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What can you use instead of Google and Facebook? (bbc.com)
235 points by hhs 24 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 320 comments



Search: DDG is the obvious answer. But also reducing usage of general search is a major life improvement. Wikipedia and Stack Overflow have reasonable built-in searches, as do most sites I view as reasonable sources of information. Most discoverability comes from feeds (blogs, HN, Reddit)--searching limits you to terms you've already thought of. General search seems to lead either to the places already mentioned in good cases, and to low-quality results that waste time and mislead you in bad cases. You can save time and improve thought process by going more directly to sources.

Email: Fastmail. But again, just using email less is helpful. My most common form of communication is using text messages to set up meeting in person.

Facebook: Does this even need a replacement? I haven't made any intentional effort to replace Facebook since I stopped using it, and don't feel any sense of loss. The same goes for Twitter/Instagram. The only thing these services ever did for me was make me feel angry, lonely, or inadequate.

Random side note: Stack Overflow has a serious content quality and up-to-date-ness issue. An alternative is using documentation, reading code, and mastering debuggers/REPLs. This gives you a much better understanding of your tools, and gives you much better solutions as a result.


>Facebook: Does this even need a replacement?

Do you go to parties? Serious question. It's hard to discover events without Facebook these days. It's the only place some promoters advertise.


I'm in a demographic that's very heavily invested in Facebook. FOMO was real when quitting, and I'm sure I've missed some event, someplace, sometime. But the neat thing is, people actually use other means of contacting me if they really want to hang out. I mean, it's not even hard: a text, a mail, whatever.

What I've noticed is that I actually meet people IRL more often now, because the events I get information about are the ones that really matter to me, and they don't get lost in a constant buzz of less important but attention-grabbing stuff.

I also realize I can miss talking to someone. It's a feeling I haven't had in a long time, because people used to show up in my feed every day and it was like they were there anyway. Now I can get a sudden urge to just shoot a few texts back and forth with someone about something that's actually meaningful and not just the usual facebook wall banter.

I'm quite introverted, so being selective is something that suits me well, but facebook also made me even more socially lazy and avoidant than I really am.


>But the neat thing is, people actually use other means of contacting me if they really want to hang out. I mean, it's not even hard: a text, a mail, whatever.

Maybe I just have friends who don't care too much, but I wouldn't expect any of my friends to notify me if they're going to a run of the mill event without me, but they would suggest it/notify on Facebook about it. It's a lot less personal, I feel, to notify someone on Facebook than to message someone personally and invite them. Chances are, they'd see I'm no longer on Facebook and think I've gone into some kind of social seclusion.

It also doesn't help solve the problem of me finding something I want to go to (that my friends might be interested in) but they didn't see themselves. There was recently a Studio Ghibli film showing in my city, and after I found it on FB, I suggested it to two friends and we went. I wouldn't have found that event without FB, and even if I did, it would feel awkward (for an equally introverted person like me) to specifically message the two people and ask - now they have some kind of obligation, and they can't claim they just haven't checked Facebook in a while if I sent them a text/Telegram/whatever.


I'm having a hard time writing a reply to this that doesn't come off as unsolicited life advice from a stranger, so I'll just say that my positive experience with quitting Facebook is of course highly personal. We all have different life situations and, unfortunately, we have to make trade-offs accordingly.


I would guess that the place where the Studio Ghibli film was showing, and/or the organization showing it, have mailing lists.


I'm only interested in friend's parties. Most friends know I'm not on Facebook now, and invite me separately (using WhatsApp, but that's another kettle of fish...).

However it has forced me to be more engaged with my friends, since without Facebook they have to make a concious effort to invite me, rather than spot my name on a list. I've spent more time personally messaging and catching up with friends as a result.

Facebook makes keeping up with people frictionless, but relationships thrive on doing it the hard way, and giving up time for each other. Facebook makes it easy to have a thousand acquaintances regardless of how many deeper friendships you have.


I mean all my friends contact me when they're having a party or an event... Don't most people just do group messages?

I've never really been interested in going to a random party or event I wasn't directly invited to. I mostly got spam when I was using Facebook.


What do they use for group messages? WhatsApp? Messenger?


My friends use Telegram.


I just found one for events that actually looks good: https://joinmobilizon.org/en


Yes. Most promoters also have mailing lists.


Word of mouth. Spotify. Eventbrite. Meetup.


Spotify for parties?


> Facebook: Does this even need a replacement?

Not all of us use it for reading the 'timeline' and seeing what our friends' cats are doing this week. Organizations also use it for updates, scheduling, sharing ideas, etc. Email could work, but mailing lists lack many little features that make Facebook practical here.

I guess the modern alternative would be something like Discourse, but it's hard to tell a non-profit to replace "free, and add people with a couple clicks" with "$100/month, and make everybody create new separate accounts".


This. I feel like a lot of people don’t realize that a very significant portion of FB users dont scroll the timeline and strictly use it for messaging, event scheduling, checking out businesses, and other things that mostly deal with organizing stuff.

I know it is a silly anecdote, but i end up checking out my facebook feed out of boredom about once every few months, get disappointed in it, and then forget about it for another few months. It also helps that FB has dedicated first party apps for a lot of fb functionality that doesnt require the main fb app. I havent had the FB app on any of my phones since about 8 years ago, simply because i didnt feel the need, not because I felt some strong conviction against FB. Messenger app + Local app (for FB messaging and events respectively) has been a golden combo that worked great for me. Local, surprisingly, has amazingly clean UIUX that combines both event discovery and organization of your current events in a very seamless way.

Just a note, i am not affiliated with FB as a company in any way, and neither have i worked there. I just think that a lot of people tend to focus on the trashy common denominator part of FB (timeline) and ignore the good stuff. And FB makes it really easy to avoid the trashy stuff by having clean dedicated apps for functionality that i actually care about.


General search is still valuable for finding random programming examples that don't appear on Stack Overflow - there are a lot of blogs that usually have some helpful example.

For FB if there was something that allowed event planning, but didn't require people to create accounts for it (basically event planning with RSVPs, but handled through email or text).

It'd be nice if this extended to optional accounts that had up to date contact information - this is the main thing I'd worry about missing (though I think Apple could just implement this by optionally pushing changes to the people in your phone with your contact information when it changes).

