean that "personal websites of html" is the solution to supplant Facebook. The real issue to analyze is the SQL WHERE clause. Making that WHERE clause work for real names is not trivial to build.

Another company that has a similar real_ids database is LinkedIn. But because they cater to professionals, they have mostly white-collar workers looking for jobs; they're missing blue-collar plumbers, or grandparents that are retired, etc. In any case, the same "flawed solution" can be misapplied here: "The solution to replace LinkedIn is to make it easy for people to make personal websites of their résumé and job history."

If you still have doubts whether Facebook's special sauce is the real_names database or if it's the "ease of personal websites", consider what Mark Zuckerberg chooses to spend billions on: Instagram ($1 billion), WhatsApp ($19 billion), and attempt to acquire Snapchat ($3 billion).

Notice that MZ does not bother with acquiring "easy-to-use website builders" such as Wix[2], or Squarespace[3].

What does Instagram/WhatsApp/Snapchat have in common that Wix/Squarespace does not? Those competitors' smartphone apps have a database of real_phone_numbers of their users!

On a related note, thinking that a protocol like ActivityPub can replace Facebook is also misguided analysis. ActivityPub is not a "real names lookup database" so it can't replace the actual thing that makes Facebook useful. Instead of focusing on protocols, think of how to make an alternative database of real_names-lookup that isn't owned by Facebook. Also think of where the db will be physically stored (blockchain is probably not the answer), and how costs for the maintenance of the db will be paid.

Without a viable real_names lookup database, it's pointless for Everybody To Have Personal Websites because there's no easy way for them to connect to other relevant websites to share data. That "connection" is easiest and more scalable when it's based on real names instead of urls.

For a database lookup of domain names to ip addresses, we have a canonical and universal "database": DNS. It's also very useful to have a "real names" reverse-lookup to "web profiles" but right now, the closest analogy we have to that is the realnames database privately owned by Facebook. Facebook has become the biggest and most authoritative "DNS of real people's names".

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keyser_S%C3%B6ze

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15294086

[2] https://www.wix.com/

[3] https://www.squarespace.com/


This is interesting. Literally the one thing that prevents me from using social networks is the real names database. I refuse to give my real name so I don't get the full experience other users do. I would never use facebook, but I would be interested in an anonymous distributed 1:1 social network (like email, without servers). Currently I do use email and minimize my exposure by changing addresses from time to time, however, I'd prefer a full control version. Running an email server is too hard.

Back in the old days I was on IRC. I loved IRC. It was anonymous and everyone could have their own server and you could have individual chat and direct file share instead of broadcasting to everyone. But it's not asynchronous. I would do this thing where I would send my IP and a passcode to my IRC friends and with the IP and credentials they would have access to a specific folder on my home server. I put occasionally a diary or some photos on there and they could leave me messages. (OK it was a very crude solution. I was very young.) I liked it because it did not commit me to having the stuff up all the time but at the same time it wasn't gone forever if I didn't get to it right then.

I realize I am something of an anti-market and nobody would find my dream social network viable. Maybe I should make one for myself. I only have a dozen people I talk to really so there's no "all my friends are here" effect to consider for me.


Surely a new social network could use others' authentication providers (Facebook Connect, Google account, etc.) to get real names/numbers of users and their friends. Smartphone apps could use contacts from the phone itself. I don't think FB's social graph is as hard to replicate as its overall reach. Users think, "If everyone I know is already on FB or one of the other established networks, why use anything else? "


You're assuming getting users to give you that info is easy.


Right, Facebook themselves took roughly 10 years to build it, and they used a lot of psychological tricks to do it (first mover advantage, early FB was "exotic" and "invite only", late FB was an avalanche of FOMO and network effects, etc).

Similarly, the history of the White Pages and the Yellow Pages is a fascinating read and took decades for those books to be accepted. (Nowhere near as fast as they declined in the internet age.)


> That "connection" is easiest and more scalable when it's based on real names

Is it though? People I know refer to their pages with short urls and nicknames all the time because nobody wants to scroll through bazillion of John Doe profiles in Facebook search.


You’d think that if personal websites were a valid substitute for Facebook, the whole thing would have never taken off in the first place. Personal websites didn’t see massive adoption the first time around, and we can safely doubt they ever will.


Because they were obtuse to set up for 99% of people. Myspace basically made quick and easy personal pages for the masses, and everyone used it because it was quick and easy. If a company is able to do it right for the 99% of people who don't know what FTP is, then its got a shot.


None of the major web services (Geocities, Tripod and Angelfire) required anyone to know FTP, and they weren't any more difficult to use than Wix or Wordpress, which target non-technical users today.

Before the standard of "web development" became "learn the terminal, Git and some Linux, unit testing, install and learn Node, learn Docker or some other container, learn ssh, learn a framework and any of several languages that compile to javascript" it really was simple enough that plenty of "normal" people grasped it without any issue.


The trouble is, all of those "easy" website building services are still much harder and more customizable than Facebook. If you remember MySpace, you'll also remember that a pretty signifiant minority of pages were horrifically ugly and did super-annoying things. It seems most people are either terrible at web design or have no interest in it, even if you give them a pile of dead-easy templates. Part of the reason most of my social media use went to Facebook earlier on was that the user pages all looked reasonably nice and didn't play terrible music or blink or whatever. You could still post ugly pictures or stupid walls of text, but there's a limit to how unpleasant you can make a Facebook page. Sometimes, less customizability is better.


I don't think "customization" is necessarily a problem, even if people want to make butt-ugly sites. Part of what the web offers people is the opportunity to express themselves creatively, both in terms of design and content.

I can't complain about anyone else's lack of design skills... I once had all of the text on my website bright red Nosferatu on a black background in tables with 3d bevels and a background I swiped from a surreal art site.

But there's no reason some modern, stripped down and ultra-minimalist version of a self-hosted site service couldn't borrow from Facebook's UI design (which, all else considered about the service, obviously works for the general public) and have publishing a "page" be as simple as publishing to their Facebook feed, complete with some non-editable css.

But then that gives you none of the benefits (in my mind) to having your own site (complete control over code and content) as well as none of the benefits of Facebook (integration with your social graph and discoverability) and keeps all of the downsides of a third party host.


Squarespace? But still, a website isn’t worth $10/month to most folks.

I think the other user was right who commented that most Facebook users are content consumers, versus content creators. That is, they browse much more than they post.


I feel that most people are stuck with Facebook because of messenger and events. Core FB functionality is still its social network and ease of interconnecting everyone's personal social graphs.


Yeah I just want to see everyone's photos.. that's kinda it.


Agree. And those who do post about their lives (on FB, Insta, Twitter etc.) Do it for the dopamine fix one gets when others react and respond to their posts.


When YC experimented with applying/voting with YC applicants on HN, this was a part of my idea...tomorrowbook ;)

It’s part domain registration, web builder (simple website with fees you add content to via text message), part automated dns records, part social media/search engine.

So imagine these personal websites are all connected, one website can follow another, that’s it. You own the content, traffic, ad revenue. You could search content across these distributed websites with the tomorrowbook search engine, you could use tomorrowbook to register a domain (built in dns/website for the nontechnical) or use your own registrar and embed the tomorrowbook feed into your site.

Original post: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11473190


In 1997 it was called Webrings

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Webring


Well without the domain registration, dns, webbuilder, social media functions and search engine.

But yes that seems to allow websites to link to one another.


"Instead, the FB account is mostly used as a way to passively receive content."