For Twitter - there's a lot of value if you curate people you're interested in and engage with their tweets. People you would otherwise have no access to and interesting discussions/links/discovery happen there.

Twitter can be great, but requires some effort. I think this would be helped by 'index lists' of users that are interesting to follow for new people (though this would cause a similar bubble issue that financial indexes have) but at the moment looking at someone you find interesting for who they follow is a decent way to find people.


> there are a lot of blogs that usually have some helpful example.

Each with their own search, usually!

I can see the downsides to this, but in trade you're getting a bubble that protects you from a lot of nonsense.

> For FB if there was something that allowed event planning, but didn't require people to create accounts for it (basically event planning with RSVPs, but handled through email or text).

That sounds like a fairly small project, and I can see the value. Maybe I'll code it up in the near future.

> For Twitter - there's a lot of value if you curate people you're interested in and engage with their tweets. People you would otherwise have no access to and interesting discussions/links/discovery happen there.

> Twitter can be great, but requires some effort. I think this would be helped by 'index lists' of users that are interesting to follow for new people (though this would cause a similar bubble issue that financial indexes have) but at the moment looking at someone you find interesting for who they follow is a decent way to find people.

I'll concede this, but in my brief Twitter experience it was very easy for the noise to drown out the signal, and I didn't feel it was worth it to work around that problem. It doesn't solve a data problem I have: my data problem isn't that I don't have enough data sources, it's that I have too many, and too low quality.


I'd push that the real value of Twitter is less the additional data sources and more the available discussion that's possible with smart people doing interesting things that you would not have as much access to.

Only mentioning this because I personally didn't understand the value of Twitter for a long time and didn't understand why people used it, but now I think I do.


Is this really unique to Twitter, though?

I've had very little difficulty contacting, i.e. academics whose papers I've read, or programmers who have written blog posts.

You do miss some randos interjecting into the conversation, but these interjections detract from the conversation more often than they contribute. When I'm conversing with Joe Armstrong I'm not interested in the interjections of some rando who did an Erlang tutorial once and feels that qualifies him to have opinions.


The advantage of twitter is you get to interact with someone conversationally on things they tweet that they find interesting.

You also can learn unknown unknowns from things that are shared/discussed.

Direct email contact is great, but has a higher threshold to engage in. I think it’s different than twitter, it compliments it - but I think it’s also a lot less frequent because of that higher threshold.


The project I'm currently working on - Thread (https://get.thread-app.com) has first class support for events and RSVPs.

Let me know what you think!


Nice - I’ll check it out, I agree with the goals.

Can you invite people to events that don't have an account via SMS and have it handled that way or do they need an account and the app?

I think being able to support people not on the app is the big thing I want (then the network may grow or not overtime, but at least it's immediately useful even without other people on it).

One other suggestion would be a default retention period or “fuse” people can set that something like 6 months, but can be set anywhere from 1 day to 1 year.

The other networks make it so hard to scrub old posts, I think there’s value in old stuff getting automatically dropped.


Yes, you do need an account and the app.

Signup for the app is as simple as possible, just a phone number (to reset your account), name, and password is required.

The reason an account is required is Thread does a lot more than just event planning - it includes messaging, photo sharing, location sharing, and more.


Yeah, but if I have to force the people I want to invite to sign up then it’s dead on arrival.

I want to invite people whether or not they also have the app.


>Search: DDG is the obvious answer. But also reducing usage of general search is a major life improvement. Wikipedia and Stack Overflow have reasonable built-in searches

One upside of DDG is the bangs. If I know what I want is on wikipedia, just prepend !w.

I think folks need to learn how people searched pre-pagerank.

People treat google queries like a venn diagram with their top result being at the intersection, rather than using logical operators like AND, quotes, and -.

(Ex: "yoda -baby")


Why search wikipedia through DDG? Use address bar search shortcuts. In firefox any website search bar can be assigned a shortcut by right-clicking it. These shortcuts for wikipedia, HN, maps, powerthesaurus, reddit and others makes for ~80% of my searches.


Not all browsers have address-bar shortcuts.

Bangs are a common term across DDG users, and can be shared references, personal shortcuts not so much. It's a bit like language as a common understanding rather than individual headspaces. In a sense, bangs are social.

How useful that is or isn't I don't know entirely, but bang-based search seems to be a distinctive class of activity, and gives rise to its own forms of communication and discovery. I've learned (and shared) new sites/services through bangs.


Facebook without probably putting in a ton of effort cornered the ad hoc grouping market. I can talk to my family/friends whenever yes, but almost all my cycling groups lean on fb for example - it is the lowest common denominator.

This too in a world where many teams have their own websites, boards and the participants almost uniformly posting their rides to strava. Strava has been trying its clubs / posts stuff with very minimal success sadly :/


Facebook is the gold standard for events, still.


The only remaining value I see in FB is the contacts. Someone should just make ContactBook...


The article talks mostly about e-mail and search, but you know what's still the best social network on the interwebs? E-mail.

When I dumped social media two years ago, I gave my "friends" my e-mail address.

Now, instead of getting an endless stream of reposted political image captions and photos of people's lunches I get messages about the things that are actually worth seeing: news about family, friends, life events, funny stories — all without the dross and anger-inducing cruft of a social media "feed."

E-mail has all of the benefits of social media: photos, group chat, near-instant delivery; with none of the drawbacks: tracking, advertising, stalking, third-party influences.

More importantly, what happened is that I found out who my actual friends are. I think the whole social media "friends" button has cheapened the word. We don't make a distinction between friends, acquaintances, associates, and people we just know. Your real friends will e-mail you.


> The article talks mostly about e-mail and search, but you know what's still the best social network on the interwebs? E-mail.

I'm pretty sure if you replaced "social network" by "ticket tracker", you would had made quite a bit of people laugh here, still here we are, unable to accept that some tools are just much more efficient in a task.

For me Facebook is something where I can reach everyone that I need to reach at once. The sad thing is the best social network is the one that people use. Sure everyone got an email, as this is a requirement to even have a social network account, but it's the usage that people does of it that make it impossible to use it as such.

I remember at nearly every team project at my university, we tried to make Slack happens, or Discord, or whatever else to communicate, instead of Facebook, but the response was never as instant and each time we came back to Facebook, simply because that's what most people in the group were online on at the same time.

Personally my actual usage of Facebook is mostly to quickly organize events, it's only useful to reach "everyone" at the same time. I remember one of the best example of event we organized, it was mid afternoon, I was in class with a friend and we decided to organize a friend gathering that night. We had nothing, not even somewhere to do it. We simply created a Facebook event, we invited about 20 friends to the event, 5 hours later we had a place, we had food, plenty of board games and more than a dozens people present.

Sure we can send 20 emails or SMS, hope that everyone read them in the afternoon, have everyone send a bunch of answers in random order, again hope that everyone read the one that are important mixed with all the random "I'm in". That's 20x more effort for each and everyone involved. At that event, my friend and I were the organizer, and we only had to send an handful of messages, the event was the source of truth easy to follow by everyone. Minimum effort, quick and easy.

Sure we can text you on the side, but the truth is, that add friction for each and everyone that aren't on Facebook. If something get updated and I forget to tell you, well I'm now responsible for you missing the update.

The older I get, the less this kind of thing happen, so yeah Facebook is less important, but that still why I used it, and it's still what makes it the best social network. It allow you more easily, more quickly, and more efficiently to be social.

> Now, instead of getting an endless stream of reposted political image captions and photos of people's lunches I get messages about the things that are actually worth seeing: news about family, friends, life events, funny stories — all without the dross and anger-inducing cruft of a social media "feed."

I would like you to have a talk to everyone grandparents. The amount of emails chains I got from my family when I was younger...

I personally don't really follow people posts, in fact almost no one does them in my friend circle, it's mostly stuff shared from the news, which isn't important.

> none of the drawbacks: tracking, advertising, stalking, third-party influences.

Gmail and Hotmail don't track email and advertise?

> More importantly, what happened is that I found out who my actual friends are. I think the whole social media "friends" button has cheapened the word. We don't make a distinction between friends, acquaintances, associates, and people we just know. Your real friends will e-mail you.

That's kind of weird. Think a bit about it, why would a "real friend" e-mail you? Are you a "real friend" by not sending a message to your friend over Facebook because that's what he use? That would means you are not really a real friend to anyone... I'm sure that's not the case. You didn't found out who your actual friends were, you simply lost actual friends by making it harder to contact you and you slowly made them become acquaintances.


I think there's room for a Webservice/app focused on events only that defaults to using sms for people that don't have accounts.

The idea being that people can optionally make accounts with just their contact information which they can then give people access to (this way contacts stay updated by everyone with access rather than local copies on everyone's device that goes out of date).

The app would handle basics like RSVP, sending out SMS reminders for people, tracking number of people coming etc. Right now handling this over SMS and tracking it is a pain so people default to FB, but I think there's an opportunity here to get a foothold.


> You didn't found out who your actual friends were, you simply lost actual friends by making it harder to contact you and you slowly made them become acquaintances.

I reduced my social media usage because they were a huge time sink with the endless feeds, but I agree with you. It takes two to tango, so saying doing so lets one finds out who your real friends are is just condescending imo. Friendships don't start out 'real'; like any relationships, they require constant reaching out to people and be a part of their lives, and this has to work both ways.


I'm very big fan of Elgg https://elgg.org

I believe that this social networking framework has a great future.

Look at these projects which created using this engine: Minds https://www.minds.com Pleio https://pleio.nl GCconnex and GCcollab https://github.com/gctools-outilsgc/gcconnex

There is even a Platform that will make building apps based on Elgg easier https://wzm.me/

Right now this project needs more cotributors to help it develop even more https://github.com/Elgg/Elgg


Can you give a summary of what it is for and why people use it?

I read the landing page, clicked about, looked at the first page of the API docs and it's still not really obvious to me what it is for or how it's actually used.

What problem is it solving? Standard web backend for common social media platform stuff?


> What problem is it solving? Standard web backend for common social media platform stuff?

Basically, yes it's, you can make own online community, or niche social network for your users/products. But this is very useful to make unique social app based on an open source framework.

If you want to launch startup then social interaction between people is very important and Elgg allows you to do it quickly. In addition, it's very secure code with wide features for growth and integration with other applications.


I did the same thing in 2016 and had the same experiences.


Run your own!

https://runyourown.social/

Federated social media could be the solution.


Solution to what problem?


> tracking, advertising, stalking, third-party influences


I wasn't aware those were problems with email.


Because you just discovered computers, apparently.


Personal attacks aren't ok on HN. Can you please review https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and stick to the rules when posting here?


What email provider do you use? Do you host your own?


FastMail with my own domain.

I tried hosting on my own server, but it's just too much of a time investment for one person.


When 90% of the people you email are on Gmail or GSuite does Proton mail really help? Yeah you get end to end encryption for other Proton mail users, but I don't know a single one. Google is going to have all of my emails anyway.

As for Facebook it is best just to quit. I don't even use Facebook to keep in touch with friends anymore. The value in Facebook is some of the groups. Local neighborhood groups seem to be the best source of information or things happening around your area if you care to know about it. Also different hobbies/interests have local FB groups that are the most active place for discussion with far more users than a small subreddit or dying forum community.

Perhaps I am old but I don't know a single person that uses Whatsapp or Signal. Everyone just uses old fashioned SMS or iMessage if they have iPhones.


> When 90% of the people you email are on Gmail or GSuite does Proton mail really help?

This is such a common, but strange attitude to have in these circumstances. Think about how user migration works. It's not like it happens overnight and suddenly your 100% gmail contact list is 100% proton. No, it goes from 100% to 99%, then continues to 92%, then to 75%, and so on. Having this defeatist attitude guarantees that bad actors retain their users.

As an example -- I switched to use Signal for messaging a few years ago. I was the only one in my circle that made the jump. Slowly but surely, people have started to switch over. Today about 10% of my contacts use Signal, and our chats are encrypted e2e. Every few months a few more people make the jump. If all of these people had the same attitude as you, nothing would ever change.


I don't think it's necessarily a strange attitude, just more about what people might use email for versus what they might use instant messaging for - which target audience. My Signal experience mirrors yours, as I think folks really don't care too awful much which app is used, so long as everyone can use it together to chat/communicate as possible work peers, friends or family.