It's funny when people paint such wide strokes for 2 billion people. I would assume people use Facebook for literally hundreds if not thousands(if you can imagine) of use cases.

Probably one of the most complex consumer products ever made from that perspective. I don't think it's useful to reduce Facebook to something as simple as "most people do X on Facebook".

For instance, Facebook in India has nearly 300 million users. They all use Facebook the same way as the 215 million in the United States?

The only people that know how Facebook is used by people is Facebook.


> because that technology is missing a "real names" reverse directory lookup database.

search engines solve that somewhat ... but you could have a directory that points to the correct address (a bit like a web directory or a phone book)... maybe the government could even host that...


Instead, the FB account is mostly used as a way to passively receive content.

Is that true? I would have thought it's mostly used for chatting with people they know, or commenting on things people have shared. But I'm just guessing.


> The way most people use Facebook is more of an RSS feed

For many it's become more of an address book


Or a shared calendar


We are already trying here to offer FREE personal website for User at https://UserCV.com/users


Personal CV websites are future, but they need more like "FEED" or "RSS" and "followers" mechanism


Maybe we need some kind of open specification for "the living web" so companies like tripod/angelfire can support the spec.

Maybe where you would sign into your own site and it would have polled posts from all the sites you follow (probably with rss) into a single feed. Your site IP is your identity, so commenting etc would be done as your site e.g., `MentallyRetired.com says: Hey these are cool!`

I dont know, just shooting from the hip, but it seems a lot of these technologies are possible. I remember signing into places with my website.

But it needs to be EASY. As easy as Facebook. And backwards compatible to avoid breakage.


"The way most people use Facebook is more of an RSS feed rather than a 1999 Geocities personal website."

Very true and Twitter is better for this in general. I keep a Twitter feed running at all times on 2nd monitor.


Can you back that claim about the majority of Facebook users not producing content with data please

EDIT: Specifing the claim


I think it would be helpful to specify which claims need data.

> Recommending "personal websites" is talking about a solution to a problem that most of the billion users don't have.

I thinks this is mostly a valid argument. The burden of proof for whether the problem exists is on the person proposing the solution; Solutions require action, and the side that requires action needs proof.

I do think the claim that “most people use facebook like an rss feed” needs some data to back it up though. I personally use it that way, but that is andecdotal and I also have many friends who use facebook to promote their life, which is more along the lines of a personal website.

EDIT: Spelling


The author of the article did not, so why should a comment saying differently be held to a higher standard?

Plus asking for data about a long post without referencing which part you even want data on is unconstructive.


The author of the article did not, so why should a comment saying differently be held to a higher standard?

Two wrongs don't make a right, and how do you know to what standard the parent poster holds the author? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Plus asking for data about a long post without referencing which part you even want data on is unconstructive.

There was one claim made in the five sentence GP post.


Two wrongs make the latter right.


Homepage. It's your home on the internet. It's good for you.

Things to get started with:

- https://www.netlifycms.org/ - completely free static website on top of github pages

- http://mastodon.social/ - federated microblogging, which can be self-hosted as well

- https://www.digitalocean.com/products/one-click-apps/ - one click wordpress for 5$/m

- https://aws.amazon.com/lightsail/projects/wordpress/ - another near one-click wordpress for near 5$

- https://yunohost.org/ - easy self-hosting, even on top of a raspberry

- https://indieweb.org/WordPress - make your site communicate with other sites

- https://www.scuttlebutt.nz/ - decentralized, sneakernet friendly, private social system


These are great, but what's the solution for those who don't even know what HTML is? They are the vast majority of FB users.

I don't think anyone who taken web development a bit seriously have any problem to publish something online independently.


Going to throw our hat in the ring here. We built Universe (http://apple.co/Universe) for precisely this reason: to enable everyone to build their place on the internet, without touching code, all from a phone.

You can see some of the sites created with it here: http://showcase.onuniverse.com

Here's more about us: http://fastcompany.com/90174165/the-future-of-web-design-doe...


Wow, this is great, I'll give it a try. I love the artistic touch too.

You basically made a CMS and web designer app for the web on mobile, which is 90% with the users, this is a wonderful concept.

Is this the new Tumblr? :)


At some point of ease, you pretty much just have MySpace/Facebook.

And that's what I always think about these conversations... What separates hassle-free push button website creation and publishing from MySpace/Facebook?


WordPress recently introduced a new editor, Gutenberg - that is certainly a point and click experience, no HTML involved.

One can get Microsoft Office or LibreOffice and export to HTML.

Or write a text file and upload it with SFTP.

On the other hand, HTML is really not that hard, and a bit of sweat put into your creation is not bad either in my personal opinion: https://petermolnar.net/internet-emotional-core/


You don't need to know HTML to make a Web site with a CMS like WordPress.


Also:

- Decentralized YouTube (1M+ monthly visitors) https://d.tube/

- P2P Reddit (260K+ monthly visitors) https://notabug.io/

Both built with GUN :)


For non-technical people who have some interest in learning html / css and a free weekend, its even easier:

- https://www.codecademy.com/learn/make-a-website

- host for free on netlify

- maybe simple intro to git to make updating and deploying to netlify easier

anyone can learn basic html / css (in 6th grade we did a week long "build a website" project and everyone did it -- this was back in the late 90s), and with frameworks like bootstrap anyone can make an attractive looking site.

with just basic html / css knowledge and netlify, you can:

- self-host and write a blog

- post photo albums

- share videos and audio (link to youtube)

- share status updates

- create an online course

- create a curated list of interesting articles, photos, recipes, food (a la pinterest)

- conduct surveys (link to google forms or other free survey tools)

- create a mailing list / online following (link to google forms or use mailchimp)

- get creative and personalize your site's appearance

- create links to your friends sites

- publish short stories or even e-books

- communicate with people via email (just create an email address for your site and publish it). posting publicly doesnt have to be the normal way to socialize online

- and probably much more

the only downside is if you don't want everything to be public you'd need a simple backend / auth framework, and youd have to host on heroku or something (idk if netlify only does static sites?)

and if you can do this stuff, and find html / css interesting, it isn't that hard to learn enough python or js to build stuff like forms, comments, like buttons, RSS feeds, or simple CRUD apps

the open source software and free-tier saas products we have today make so much of this so easy


To us this seems very easy and I too have designed my own portfolio webpage for instance, but really do you think my nearly 80-yo grandpa or even my peer and best friend from high school who has those pesky 12-hour nursing shifts between all of her downtime has the ability or more importantly cares to do this? the desire and wherewithal to design a webpage is still a very niche interest.


This is great, thanks. Also have the below:

- https://gohugo.io/ Static site generator written with Go-lang - https://jekyllrb.com/ static site generator written with Ruby


https://github.com/Kickball/awesome-selfhosted - list of Free Software network services and web applications which can be hosted locally


I'd like to plug https://circles.app/

We are open to opensourcing Circles. What if anyone could start their own Facebook-equivalent site using opensource? What if we could splinter FB into 10,000 sites?



Doesn't https://about.me (et al) fit on this list too?


This is so crazy, I love the idea but the world isn't going back to how it was in the late 1990s / early 2000s. I've been in web hosting for a long time and I love the idea of everyone creating their own little website. The truth is people don't have the skills or care enough to do something like that, FB, Quora, Twitter, all these services that are walled gardens work because they make it EASY to share/create and CONNECT people easily with others and easy to use apps that do x. WordPress is about the closest you get and it is a nightmare to manage and $$$ on the hosting side compared to closed gardens.

We need to just accept the new world and keep innovating inside it, there isn't going back to how it was.

And stop this nonsense about privacy, either pass a big federal law or accept that your info is how free sites are funded :).


I agree with your comments except for (respectfully) the part about: "We need to just accept the new world..." I firmly think this all represents opportunity. Opportunity for technologists to develop open platforms that are NOT cumbersome to setup nor to host by the layperson, and that - at least over some time - are extremely inexpensive. Maybe i'm an optimist, but i firmly believe there will be an open platform - or multiple complimentary open platforms working in concert - which will fill all of these needs (independence of/control of online presence, privacy, networking opportunities, etc.). I don't think we should merely accept this fate. For the technologists who read hacker news, I think all of this should be a call to arms - or better said a call to service. What is that phrase I've heard, something about being the change you want to see in the world?


Totally agree, I just don't want people to think it is going back to what it was in the late 90s and getting trapped thinking that was some type of golden age. Going forward there is tremendous opportunity to do new things that give people the ability to express themselves online.


The thing about social media which is slightly different from everyone having their own site (tripod, geocities ..) is that its more interactive.

There is some messaging built into the "new social" that wasn't as available back then (we didn't all have smart phones, and internet was charged by the hour.). There wasn't as much content either which did make it slightly more manageable to surf through the pages you wanted.

polite and interesting exchange though.


Yeah it's funny; I remember back when blogs first became popular, but before comments-on-posts was a common thing. Most community and discussion happened on message boards or newsgroups (whenever a link to said link was posted). That's what led to the backlink (quickly taken advantage of by spammers), which led to the on-premise comment thread.


Yep, understood.


My sentiments exactly. Well-said. I've experimented with distributed/decentralized social tools as they've come along since back to 2005 or so and even tried my hand at making "easy" interfaces to them. So far, it's all exciting but nothing has stuck in a way that looked mainstream to me. Nonetheless, I still have a lot of energy for it because I think something will come together.


Except having a legitimate personal website is a challenge you can't automate away. Even if you managed to produce a rugged installer script for, say, Mastodon so you can one click deploy a working instance you still need to somehow A. get a domain and B. host it somewhere that will stay online for others to use.

There is no real way to automate domain procurement.

Most people don't leave a PC they own all the time to run a website.

So you end up hosting it. But now its centralizing again. If everyone were hosting their own mastodon instances on the same cloud provider thats barely any different from that cloud provider being a Facebook with all the data access they have. Even with a federated site like that few simply have a computer to leave on all the time to have their own site, let alone asking your average person to setup dynamic dns records if they did.

The fundamental name system of the Internet is too manual to enable average people to have personal sites. And any solution involves centralization which defeats the exercise.


Wha? I leave my PCs on for years at a time. Except for natural disasters (storms, cut power lines) they operate 24X365. A personal website is pretty straightforward.

I think its pretty straightforward to host things yourself.


> I think its pretty straightforward to host things yourself.

Said as a true developer who no longer realizes how hard some of the things we do are to the average person who can barely operate their computer or smart phone.

Think of all the things you have to learn in order to host your own site. I still have to explain the basics of what a domain name is to potential freelance customers, and why they need hosting in order to have a website online. This is knowledge that is not common outside of the developer ecosystem.


lol ... this seems to be a theme today in several different threads. Literally anyone on this website should take their own behavior as the opposite of what they assume the average user can or will do.


I honestly can't with the HN crowd at times. The problem with a bubble is you often don't realize you're in one.


Is the bandwidth on a typical home ISP connection really viable for serving a website, and don't most ISPs forbid customers running servers on their accounts?


You would only (in this example) need enough bandwidth to satisfy the traffic of your immediate friends and family you interact with online.

Your IM client is already doing that.


You are not the average Joe.


Really my standing is that what we need to accept is different - that it is okay to be a technically sophisticated niche but that it will certainly have lesser traffic. That sort of experience is much of what people bemoan about with the 'old internet' anyway.

The internet is built for that sort of specialization anyway - it isn't a pure broadcast medium in the first place so accept that it isn't all conglomerates - if you don't want it for profit in the first place you don't need the crowds.

I can see potentially setting up a good 'seed kit' to distribute but generally they've had the trap of being too technically sophisticated for the lowest level and too simple for those with more expertise.

It is probably more hard on a social level than a technical level given things like UX consistency. Not to mention the infamous 'classic angelfire 90s website' tackiness that nobody tends to want to visit anyway.


Who is talking about going back technologically, though?

    Before the sponsored updates. 
    Before the terms of service changed. 
    Before data stopped being private. 
    Before we sold our memories. 
    Before we forgot our rights. 
    Before everything that made media 
    Less social and more cynical, 
    There was one simple idea: 
    Our lives are our own. 
    What we share and who we share it with, 
    Our memories, our secrets, 
    Our lives are our own. 
    That idea is important 
    So we’re going back to before. 
    And in going back to before, 
    We’re going forward.
from https://tent.io/ which now displays this poem instead:

> Did Not Connect: Potential Security Issue

The idea is still valid IMO. I don't care about "the world", that's just a word; the internet worked fine when there wasn't even 100 million people using it, so a better web doesn't have to be used by everybody, either.


This is basically what myspace used to be. People decided the well organised, in seperate data-pieces and better presented Facebook way was the preference. How little did they know that well organised data can lead to where we are now...


The article mentions how Myspace wasn't able to monetize its users as well as data-driven Facebook does. I wonder if 2006's Myspace could have survived if given more mature toolchains for users' pages to not look as though they were made by a teenager. Or Facebook made an early decision that having less customization is better for growing a userbase such that people will use a service with posts in a format they can be more familiar with across all pages.


Ehh, wordpress is a mis-step along our path of digital expression. There's this new thing called flat HTML files that are very easy to maintain and much more flexible (and secure). If you don't mind a complete mess, like me :P


I miss messy 90s sites


The author's thesis is fundamentally flawed. They say it isn't clear why everyone was so excited to have a Facebook, but that's exactly the answer - because everyone had a Facebook. One of the biggest appeals of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter (which is arguable even more useless than FB), etc. is that every nobody has direct access to an audience of millions. They can scream their offensive, unoriginal, spontaneous, nuanced thoughts into the void and instantaneously get sympathy, disgust, praise, and simple acknowledgement with little to no effort.

Contrast this with maintaining a personal website. Even in a world where FB doesn't exist, it's still a chore to get people to memorize yet another URL and regularly visit it, especially if it isn't updated on a consistent schedule (which most personal websites aren't.) Furthermore, given that the author seems to be advocating for self-sufficiency as much as possible and avoiding centralized platforms, assuming you're hosting your own website and not using a cookie cutter template, you're now fighting Google for search engine visibility and that's a battle that is absolutely not based on merit of content.

This is not to mention the unpleasantness of using most personal websites because they're poorly designed (light text on a white background), or they try and guilt-trip me into supporting them with Patreon/Paypal popups, or the only consistent content produced is content promising to produce more content in the future, etc.

I'm probably reading too much into the author's article, to be honest. It's a nice sentiment and I agree, but at the same time the thing I don't understand about the recent trend of publishing articles on mainstream news sites preaching the life benefits of going cold turkey on social media is that it isn't a binary choice. I know it's a novel idea, but you don't have to quit FB to pick up that hobby you once loved again! You don't have to quit FB to maintain your personal website! In fact, you can probably use FB and your audience on it to grow your readership on your personal website! Even if you accept the author's argument that personal websites fulfill the purpose that FB does (strongly disagree), they give no reason why you have to pick one over the other.