Email, however, is the line item on every single one of my bills (utility, credit, etc.), my mortgage, my doctors, my bank accounts - a cornerstone of what it takes to live in our modern society. Migrating to a new email address is daunting (to me) due to all these arms and legs having had this email address in use for ... 2 decades? (however long GMail has been around). It can be done, but it's a lot more work to go through for the average individual than just installing a new app.


I did this recently and it is daunting.

For anyone reading this I recommend using your own domain for your email (e.g. yourname@yourdomain.co). That way you own it and can change providers whenever you wish.


WhatsApp is massive in Europe, I'm currently in Spain and nobody uses anything else.


I'm in Mexico City and spent the last 6 mos in Columbia and What's App is EXCLUSIVE in the latter and completely dominant in Mexico. Nobody uses SMS.


Maybe in some parts of Europe, but not all. I'm in Norway and none of my WhatsApp contacts are Norwegian, everyone use Facebook messenger. I don't want to use WhatsApp more than I have to because of the way it tries to get access to my phone contacts and my phone number every time I want to add someone new


In South America too. In Peru, many mobile phone plans come with free data for WhatsApp, fb and Instagram which makes it way harder for people to even think of changing messaging platforms.


Argentina Brazil and France also are very Whats app dependent


France is actually a bit mixed between SMS, Whatsapp, and Facebook Messenger. My impression is that it's been shifting slowly to Whatsapp but it might be my environment.


I'm on Proton and will email you :).

Seriously though, a real benefit you get from an e2ee email when no one you communicate with uses it is that all of your receipts, memberships, newsletter, etc. correspondences are not being read/scanned by your email provider.

For Signal I asked my wife to switch and she did (just for her and I) and we've been using it for over a year. My Dad recently hopped on as well. These things go slow, but when someone close switches it feels nice knowing that all my conversations are private.


>When 90% of the people you email are on Gmail or GSuite does Proton mail really help?

Depends on your threat model.

Having all your email in one place is a juicy target.

But the Swiss want a warrant for a specific crime, and then it's my understanding your government needs your password to decrypt the emails at rest.

Not being able to go on fishing expeditions is a good feature especially if you have years of email.

>Perhaps I am old but I don't know a single person that uses Whatsapp or Signal. Everyone just uses old fashioned SMS or iMessage if they have iPhones.

When I explain people can use Signal on wifi and not get any spam calls, many older folks are open to using it. You don't always need to sell Signal on privacy - older folks on a limited income may not have infinite data, being able to use wifi for calls and texts cuts data use and they like that.


You're living in a US bubble.


Agree. I've heard WhatsApp usage worldwide is huge, but I'm in the US, and I don't know a single person who uses it.


I find that in the US, anyone who communicates with people in other countries uses Whatsapp. It was the first easy way to communicate across borders and not have to worry about international charges. It’s also better than SMS/MMS.


> It was the first easy way to communicate across borders and not have to worry about international charges

It was absolutely not. Skype was before, and many others. If you're talking about general communication applications/medium over internet.


I meant easy way for non computer literate people. You handed someone a phone, installed Whatsapp, it sent the auto verification text and now you could communicate without having to know your own username/password or without have to know someone else’s username. It was seamless, and that’s why it caught on so quick, and requiring the phone number verification made it so there was no spam.

The on boarding was so quick and painless, I feel like that’s what made it spread so quickly.


Same. I used whatsapp for like 2 months to talk to a single person, my podcast partner that was in Australia and we quit the podcast and I never used it again.

I have 2 contacts that use signal, one is a VC that I've texted one occasion when we were trying to talk on the phone but Fi was being Fi and he could barely hear me.

I have 2 contacts that have Marco Polo installed for video messages, 1 hasn't been online in over a month and the other is my fiance that's currently living 9 hours away so we use it most days just to see each other.

My brother and mother message me exclusively on messenger, as do a half dozen of my friends even though we have each other's numbers.

Everyone else is regular sms/mms.


Funny enough, the only friends I chat with on WhatsApp are US expats living in Europe for the last couple of years.


I admit that but switching to Signal does me no good if no-one I know uses it. I am not saying no-one should switch.


At least Signal is seamless once you set it up. I use it for all of my SMS/MMS messages even though my immediate family and a couple of other contacts are the only Signal users I text.


I'd like to get my friends and family on Signal or Riot but I can't get anyone to use them.

Everyone uses SMS (or talks about using Whatsapp but might or might not actually). I was using Google Hangouts long before Whatsapp or Signal started being taken up and now they assume that's what I'd prefer, like that's how I should be communicated with, even when I'd prefer something else.

It's strange.


A better question is how you use or create an alternative to X without becoming X in the long run.

Facebook is kings because of its market share which is why people use it.

There are ways of communicating with a close group of friends that don’t involve social media but for people who want to keep in touch with a large social circle there is really no alternative.

And far as the gmail replacement goes then it’s by far the easiest thing to find an alternative for and also probably the least important one.

I have a feeling that people who rely heavily on emails to stay in touch also probably don’t use social media so Facebook isn’t an issue for them.

However the problem is that due social pressure it’s a most impossible to drop from a platform without having it affecting your relationships.

Sure people switch as groups and slowly migrate from one platform to another but overall trying to drop X for Y tends result in you using both or quickly switching back.


I'm actually building an alternative to Facebook for people fed up with Facebook and just want to stay in touch with people and not much more. I would go as far as calling it a glorified address book with some extra features for having up-to-date contact details for everyone that has granted you the privilege of having them and a very cut down version of the feed.

Which brings me to the question of monetisation. I don't want ads or data collection of any kind so my first thought is to have a basic free account and a cheap premium account that lets you upload and share photo albums and that sort of thing. Thoughts on this strategy or possible privacy respecting alternatives?


My personal view on this (take or leave it) is that unless you are being backed by some very rich investors, you don't have a hope of gaining any sort of traction here.

I do like the 'address book' concept, though, and have toyed with similar ideas previously - a place for everyone to have a single page 'profile' with links out to their real social accounts etc. But in this age of privacy and tracking awareness, I don't think the average internet user will want to put all their contact info in one place.

The real problem with Facebook is that for most people it's frictionless... it's really easy for people who use it to chat and share with other users. For them, there's no real compelling reason to switch platforms. Asking them to at this point is like trying to sell a mobile phone on a new network that can't dial other networks.