¿Porque no los dos


Yeah the idea of everyone setting up a personal website with their real name and a recognisable photo of themselves is pretty laughable. Are people going to upload photos and implement an account system to restrict access too?

That was Facebook's original raison d'etre (and the source of its name).


You don't need to implement anything. There are self-hosted CMSs and blog platforms that have been doing this for a long time.

I'm not saying it's as easy as Facebook, but it's not "you need to be a developer"-hard either.


I'm not saying it's as easy as Facebook, but it's not "you need to be a developer"-hard either.

Tangent:

I've now talked four friends who wanted to start blogging out of spending money on AWS instances and VPS providers because they were convinced this was the path they absolutely had to take just to start writing things using WordPress. These are not technical people.

Which makes me wonder where that impression is coming from. Surely it couldn't have been Wordpress.com because the site goes out of their way to show how easy it is to sign up and start blogging on their platform, but I've long wondered why they were all so eager to avoid taking the simplest path to their goals since none of them were above spending money to realize their goals of having a blog.


Hey, I know where that's coming from!

Awhile ago I was digging through Pinterest on topics related to blogging, finance, online business, etc.

A lot of these pins target millennials and moms (wow, especially moms).

The point of most of these sites is affiliate marketing; they've got deals with hostgator, bluehost, godaddy, whatever, and get kickbacks when users sign up.

So all these pinboardss about blogs about blogging advocate for the VPS route because it's how they make cash.


While you don't need to implement things, as a developer, I gave up on self hosting. Having N self-hosted services, and having to keep them up to date for security purposes (and worry about updates breaking things) was really not worth the effort.

Self hosting is a pain. Let's not kid ourselves. It seems easy initially, but over the years, you really feel like it's better just to pay someone to manage it all for you.


So, what the author is saying is that we should make something just like Facebook, only:

- Harder to find

- Harder to update

- More expensive to run

- Prone to falling over / being hacked

- Non-standardized

- Doesn't provide instant feedback

The reason why we post on Facebook is because it is much (as in an order of magnitude) better and much more convenient than having your own website. Most people do not have their own "platform".

The reason why most people gave up blogging is because they discovered that shouting into the void (and then having to repost that material onto social networks so five people would read it) wasn't that fun or rewarding.

These decentralized fantasies based on personal grievances with Facebook fail when they run into the real world and how most people actually behave.


Well, this sounds like the goals of Diaspora, which never gained tons of traction, but has been around for years.

https://diasporafoundation.org/


Diaspora never gained traction because being worse at all of these things than Facebook didn't trump "Decentralization", "Freedom" and "Privacy".

Indeed, for many, the centralization of Facebook is a selling point, 'Freedom' might appeal to political activists / journalists but isn't of much interest to people who just want to find their friends rather than talk to 'happybunny123' and 'Privacy' has consistently shown itself to be something people are 'meh' about in deeds.

I've got nothing against Diaspora per se, but it's for geeks and privacy nuts. https://diasporafoundation.org/ suggests that one of the things I might want to "Join the Conversation" about is "Linux".

For the broader population, when you offer very few of the same benefits and introduce additional costs, it's not a surprise it doesn't gain traction.


Centralization isn't the selling point you're thinking of. You seem to think that somehow, being decentralized means Diaspora doesn't allow you to communicate with your friends or something. The whole way it works is that your friends can have accounts on entirely different Diaspora servers run by different organizations, and they can all talk to each other. It doesn't rely on everyone being on the same site, by design. That's the whole point of decentralization.

The reason it didn't "gain traction" (are we all managers here or something?) is that Facebook already had a huge critical mass of users, and once something has established itself as the incumbent, it's very difficult to get people to move to something else, especially for social networks where it entirely relies on all the other people you want to talk to being on that service. If all your friends are already on Facebook, and none of them on Diaspora, well it's pretty obvious which one you're going to invest your time in.


> Diaspora never gained traction because being worse at all of these things than Facebook didn't trump "Decentralization", "Freedom" and "Privacy".

Since when is "privacy" a feature of Diaspora? Their first big bug was, "any data from any users can be gotten by anybody willing to try." At least for a long time user's posts were stored in plaintext. (Not sure if that's still true.) And it's federated, not distributed.

I think your angry rocket of a rant overshot the moon there. Signal users might have privacy. Diaspora users certainly do not.


Decentralization, Freedom and Privacy are taken from the Diaspora homepage.

Also you’re conflating Privacy with Security.


The alternative, now that network bandwidth isn't in the 56Kbps range and sometimes on and sometimes off, is doable.

If you look at the "end" game, imagine that everyone has a machine at their house that they can access locally in their web browser. It has easy tools for posting updates and pictures. When you create a "profile" on it, you can choose to upload that profile to a well known repository of profiles. There is a widget to search the repository for people you might know, and if you "friend" them then your local machine gets a link to their RSS equivalent feed. Friend graphs become distributed, content is always local, and the only cost is to maintain the machine holding the profile repository.

IPV6 addressing and more than 500Kbps of upload bandwidth makes this possible. The current long pole in the tent are ISPs who specifically disallow (and interfere with!) long live server processes in their consumer internet accounts. I've written the FCC and my representatives suggesting that this is a place where some good rulemaking would enable Facebook alternatives that protected civil liberties.


I had a very similar idea, except the machine you're referring to here is your phone. Once you restrict yourself to text and low-res pictures, your phone can be your server.

A single app would let you edit your profile and post items to a feed. This includes a web server. You can also use it to view friends' profiles and chronological updates from their feeds. All data lives on your phone, fetching updates happens by one phone connecting to another phone.

Downsides are that it probably needs some kind of centralized discoverability/listing. Bandwidth would be a problem for folks on crappy data plans, but maybe not so much - you're only serving text and low-res pictures to several dozen people. You can also do stuff like waiting to respond to requests when the phone goes on wifi.


I would love to see phone homed Apps like this make an appearance on the market. One downside is that your data is in your pocket which means it is lost when you lose your phone. That might be avoided with a thread to back up the data to a home server of some sort.


This sounds a lot like the scuttlebutt protocol [1] if you provided a discovery service for it.

1. https://ssbc.github.io/scuttlebutt-protocol-guide/


That machine will need to be an appliance, something like a Google Home or Amazon Echo style device, and your local router should transparently proxy www.facebook.com to it.

I'm only sorta kidding. HN is really good at creating solutions that seem totally reasonable to other HN readers but would fall on their face in the wider market of Uncle Bob, Aunt Lois, and Grandma Pearl. You know, the real customer base.


So my history includes a period of time at NetApp, which at the time was doing a pretty good job of creating appliances out of otherwise Intel motherboards with a lot of I/O slots.

Appliances with a way to customize them appropriately to the customer by either trained service personnel or technically astute relatives (so documentation has to be available).


The problem with Uncle Pearl and Grandma Bob is that you're trying to deliver advanced features AND ease of use. That does require large centralized apps such as facebook.

If you ditch either of those requirements, you can probably deliver a solid product.


It already exist, called wifi-router. Which are mostly overpriced Linux servers on a flash drive.


Facebook is a bit more than just personal pages.

* It has built-in authentication and ACL, you get to choose who sees your stuff or not (not counting overarching privacy issues).

* It has built-in syndication, which means that it's easy to follow everyone's updates.

* It has discovery abilities that helps finding people you want to connect to.

* It has group conversation.

* It has event planning.