I’d prefer people working on making existing alternatives better in terms of features than have yet another “Facebook killer” that doesn’t survive. Check out the Fediverse, help the alternatives for Instagram and Twitter thrive. If you want to create something independently, I’d suggest a perfect replica and replacement for Facebook Groups. We need what’s not yet supported by the current crop of FOSS alternatives and keeps people tied to Facebook.


100% on the fediverse!


I don't know how sustainable it would be, but I've always been fond of DuckDuckGo's ad model: https://help.duckduckgo.com/company/advertising-and-affiliat...

Additionally, an adless "pro" feature could be purchased for some small fee that would be comparable to what ads rake in for the average user.

This is something I've thought about for a while but I've never had the resources to throw it together. I wish you the best of luck!


How do you plan on solving the chicken egg problem? New users won't join unless their friends are already on it.

I think any new social media will fail unless it offers something really different and new (I don't think most people care about using a new social media just for privacy reasons). What makes yours different other than just privacy? The glorified address book does seem interesting but I would need to know more to understand how it will work.


FWIW, I'll almost certainly never use another social network that's not open source, or at the very least built on simple open protocols. Best of luck.


I respect the stance, and it's not an avenue that I've ruled out, but it's not a priority for me for the moment. Especially with the primary concerns that I'm addressing at first is the destructive incentive structure constructed by ad and data supported social networks.


If all the images are paid-for you have the advantage of basically not having to worry about bandwidth. (Assuming you're not bloating the site with MBs of JS libraries.)

Unfortunately -- Facebook has trained people to expect this feature for free. Not sure there's a simple solution here. But maybe you could release the site unmonetized then work on a paid white-label version for private networks / corporate intranets / etc.?


So you want me to switch from one platform I have no control over to another? The whole reason Facebook is evil is they can be since they have full control of the software and your data.

What would your goal be? To grow like Facebook, go public, and maximize profit? I have no reason that your product/company wouldn't just turn into another Facebook.


> What would your goal be?

Essentially to provide a service similar to Facebook's core offering with a focus on maximising how useful the service is to you instead of how valuable your data is to me. This is why I'd prefer for users to pay a small flat fee and I can just focus on making features people want.

> I have no reason that your product/compny wouldn't just turn into another Facebook.

This is true for now. I have been exploring ideas of setting up the site as a non-profit of some kind or a foundation etc. At the moment this area needs exploring in more detail.

> The whole reason Facebook is evil is they can be since they have full control of the software and your data

Sort of yes. Lot's of companies have (comparable) positions of power while being subjectively less or not evil at all. But the question of becoming evil over time still stands. I'm not of the opinion that software that users run themselves will have any of the adoption required to dislodge something like Facebook and so is mostly a distraction I think. I do think these kind of federated networks will do well mind you, just not for what people use Facebook for. I'm happy to be proven wrong on this front though.


Hey, we're exploring the problem of monetization too! That's one of the things we're discussing right now in VC3 (https://vc3.club)- if you're interested, we'd love to have you join the conversation!


Signed up!


the only way I figure it's gonna work is to charge $20 / month for an 'instance' maybe two of them... this way a group of friends can have a private one and a family can have another private one.. at 20 per month for the group they can all chip in, or one person can pay for the whole group.

should be easy with upgrade option if storage gets huge, with the option to auto-download / export old data and keep it lean.

I've been thinking of doing this for years, but have not found the right people to box up a wp+bp combo with a couple extra plugins and settings that can deploy automatically like softalicious.. or one of those one-click DO deploy type things

one day.. the pieces are all there already, just gotta put em together.


Monetization is a perverse incentive. I'm willing to run my own services, maybe pay someone to host for me, but I don't want a company with an incentive to maximize eyeball time.


Having every single user run and manage their own software or pay another service to run it for them doesn't seem practical or efficient to me but I would be interested in ideas to the contrary.


Is an(other) alternative to Facebook the solution? Can we evolve beyond this? It seems to me like we all have what you’re building in our pocket already.


I think so. Facebook provides a lot of value to a lot of people but their monetisation model and general practices don't sit well with a lot of people so an "ethical" for lack of a better word alternative I think could be very desirable.


What about making the financials radically transparent, and billing users for their actual cost + some reasonable markup.


DuckDuckGo is really changing my world. It’s like I’m seeing a whole other internet I was missing before with Google search results. I get much more relevant answers and less SEO targeted garbage that says all the right words usually while saying nothing at all. I was skeptical, but I encourage you to give it a try if you haven’t before.


I'm at about 90% Duck these days, and 10% Google. But I'm not sure it's because Duck got better, or because Google got worse.

Google's results just seem less and less useful for the kinds of searches I do.

A recent example: There was a news event near where I live earlier this week. It made national headlines briefly. Yesterday I wanted to know if there was anything new about it. So I hit the duck with my search query and it showed newspaper web sites that had updated the story about three hours before, and some TV web sites that had stories from the previous night.

I wanted to make sure I wasn't missing anything, so I did the same search in Google. Big G's results were all at least three days old, and most were re-posts of re-posts of re-posts published on random web sites on the other side of the planet.

So, I continue to use the duck. And I've learned a lesson that I really shouldn't second-guess myself and think that maybe Google, with its trillion dollars to spend, isn't any better after all.


I use Duck for most searches now but I find if I'm trying to ask a question or search weird error codes or something Google is still better for that. I still use duck to input but use the g! command.


I think google has stayed the same for the most part. But because they want to crack down on misinformation, and things of that nature they have said recently that when it comes to political topics/news they want to stick to "trusted" sources. That's why if you search for a political topic on google/youtube, you're probably not going to get many non mainstream sources


Google got too polluted with adverts it became intolerable. More or less across the board.


Someone should start a company called "Google 2010".


I just recently realized that myself. I'd add "!g" to my searches about 1/3 of the time. That's been going way down lately. I'm probably more at 10%~15% on Google, but the majority has switched to DDG.

That being said, I still wish there were more alternatives. I have a lot of RSS feeds and there are big lists of tech blog RSS feeds. At some point I just want to index all of those so I can search for recent tends in the blogs of independent tech people rather than the big articles.


I'm consistently surprised that this comment comes up here so often. I've tried DDG at length, many times, and I always go back to Google because I find it SO much better for programming-related questions. Maybe the denizens of HN are accustomed to using SO's built-in search? But that's still only a piece of the larger puzzle. I get a lot of mileage from blog posts as well.


You're not missing anything. Google is far better than DDG and I'm shocked people claim otherwise because it's so fairly self evident.

That said I try to use DDG when I can but I don't lie to myself that I'm using it because it has better results -- it doesn't. It has better approach to privacy and thats why I use it. The fact that they know less about the searcher intrinsitcally means the results of searches will be worse.


I sometimes feel that we are in this echo chamber.

These threads always follow the same patterns, someone asks if they know of an alternative search engine and a HNer quickly mentions they have gone to DDG and haven't looked back.

DDG is decent but not even close to the search quality of Google. I know the folks here want to see Google dethroned but DDG won't do it.


I find a big reason to use DDG is because it has "!bangs" that allow you to redirect your search to other site's native search engines by appending/prepending them to your query. I can use "!pac" to search for Arch Linux packages, "!aw" to search the Arch Wiki, "!gh" to search Github, etc. So the quality of DDG's search may be lacking but I generally know the site I want to search and can use their native searches. Any way, if you want to get away from Google but can't get by with DDG, consider Qwant.


Firefox has it built in, no redirect necessary, and you don't even need the bang: https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/how-search-from-address...


You are not alone. It highly depends on what you search for even if it's programming related.

Google provides great results for common old-ish and repeated questions but you will notice less diversity - which can be pretty frustrating when you aren't looking for a definite answer.

You will find that it will give you old results from w3schools, codeacademy, SO, etc. Some of which shouldn't go into production...


Just set your default to DDG and, when you can't find something, search again with "!g". DDG also lets you jump to specific sites ("!w for the pedia, !yt for the Youboobs, !imdb, !rt, etc).


Google is better. Bug DDG is good enough for 98% of what I need. Searching is mostly finding the right website, or an explanation of a specific problem. Sometimes I have a search query that doesn't give any usable results with DDG, and then Google comes to rescue. That happens about once a month.


So I need a 1m long C7-C8 extension cord. Not a 30cm, not a 50cm, not a 1.8m, I need 1m long. Let's search:

https://duckduckgo.com/?q=c7+c8+extension+cord+%221m%22&t=h_...

let's force the titles:

https://duckduckgo.com/?q=intitle%3Ac7+intitle%3Ac8+extensio...

That's completely broken, the titles contain none of the three things asked for.

yeah, I am not hopeful with duckduckgo either. I mean, Google is just as bad but I am pretty dismayed by the results these days.


DDG's quality actually decreased in the past year as now they seem to ignore explicitly required stuff in a query quite often. It used to be you just used quotes and got what you wanted, but these days that might get ignored. "-" for excluding similar popular words also seems to have stopped working.


I thought it was just me remembering incorrectly if DDG supported quotes and includes. Could have sworn this worked before. Thanks for confirming you're also having this problem.


First result for me on DDG is that very thing on Amazon.co.uk


if you put a space between 1 and m your results get better.


> I was skeptical, but I encourage you to give it a try if you haven’t before.

I have - I found the results far less useful than Google's, the whole experience far more frustrating and it noticeably slowed down my work.


I find it's a mixed bag -- sometimes DDG is better, sometimes Google is. It kind of reminds me of the old days pre-Google-dominance when you'd try Alta Vista and then Lycos or Excite if you didn't get what you were looking for.

Cynically, I wonder if Google has gotten to the point where they realize that serving the absolute most relevant results means they sell less ads. Of course, I don't think anyone is ordered not to make search quality better, just that incentives/resources get reallocated to things other than ten-blue-link quality.


I agree entirely with how you described the search experience. I would often try three or four ways to get a website I wanted back in the day. I am finding myself learning what search engines I like more for specific types of searches. Some times that means google, some times DDG, and who knows throw Bing int here.


I agree that the DDG results, especially for software development related searches, are often worse than searching Google or StackOverflow directly. So here's my workflow:

1. Search DDG. If I find a decent result, I stop here.

2. Append !so to the end of the search. This searches StackOverflow directly. If this works, I stop here.

3. Append !g to the end of the search. This searches Google directly.

This way Google becomes a last resort.

Also worth noting that you can actually navigate DDG search results using vim keybindings without the need for a plugin: something Google dropped support for a few years ago.


My concern about Google isn't big enough to justify going through this.


I tried DDG, I actually try it out intermittently. I ditched it again, this time because when I searched for an address it doesn't seem to scope the results to where I am located and gives me a similar address somewhere else.

Small little things like that are a pain to work around and something I take for granted in Google search. It's taken a long time for Google to get so good at what it does. I notice that if I am watching a YouTube video and then go to Google to search for something related, the autocomplete basically knows what I am likely to search for. Say what you will about that but it is pretty amazing technology.


To each their own. The things you have listed as advantages of Google are basically the same reasons I do my best to stay away.


I totally get that. It's a paradox that to have super useful search results you step very close to the edge of what's acceptable for the search provider to know about you. The amount of shit Google knows about me is quite honestly frightening. Google has over 10 years of my emails. That alone is more than most people know about me. Then there is years of search history, and location history (yes, I have both enabled). And finally a Google home in almost every room in the house. Oh, and a Pixel phone. And Google drive, photos... You get the idea.

I think at this point it's too late to save my privacy. I am apathetic and resigned to hoping the future isn't as dystopian as it is often feared to be.


DDG is awesome. They have been experiencing a surge of growth, https://duckduckgo.com/traffic

Yandex is another site I've been using for reverse image searches. I find it to be better than Google and Bing. Bellingcat has a great article on it, https://www.bellingcat.com/resources/how-tos/2019/12/26/guid...


Using DDG with Bangs ( add '!G' to a search string to query google, '!W' for Wikipedia, etc.) has really eased my transition.


When somebody brings up DDG's bangs, someone else will often chime in "yeah, but you can make your own in browsers so who cares?" That was often my response.

But the fact that there are community-maintained bangs is really nice. Bangs for all kinds of websites I probably wouldn't have made, but there they are. And since I'm often jumping on new computers, I don't need to bring/import my preferences. Just change the browser's search to DDG, then all my known bangs (and unknown!) are there.


I don't think that's the best criticism of bangs. The best criticism is that your query already gives you what you want if you just type it into Google without the bang.