Personal pages have none of that, except with syndication where RSS is a partial solution. And on top of that, Facebook is providing it free-of-charge (with the "hidden" cost of scattering your personal data all across the universe) with very minimal setup, including for laypersons.


Exactly. People want to be connected, to have a kind of collection of people at their fingertips. Check what someone's been doing, send them a message. They want to share their memories and experiences. And they want the addictive qualities of Facebook... the likes, the comments, the feeds.

All of that is a social network, which is not a personal webpage.

You could create federated pages with these features using the following:

- web pages with comments and pingbacks

- wysiwyg editors

- photo albums and photo editing tools

- blogging

- direct messaging (xmpp/jabber)

Then, you could create individual social network portals that you could authorize to syndicate your federated web site. They could also host your website themselves. And each could offer unique tools, such as tools for event planning, or to help musicians promote their music (MySpace, anyone?). But the idea would hinge on multiple of these popping up at the same time, owned by different start-ups, which could be tricky.


> Facebook is a bit more than just personal pages.

I'm going to argue on the following points based on observations.

> - It has built-in authentication and ACL, you get to choose who sees your stuff or not (not counting overarching privacy issues).

Almost nobody knows well about how to control who see what, and even when they do, hardly anyone changes it often. Almost everyone leaves it at something that may not be appropriate for all the content they're sharing. Facebook, after its many privacy blunders, reminds people about the audience setting sometimes, but I don't see people changing it. Also, "lists" as a concept to control who sees what was stillborn. Less than a fraction of a percentage in my circles would even be aware of it (this despite me trying to educate people about privacy).

> - It has built-in syndication, which means that it's easy to follow everyone's updates.

Here again, it's easy to follow updates that Facebook deems the best to keep the person coming back to show more ads and make more money. Almost nobody knows how to choose to see someone's posts always and how to avoid someone's posts short of unfriending them. The default is users not knowing that they can control it, which means practically they don't control what they see and what they don't see.

> - It has discovery abilities that helps finding people you want to connect to.

The same argument in the previous point applies here too. Facebook focuses on making people come back often. So the discovery feature may be useful in some cases, but usually it tends to create an overload of people, groups and pages to connect with. Search on Facebook is dismal, and the main "discovery" mechanism is Facebook's suggestions (which is incentivized for ads).

To summarize, Facebook's features work to maximize holding people's attention on its platform and showing ads. How well this matches with one's individual choices varies a lot. Facebook isn't really doing anything phenomenal in surfacing relevant content to people.


As a counterpoint to your counterpoint, at least Facebook's default setting is friends and friends of friends (I believe, it's been a while since I've had mine on the default setting). By default a personal website is public, and it'd be pretty difficult to setup authentication and user accounts for the people you want to be able to see your content, keeping it secure and preventing it from leaking. That is a pretty huge difference. Not arguing Facebook has been perfect, obviously they've had huge blunders, but it is vastly simpler and more secure (most of the time) for the average person compared to them trying to do it themselves.


>Almost nobody knows well about how to control who see what, and even when they do, hardly anyone changes it often.

To be fair, that's true for most permissions on UNIX/Windows for the average person. Having a flexible ACL system that is user friendly is likely impossible. Either you make it friendly, but reduce its capabilities, or you make it complex and provide flexibility.


I agree that Facebook's implementation of those features is piss-poor and your analysis is on point. However you can't expect something to be a proper Facebook alternative with them missing.


Facebook is now many things, but when it started it was about identity: this is who I am, this is who I know, this is what I care about.

As Facebook has expanded, it's become a mostly passive experience. This is a byproduct of Facebook's business model, which is to sell other people's time. Like any business, it's incentivized to maximized its inventory, which in this case is time spent on Facebook properties.

People are waking up to the fact that Facebook doesn't add value to your life, it extracts value by consuming your time.

There is another way. You don't need to be the product.

This is why I created Universe (YC W'18), a new kind of tool that allows everyone to build their place on the internet—their own website, with their own domain, and their own design.

The internet should look more like a bustling, erratic metropolis and less like a centrally-planned suburb. To do that, it needs to be built by everyone.

Check out Universe and let me know what you think: http://apple.co/Universe

----

Some sites made on Universe: http://showcase.onuniverse.com

More about our story: http://fastcompany.com/90174165/the-future-of-web-design-doe...


I use and love Universe regularly, thanks Joe!


Wow this is sick! Excited to give it a try. Why don't more people know about y'all?


Only a matter of time, we think


Do you have an Android app?


I find one of the most useful and basic aspects of Facebook is sharing photos. I launched NanaGram (https://nanagram.co) a little over a year ago to try and bring my 94-year-old grandparents into the fold. It's a service that makes it super easy to mail printed photos in the mail by text message. Something I didn't expect is my family and I started using it like a private social network. Knowing everything is private, we're much more willing to share intimate details and photos. All of us youngins get notifications of the photos we're posting. I also created a "Saturday morning digest" email which is a nice way to delay gratification. At the end of the month, our grandmother gets physical copies in the mail. I subscribe myself to a copy of the photos for QA which is pretty neat. Sometimes I also mail select prints to my siblings.


This conversation always devolves, or evolves into a discussion about RSS.

I actually think there's an opportunity for the "website builders" namely WordPress, to create "consumer" app(s) that pull in feeds from WordPress powered blogs (with RSS) This consumer / consumption app would compete with Facebook/Twitter directly.

WordPress powers a significant % of the web and combined with the market share of some of the other large providers like Wix & Squarespace I think they could mount a legitimate challenge to FB/TW


I love this idea. Although I think the fastest way to bootstrap that, ironically, would be to make it heavily dependent on Facebook:

1. login with Facebook (no signup needed)

2. share articles & post comments on Facebook

3. model the app after Facebook to hijack existing neural pathways


I hope you're kidding about 1 and 2 (although 3 kind of makes sense).

I'm not sure how they should handle authentication, or if it's even needed at all. Kids don't use email, and in order to differentiate from FB/TW, the less info you ask for on signup the better.


Wordpress has this. There’s a “Reader” tab in the official Wordpress app and a web page on Wordpress.com that does the same thing.

They don’t promote it. But it’s there.


I figured, thanks for the information. I've used the app to "play" with my own sites but never explored the Reader tab.

I think obviously, they'd need a standalone or new app that puts the focus on this feature. Split the site management app out or re-engineer to compliment the user consumption app.


The commercial WordPress product from the company behind the open source project has this. The open source project does not.


Yes, everybody should have their own "space". I, for example, would have "my space".


I'd call my "space" AOL because I'm never around.


I might be looking at this too simply, but I think FB's "current" success is related to the fact that it's simple to use and "everyone" is already there. It's just not worth the effort for a non-technical person to set up a personal website that involved selecting a platform, configuration, hosting, space restrictions, fees, access restrictions, etc. FB is like an "all-inclusive" resort for those wanting to easily connect/share with friends, family and acquaintances quickly. It's free (at least in direct financial costs) and there's very little friction and decision-making involved.

As a web developer, I see the value in owning your web space, but it's a very hard sell for others due to the extra work involved.


There is this project which has the goal of building a decentralized Facebook - https://www.scuttlebutt.nz

I think it will eventually happen, but I don't see how mass adoption will occur. Facebook grew a lot by getting our complete address book on signup and sending invitations to the whole list.


My time on Facebook has actually taught me that I want to know a lot LESS about people like casual friends, family, and business associates. I want to know as little as possible about their political opinions, their religious beliefs, their favorite sports teams, and other affinities that they have.