DDG fails on "Single Unix Specification Issue 7".

Google takes you straight to the online installation at https://pubs.opengroup.org/onlinepubs/9699919799/

DDG finds this: https://publications.opengroup.org/c181 where the "Read HTML Edition Online" button is a non-working dud.

Still switching to DDG for most searches, though.


DDG is bad as soon as you're not in the US of A and/or speak any language that is not english.


It's not very good for english speakers in the US, either. The bang syntax is fantastic, but the search results are crap.

Didn't someone demonstrate pretty conclusively that underneath all of the specialization it was just bing?


It's Bing and a few other sources.

They also claim to have their own web crawler but I've never seen it crawl any of my pages before.


What about Russian? I'm not sure if they still do, but at one point they licensed a large chunk of their index from Yandex.


As I don't speak russian, I can't answer you.


No idea but I’d be curious to know the answer.


Same for me. It’s “good enough” and the results page is cleaner. I used to get poor results for dev topics and image search but both have improved over time. I only use google for shopping searches, because it gives me better results for my country (belgium).


I tend to switch over to Qwant when DDG fails to deliver sometimes. That combo works quite well.


I find myself increasingly wishing they'd have some sort of subscription or something. Even if it did nothing to start, I'd like to be a customer, instead of an eyeball. Otherwise as nice as it is now, it's still inevitably headed down the same trajectory as Google, just not as far along yet.


If you do need google Startpage.com is anonymized google.


My wife still uses Google as her default search engine on her phone while I switched to DDG years ago. I dread using her phone to search anything.


And the first page of results isn’t mostly ads.


... yet,


DuckDuckGo can't even answer simple queries like "how old is Donald Trump", "president of France", "how tall is the Eiffel Tower", "distance from earth to Moon", and "distance from earth to sun"; it forces you to search its results for the answer. For all of queries, Google and Bing give you the answer front and center without making you click links or read the result snippets. Bing even has an interactive solar system viewer when you search for that last query.

These days search engines are supposed to be able to surface and present information from sources without user intervention. DuckDuckGo cannot do this (yet).


Neither did Google back in the early 2000s. But people still used it and loved it. I would say DDG2019=Google2007 or better in terms of search quality.

Instead of thinking that I must use the best search engine, regardless of the ethics of its business model; think that I will use the good enough search engine from among those with ethical business models.

Edit: I would additionally like to add that Google's search quality peaked early to mid 2010s, so DDG is not far from peak known search engine quality.


People got along just fine before the Internet existed too. This mode of argument is not particularly constructive.


Just tried. PoFrance: answered in first 3 blurbs (link not needed). Eiffel: 1st three. Moon distance: Fifth.

DDG will answer some directly, like "10 feet to meters". Could be better.


Google is relatively straight forward to replace. Inexpensive 80% solutions exist for most of their services. Maps is a notable exception.

As for Facebook you're fighting against the greatest network effects in the history of mankind.


Apple Maps has replaced Google Maps for me. I’ve been trying to move away from Google and this has been an easy one. I don’t notice the difference most of the time. When I do, it’s because I’ve pulled up Google Maps by accident and it’s cluttered and spammy.


And recently Duck Duck Go has integrated with Apple maps which is really neat.


I had zero issues quitting Facebook but replacing Gmail and Android? That's going to be really tough considering Gmail is my online identify hub and Android facilitates so many utility services (banking, electronic identification, money transfers, etc).


Gmail can forward to another account as you transition. Put it behind your own domain name so you can switch providers if needed.


Android is perfectly usable with microg! And then look into magisk for functionality requiring root access for things like ad-blocking and a firewall to prevent (or spoof!) all the traffic generated by all those shitty apps trying to ship your personal data off to Google, FB, Twitter, etc in the background.


Forwarding works. I mean, you can totally migrate out without much expenses, and that's the beauty of email. But GMail does offer good spam filter and okay-UI. It's hardly a bad software by itself.

Android is just simply unreplaceable, but it's FOSS at least.


Nitpick: Android is not FOSS. The parts from the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) are. Everything else, including the Play Services later and all the default Google services/apps (like a Play Store, Maps and others) installed on Android devices are all proprietary and closed source.

Also, Android being “simply unreplaceable” depends on the person, their needs and what they can adapt to.


Register a domain if you don't already have one and get Fastmail for 5 USD/mo (includes a calendar as well). If Gmail.com is your online identity hub, then you're not in control of your online identity.


Right but what about Android? What's the point of setting up email at my own domain - which I already have - when Google can track everything through Android?


Hey you're not wrong there. It's atrocious what Google has done to Linux on Android. We badly need an alternative smartphone that's actually built to be a tool rather than an ad optimization platform. Apple is better on that front, but they also want to ram their vision of what a computer is down your throat.


Between firefix, duck duck go, and gmail used only to register the phone: google doesn't have much on me anymore. They still have too much thanks to all the trackers (firefox is getting better at blocking) but much less.

Now if I could get people to put useful videos someplace other than youtube.


Or spend lesser money for email/calendar with cheaper services that have strong statements about privacy, such as mailbox.org, mailfence.com, runbox.com, migadu.com (these are also services outside the Five Eyes countries, if that matters).

Fastmail may be cheap enough for one mailbox for one person. But when you need multiple mailboxes (not aliases), the services mentioned above come out significantly cheaper.


Do the last two offer a calendar? I couldn't see it. Fastmail is a good first step away from Google for most people, similar fetaure set, good interface and support which caters for all abilities. I don't think you can say the same about any of those others (unless you read German).


If you want to contact an acquaintance because you'll be in their city, what do you use to communicate with them? Keep in mind people often change their phone numbers or at least lose their contact lists.


> Keep in mind people often change their phone numbers or at least lose their contact lists

Often? Is this common? Me and the circle of people I know (friends, family, acquaintances, extended family) have had the same number for a number of years and seem to not have lost my phone number recently, as far as I know.


I meant I often have friends announcing on Facebook that they lost their contacts and need everyone's number. But it's rare for this to happen to any particular person. But you still have to check. If I'm texting someone for the first time in a year or more, I'll ask if it's still the same person, and hope they're telling the truth. Email is more reliable, but still not as good as Facebook.


Openstreetmaps is pretty good. The transition has gotten much better than it used to be.