I stopped using FB as a user entirely once I realized that it was diminishing my opinions of other people much more than ignorance would. Knowing more about other people greatly impeded my ability to get along with them. "Open" is a big impediment to "connected" in a lot of cases. On, say, a sales call, I would way rather not know someone's opinion about immigration policy and not know about their favorite hockey team. I would rather stay totally ignorant of all the irrelevant personal garbage about that person and just focus on what is relevant to the actual connection I want to create there. There are just too many things that people feel free to say on FB that needlessly alienate others and I found that it's so much better to just be ignorant of that than it is to know and have my opinion of that person diminished.

I much prefer interest groups that are less focused on personalities for discussion and to read authors who know what they are writing about for commentary on important topics.


Related to this, I think as a whole, too much connectivity destroys societies. You talk about how you don’t want to know people’s personal beliefs, you just want to be able to get along with them to do business. This used to be the default for society, but this issue of knowing uncomfortable details about others (all sorts of things from political differences to crime and misconduct) shatters people’s trust in each other and society.

Social networks also act as a hyperfunnel for everyday people to become radicalized in their beliefs (usually political instead of to violence), but that’s a different issue.


Yeah, this is basically the reason I feel social media sites are a bad idea. People by definition present different 'faces' to different audiences, and society stays stable because (for the most part) these different sides of people's personality aren't public for everyone to see. Social media shattering all this has definitely led to an increasingly polarised society with increasingly radical beliefs.


Alright folks, it's time to bring back Geocities and Angelfire. Pull out your antique rotating skull and "under construction" gifs.



Epilepsy warning required here.


I just read an old JS book that shows you an advanced IE only feature where you can insert elements in the middle of a page using eval('document.all.something something'). So nostalgic now </marquee>


+1 for under construction gifs. I saved all of them! Sparkle rainbow cats too.


Rainbow cats are out, Unicorn cats (or more properly caticorns) are in. Keep up with the times ;)


TIL: caticorns!



I miss those. I saved all my <blink> tags.


Spitballing a bit here. Why do they have to be websites? That is to say, why do they have to be on the "web", HTML over HTTP, at all? This seems like the default way to do things to us now, but if you think about it, what most of us fundamentally want with a social media site like Facebook (not Twitter, that's different) is just to communicate and keep up with our friends and family. That's why people flock to any app that gets mindshare: Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram, that allows them to do these things.

What does an alternative look like? Something like a shared Discord for friends and family to use, divided into groups or "servers". (That was the key insight of Google+, that people don't have one online presence for their family, close friends, coworkers, acquaintances, etc. It failed for other reasons.) The extra feature you need is just a shared searchable history to find media, albums of photos, etc.

I think the points the article makes are valid, but better understood as a criticism of Twitter. It effectively asks, if what we want is to post stuff online for other people to read, why not use the open web for that rather than [centralized service]. Thing is, people are already working on alternatives to this and not everyone needs to use the same thing for it to be successful. ActivityPub, websites using RSS for synchronization, Neocities, etc etc. So my response is that there are two sorts of things we use social media for, and there's no reason to try to do them both with one site.

I think I'm going to look into open Discord alternatives, and try to get some family and friends interested. Worst case, it will be an interesting experiment I'll learn something from.


Everytime people say "you should quit Facebook", I have two primary use cases:

1. Our high school class. Yes we used to use a mailing list but it's so much better with Facebook, with people freely sharing what interesting shit happens. We are a very closely knit class, at the 25th graduation anniversary like 25 of the 34 was there.

2. I have a group of friends doing all sorts of awesome shit (some of the more memorable include taking a medieval sword duel intro class, another shooting foam arrows at each other, there was laser tag, trampolines, Halloween mazes and much more) and the event functionality is just damn perfect: you create an event, everyone can post on it (I am coming, I am not coming, I need transport) all of the posts can be commented out. And people can just write posts into the group suggesting more events.

For both you'd need more than thirty people install a new app (remember how few apps are actually used) and actively use them at the same time or you will be missing events. This won't happen.


That's the funny thing. Email is perfectly good enough, but there is a psychology of not wanting to send too many messages or disturb people. But posting lots of pictures on Facebook doesn't feel like that. Otherwise email is a great social network for people you already know.


We would need much much better email organizing tools before this can work.


If you can't solve the cost (free) and the on boarding (technical aptitude) then it isn't going to replace Facebook. Additionally, a great deal of Facebook use is shifting from photos and writing to video, which makes the cost problem even greater.


Most people bloviating online don't have anything interesting to say. This is as applicable to FB as it is to any contributor-posted crap on Forbes.com.

You'll have a hard time convincing these "content creators" to move off FB as they know they won't be able to attract the same audience anywhere nearly as easily.

Finally, a personal website doesn't solve the fundamental issue: people crave attention. That's why FB doesn't report likes in real time, it spaces them out so you can log back in re-check like some kind of lab rat. People crave drama too, which is why news sites use clickbait titles on their FB posts. What better way to boost "engagement" than post a headline you know will start a fight in the comments?

The flip side of that coin is that people seem to actually want a steady stream of low-quality content, and FB has more than enough behavioural psychologists and UX people on their team to ensure that keeps happening.


What I would rather see is something that works pretty much exactly like Facebook, but paid for, no advertisements, and total privacy. Aside from convincing people it's worth paying $25/year for the same functionality they currently get for "free" I think that's the closest to a viable option.

If Facebook hadn't lost so much trust already, they could try to jump ahead in that game by offering this service themselves. Pay us what we typically would earn off you from ads, and we'll turn off the ads and disable the tracking.


I think there was a platform several years ago - maybe App.Net - that tried this but had to eventually close. Perhaps the climate nowadays might be more suited to support a pay model? Small though it might be, I'm sure there would be a portion of the population that would pay for this. The trick is in the marketing and in triggering the network effect.


I'm surprised I'm not seeing a lot of comments simply recommending decentralized social networks as an obvious replacement for Facebook.

We've had these for a while. One of the most famous is probably Diaspora. Instead of having all your stuff on one centralized site so they can profit off it, everyone has their own Diaspora site/account, which can be hosted anywhere. You can have your own hosted site, or you can just have an account on an existing site, and you can easily move your account around if you don't like your provider or want to roll your own. That way, no one organization controls everything.

The problem, of course, is that this is too much work for most people, and most people are perfectly happy to give Mark Zuckerberg control of all their personal information because it's easier that way. So Diaspora has languished with almost no users, because the only way a social network survives is by having a "critical mass" of users. If all your friends aren't on there, you're not going to bother with it either. Facebook has that critical mass now, so it'll be virtually impossible to unseat them; the only way is if people simply stop being interested in social networks, or some other centralized service brings something to the table that everyone craves and FB misses the boat before it's too late (which is basically how FB unseated MySpace).


I'm surprised that no one has mentioned Dispora* yet: https://diasporafoundation.org/ I looked into it a while ago and it was a little cumbersome to set up, but I really like the idea.


"it was a little cumbersome to set up"

Hence it will never be popular. Sorry, that's just how it works. If you want non-technical people on the platform (i.e. the general public) it needs to just work right away.


Well, it's not easy to set up your own "pod", but it's easy to join someone else's pod. You could set one up for your family or company or at whatever level you want.


Did that ever take off? I haven't heard about it in ages...

There's quite a bit of talk about Mastodon lately, but not about Diaspora...


Hmmm. Doing a little research myself now and I think there's a whole bunch of different servers but they all seem to communicate? Dispora* is just one of them.


This is a good time to point out Micro.blog, an independent publishing platform designed to empower publishers and protect privacy. (Not my work, but I'm a fan)

Check it out: https://micro.blog/


My old mother uses Facebook because it's extremely easy for her to upload photos, find people, and comment on other people's feed.

She's barely capable of managing logins. Granted there are millions of people just like her who don't really care about privacy (also due to ignorance) and will use a service simply because it's convenient and is good enough.

This is like saying people should do maintenance on their own cars because mechanics at the shop will be able to see your personal identifying information that you have in the car.

Posting content online and having sensitive private chats on a third party website is like leaving personal identifying information inside a locked car and expecting that it'll never get broken in to, either by hackers or by the manufacturer leaking the car keys.

Also many people with personal websites are starting to use Medium because it provides greater reach.

I'm all for decentralization and self-sovereignty and would love to see a world where everyone hosts their personal website but this idea is far-fetched because the masses are going to prefer free, fast, and convenient services that require little management and thinking.


It is my hope that facebook is crushed and is never effectively replaced by anything. In fact, with a few changes to privacy law, it almost becomes impossible to run a facebook anyways, because it will eliminate many forms of revenue generation for any company collecting user information.

I feel as though I live in the age of marketing, where it is more important to market yourself well than it is to, I don't know, produce. So much valuable creative and productive energy towards chasing dollars/likes/whatever. It reminds me of concepts that we regard as dark patterns in tech: Money might have at some point been a measure of productive work, but now it is a goal in and of itself, and I think that the outcome has been suboptimal.

I understand that the cat is out of the bag, and, in particular, the ability to upload and share video with the world could be one of the most important advancements in human rights ever, but it seems that many people are too distracted to be concerned. The very technology that could aid people is used to disarm them from action.

A large part of my concern is that I'm half European and half Native American. I appear Middle Eastern. I live in the United States. The cultural state here is definitely not sublime for someone with my appearance. My best friend is LGBT, and it is uncomfortable for her as well. I know that racism is a bigger problem, but the way that these systems have been "taken advantage" of by various governments to divide the US culture horrifies me.

About the "taken advantage" statement: An American company took money from a foreign government that it used to spread propaganda in the US. What facebook did is by design, and if it is allowed to stand, then what does it even mean to be a US company at that point?


That's a good idea. We need a decentralized facebook, where everybody hosts and shares their data.

It would need a registry or identity provider for the initial contact, but then it should replicate facebook functionality in a decentralized way. If you want to see posts in a group (like facebook group) - you query online members part of the group for their data, and download/share the latest version.


Aspects of this already exist to varying degrees of polish. Conduct a search for pleroma, mastodon, gnu social, hubzilla, friendica, diaspora, etc. and you'll see a diverse ecosystem of platforms. By the way, this ecosystem is referred to as the fediverse (federated universe). Sure, the thousands (yes thousands!) of mastodon servers/instances receive most of the limelight, but mastodon is not the only platform. The old challenge used to be the network effect ("oh, but none of my friends are on network X...")...but with recent stats citing over 2.5 million users active on the above networks...it is just a matter of time when one of your friends will make their way onto the fediverse, pulling you and your other friends into it. So - perhaps a little prematurely - I welcome you to the Fediverse! :-)


there's activitypub.. it's a federated social networking protocol. the most prominent implementation is mastodon (joinmastodon.org). Counting almost 2 million users by now


Would you find an issue with user interaction though? If you provide a means of customization, then your site’s aesthetic depends upon a user’s incentive to change their page’s display. Once a certain fraction of ppl stop caring, then you’d see a visual degradation of the site that would cause a ripple effect.


A decentralized social network protocol is needed (ActivityPub is something like this), data stored in a neutral way, and the software. When exchanging data between users, you exchange only data, and you see it based on your software (protocol implementation).

The software would ideally be hosted on the cloud, so it's always online. You log in your software and see all your updates/interact with others.


That’s an interesting idea but creating decentralised social networks seems quite hard. IMHO it’s easier to just use regular web sites running e.g. Wordpress, Discourse or SMF[0].

[0] http://simplemachines.org/


The issue is that you can't interact between profiles, or if you interact it's centralized. Looks like there is existing a decentralized social networking protocol: ActivityPub, having the features of social media (as mentioned in related comments).


There exist various attempts at decentralized social networks. But when I googled to find an up-to-date list I find they're all unfamiliar to me. All the ones I heard of previously are apparently dead or zombies now.

Decentralized social networks can't or won't do the kinds of orchestration of social interaction that help lubricate getting a social network up to speed. Many of those mechanisms, like bots, are underhanded and exactly what people want to get away from in decentralized networks.

We likely have to live with the fact that social networks are artificial creations, and that they are hostile to many kinds of expression. They probably can and should be better at preventing propaganda manipulation by hostile national adversaries, and at protecting the vulnerable from bullying.

But they're never going to be a force for good. Just a less-damaging vice.


I get what others are saying on this thread regarding the feed/content aspect of FB, and agree a personal website isn't a substitute for those FB features.

BUT - if you just happened to have gotten married like I did, and are on the path toward kids in the semi-near future, a personal website isn't a bad idea.

I was just starting to reconsider my no-FB account ever policy because of the need to easily share family pictures/news, etc. Then I read this and thought - NO! - I will not get sucked into finally having a FB account; a personal website is a viable option.


Obviously, this was already tried.

The precursor to Facebook, at least among my peers, were personal blogs on Blogger, Wordpress, Typepad, etc and the precursor to that was personal web sites on GeoCities and Tripod. Many of my friends linked to each other's sites and it formed a pseudo-social network.

Facebook was better because you could control who saw your website by limiting your friend list. They had the social framework in place, you just had to sign up. Facebook is also a great place to share local news.

Something like it will probably, eventually replace the local newspaper and TV stations.


So, the driving force behind facebook is the newsfeed, which enables people to see everyone's updates without going one by one to each page. It's going to be hard to replicate this with personal sites, but maybe we don't want to anymore, now that we see the downsides of the addictive feed. Perhaps a person whose page you would not specifically visit once in a while, is a person who you aren't really friends with. But I'm not sure, because the feed really is fun at times. Politics degrades it as much as anything.


Things are more complex though. There are people I'm friends with on facebook that I wouldn't visit their web site. However facebook figures out when they have a kid, die, or otherwise some important event happens that I care about and makes sure I know about them. I care much more about random life events in my brother's life and so I see more of them (but I'd visit his web site) That is a valuable service that facebook has figured out.


I still remember changing from MySpace to Facebook and the reasons had nothing to do with exclusivity. What happened was that my friends and I were using MySpace and one of us tried Facebook and convinced us all to try it. We stayed because there were several aspects that now sound simple but made the user experience night and day.

First, MySpace was incredibly clunky. When you posted an update the entire page refreshed. Facebook had a much sleeker interface that used Ajax so posting updates was much more seamless.

Second, I think the mid 2000s were a unique time where consumers were very willing, almost wanting to try different sites and technologies. I remember these being the days Tumblr took off as well. Now people seem to like simplicity and speed, and are content focused. At that time it was all new so people like customizing pages and having custom songs play when the pages loaded.

Finally, Facebook had integration with third party apps that made using the site more fun and gave people a built in feature to share. I remember living social not as a deal site but a Facebook app where you ranked your five top things from a bunch of categories, such as top five movies, books, etc. Users loved it.

These factors are easy to forget now where they don’t seem that big a deal but at that time these were huge differentiating factors that made Facebook more popular and I think Facebook’s early product teams probably don’t get enough credit for some of these decisions.


Not to get off-topic but this was one of my knocks against WordPress' new Gutenberg. Sure, it's a cool idea and ideally in time great technology, etc. But "big and fancy" layouts are mainly a __not__ mobile first ideal. Gutenberg 10 years ago? Genius. Today? In a mostly small screen world? A sledgehammer when a hammer would do in most cases. (I'm generalizing. The minutia isn't important really.)

When WP started, (self) publishing was the key. We've since evolved to where content is important but network / connections matter more. I know #duh :) With all it's market share and community WordPress was in a unique position to leverage that girth and add the magic of "network" to the content.

Imagine something like (e.g.) Disqus but as the default - as Gutenberg is - on every WP website. The general idea might not be new (i.e., Disqus has social-esque features) but the mass network would be. Perhaps adding in a RSS consumption feature for the sources I follow (and might want to share)?

That is where we are now, with a lot of small screens. God bless Gutenberg but sometimes it feels like the promise of a new & improved fax machine - too little too late.


I like this idea. Actually, earlier today I set up a private Wordpress site that I will use to share photos of my kids to my family and relatives. One reason I wanted to this is that my dad doesn’t use Facebook. I could have chosen iCloud, but I prefer to use something that I control myself and is not tied to certain hardware. The site is hosted on a VPS on Digitalocean which is very convenient and the price is reasonable.


I've been looking for a solution to this for a while. How can I let my friends and family stay connected with photos videos & related metadata, but retain security and ownership?

I thought NextCloud might be a good solution, but I'm still searching.


Same here. I am continuously searching for such solution.

Previously, I used self-hosted WordPress blog for sharing photos, password protection was great but got tired of administering stuff. Also I wanted to backup my photos on VPS, so I was uploading full-resolution photos which of course, was not very price efficient for backup.

Then I switched to SmugMug with unlimited space. This was great because I can upload photos directly from Lightroom Classic 6.0. Photos stay synced. And easy automatic backup but photos are slightly compressed when you upload via LR plugin.

Now I have "upgraded" to Lightroom CC, it comes with 1TB of storage. Your photos/videos are available on laptop, phone, and web. It comes with Adobe Portfolio which you can use to share. You can share privately too but I haven't tested that.

However, it is not a true backup service, if you accidentally delete a photo on phone, it is gone everywhere. And there is no recycle bin. So I keep local copies and run a cron job to copy them to NAS.

So this is not a self-hosted decentralized solution but it seems to be best option so far.


The critical piece is running a stand-alone environment that has low friction for the users - my family.

I want my Significant other to be able to post as easily as Facebook. My parents to browse easily on their devices, and uploading pictures from my phone to be Facebook Simple.

Mastodon is pretty close to having all of this if you turn off Federation, other than not being able to run a fully private node. You can still access public pages for users.

On my list to check out are: HumHub & Hubzilla.


One of my coworkers wrote a blog post on how he used WordPress to do this:

https://chrishardie.com/2017/03/wordpress-private-website/


Why go back to the aughts when you can have a federated, distributed, blockchain based social platform?

Think I missed some buzzwords but you get the idea.

The main thing you need IMHO is discoverability -- finding the people you used to hang out with in college 20+ years ago is something fb is pretty good at. Probably even better these days, dunno, haven't logged in since '13 my friend told me a few years ago.


Now that google has killed off their G+ social network, maybe they can focus on adding value by being the "discovery engine" for the fediverse. I mean, their original product was their search engine, so connecting disparate data silos is something that they're good at. It worked for website discovery all these years, why not for federated/distributed points of online presence? Mind you, it need not only be google, but can also be bing, or duckduckGo, etc.


A good idea. idk if that will ever happen. Still I like my weird website - there aren't enough crooked angles, messiness, imperfections or just internet spam in general on Facebook. Parts of the internet are obsessed with authenticity and identity, and also reliability and uptime. Those things are important for airplanes, trains, things like that. Not something like this: a phonebook used to keep in touch with people and have random conversations about nothing. I like to imagine a place like facebook that gets permanently blurry if it gets rained on, like a phonebook would. And also there's no passwords, like a real phone book.

Our everyday internet should be taken less seriously - used for what you want, to simplify a few things, not make them more complicated or hidden.

Lev Manovich has some interesting thoughts on the database-centric nature of how the internet's come to be. https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/language-new-media


The author makes a decent point about what drove membership to Facebook in the first place - the "cool" aspect via exclusivity and cool kids leading the charge to make the switch. But he completely misses why having a personal webpage is completely different from Facebook or Myspace or even Tumblr and Reddit - the aspect of community. It's not just about sharing, it's about the "strong connections" vs "weak connections" of finding content within a community; this is simply not something that would exist if everyone had their own page. Almost by definition it wouldn't be a community - in a weird way it's as if the internet alone is too big to allow all these individuals to have a balance of strong and weak connections. What's needed are these pages that establish community rules, and not just "in group" and "out group" dynamics. Myspace had the bulletin board and a Top 8 which gave it some sort of culture; Facebook has the standardized news feed and Apple-esque one-size-fits-all profile structure. A rag-tag libertarian group of individual websites, no matter how many there are (and there are already plenty), are not going to establish the same sense of community because they won't foster a community culture.

Yes, I agree we should move away from Facebook, but the answer has to be a better culture. So far from my prowling of alternatives, my only conclusion is that there cannot be a one-size-fits-all solution because that's exactly what Facebook is trying to do by catering to lowest-common-denominator of culture in the most powerful (psychologically) way: allowing content that gets the most clicks. It's tautological. What we need isn't to break up Facebook or wait for a disruptive alternative, what we need is a better sense of the internet as groups of communities, of which you should be a member of several.


I already did. I post to my own site and use rss/Microformats reader to consume content.

Funny thing is I love it but everyone who uses Facebook (especially geeks) likes to tell me this is all wrong because 2 billion people aren’t using my website and I’m not a publicly traded company.

I think Facebook has messed with their heads. They just keep prattling about “network effect” and “owning the market”.


Perhaps also consider that thousands of people working at Facebook are not on the mission to the evil things. Mistakes have happened, and this could be the wake up call for FB to turn around and employ that massive brain power for truly life changing things.


The problem with Fakebook is that it perpetuates unnatural outsized social networks because Zuckerburg worked out at its formation that this is 1 very addictive and 2 highly profitable.

Clone Facebook. Limit it to Family + 50 friends max which actually seems to many. The numbers arbitrary. I think 150 social relationships is the max a human can handle.

The digital social network would resemble the real social network and some form of human decency and dignity would re-emerge.

Constrict the size of individuals digital social networks to what they evolved to be able to handle and watch online behaviour and content improve.


Humans can handle 150 friends and around 1000 acquintances maximum.


I'm all for bashing Facebook for being evil, but this article is abjectly idiotic. "Personal websites" would replace essentially NONE of the things people use Facebook for. Let's be honest.


I want facebook lite: Facebook for Families. Small, tight, private social network. Public social networks to be handled by Twitter (if you so desire), or your own blog, internet page, rss feed, etc.



I'm reminded of DiSo from a different internet age: https://diso-project.org/

It was an attempt to extend the blogging model with open standards so that others could consume it the way they consume the news feed today.

Unless you were around for it back then, you probably never heard of DiSo, which tells you all you need to know about how good of an idea it is in practice. Or maybe it was ahead of its time. I don't know.

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