Last time I tried any of the OSM apps for search for random thing + navigate there flow, the results were a joke compared to the Google experience. Has it improved by an order of magnitude over the past couple years? I think this might be one of the cases where Google just has way more data for their algorithms.


Depends. It is better for getting to my house - I personally went in and fixed the bad data. I checked the my changes are public domain box so eventually google might pick that up - maybe.

Doesn't help my trying to get to arbitrary places, but when arbitrary people are trying to get to me it helps a lot.


Bing maps is a great 80%+ solution and last I checked a lot cheaper than Google Maps for API integration.


There's no Android app? The killer feature of gmaps is the search/discover/navigate flow.


Unfortunately, it's a lot more difficult to fully switch away from Google than this article gets into. If you use a smartphone, your only real options for OS are Apple and Google. Sure, one can install a custom ROM on an Android phone, but that is well beyond the scope of most people's interest or ability, not to mention that it would lead to warranty issues. If you're using a stock Android phone, Google will know where you all at all times with extreme precision.


After ditching Facebook for the past month I’ve realized it doesn’t really need a replacement for it’s primary features. For talking to friends I just use messenger and email more, plus I have a blog and I do occasionally cross post blog posts to Facebook.

Google is fairly easy to replace. Aside from occasional second-opinion searches the only google service I use is Gmail and that only from remote clients... I should replace it but I’m just a bit lazy.


I'm in the same boat. Left Facebook years ago and realized I was naturally going to keep up with people in my social circles anyway. Email, text, and group messages make it a little bit harder, but the interaction is so meaningful instead of an all you can eat buffet of "social interaction".


He mentions Brave browser, but Vivaldi browser combined with uBlock Origin (and uMatrix if you're savvy enough) works best for me as I want nothing to do with ads. Telegram is another fantastic messenger.

Concerning social media, you don't really need it: https://www.quitfacebook.org.


Worth noting that Brave is a open source browser while Vivaldi is not.


I wish well-done XMPP/Jabber clients that do voice come up. If you are an XMPP protocol developer / implementer reading this, thank you for what is there so far. Please don't stop.

If you have been watching the news this week about Jeff Bezos.. I don't like that someone can share a message/picture/video on WhatsApp and crack into a phone. There are too many closed source vendor components in an Android phone even if you're using an open source phone OS like Lineage OS, and these may go stale over time or have something vulnerable in them on purpose.

WhatsApp always seems to need a phone. It works in a web browser in an inconvenient manner that still needs the phone to login. It is a centrally controlled system. While Signal is open source, it is also centrally controlled. I prefer and hope Jabber implementations get much better. Spam for Jabber can be managed the way it is managed for email. Some spam would get through, but it does on WhatsApp too.

Email hasn't gone away or lost its place because it's federated (distributed). It works on multiple platforms, and if you don't like a particular way of doing email, there are a lot of choices. Jabber is similar for instant messaging, but it can do with a renaissance. (I use Jabber at work and home, but the clients I use such as Conversations don't have the features and experience that WhatsApp/Telegram do.)

The oldest and most used services are federated - HTTP, email.. and at the start of a communication - DNS.

WhatsApp, Facebook, etc. are very entrenched services. It's not enough that you move from WhatsApp - your family, friends, businesses that you work with, all have to use the new service you are switching to, so you can chat with them on that other service.

It's easier to switch your search engine. :) DuckDuckGo has worked very well for web search for me. I use it about 95% of the time and Google Search the other 5%.


We need a replacement for the universal public forum. In my community, Facebook has essentially become the public square. It's where most of the local public political dialog happens. It's where I get my local news, it's where I find out what my local representatives are doing, and it's where I can converse with them - and the rest of the community - about what local government should be doing.

This is all so valuable that I just can't walk away from it. I would be completely cut out of local events. The news media does an extremely poor job of reporting - and we have an unusually vibrant local news sector (I think in no small part because we have such an active political and governance community on Facebook).

So much of it is network effect, I just don't even know how we'd go about creating it in a new service, even if a new service were created that served the purpose better.


Your local news sector has no community/forum functionality?


Here’s a question: How do we adopt a replacement and avoid creating an identical situation in 10 years?

I wonder how many people donate to/pay for/enable ads on DuckDuckGo, for example.


Incentives have to be aligned. Open protocols at a minimum.


This. Why ppl can move to another email provider? Because email protocol is public! (even some tricky protocols are added such as DKIM)

So, I hope any new social platform or communication platform has a public interface.to communicate with its replica. Mastodon can be an example but it is not widely spread yet .


How will an open protocol help prevent this search issue in the future?


For IM there are too many alternatives to count.

For search there are a few, DDG is the best known imo, however, none of them is as good as Google's search engine, especially when it comes to Hebrew (my mother tongue).

As for Facebook itself, the problem is that it's offering now a combination of social media, photo storage, discussion groups and an IM platform - to name a few. It's not easy to make an alternative to something so complex.


If you use the Internet, you'll never fully cut Google out of your life. They have their tendrils in damn near every aspect of the Internet whether you know it or not. https://gizmodo.com/i-cut-google-out-of-my-life-it-screwed-u...


I’m excited by the https://planetary.social/ announcement this week.

“We’re building an open and humane alternative to Facebook”

https://mobile.twitter.com/rabble/status/1220075601337315328


> Revenue for creators

> Keep some posts back for paid subscribers.

This is not what I want in a Facebook alternative.


> If you want to get started with Planetary, the first thing you need to do is download the app from the Apple App Store. [0]

Seriously? And they call this "planetary"?

[0] https://planetarysupport.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/36003...


It's pretty hard to 100% replace Facebook, but a more feasible strategy is a gradual/piecewise approach. Opt for non-Facebook alternatives for certain tasks when you can. Like if you're going to share a photo album with family, you could always email them a link to Flickr/Dropbox/etc instead. Anything that reduces Facebook usage is good.


Title mentions alternatives to Facebook, but then doesn't list one?

For anyone looking for something there is Diaspora.

For a twitter alternative check out Mastodon.


Also If you have hard time figuring out which mastodon instance to join, I am working on a mastodon aggregator, to help you browse through the content without registering.

https://mastodonia.club


How can you escape network effects? Not at all. Thats what they are. You cant force the public to leave this abusive relationship with a privately owned main street.

The only thing that could do that- is another layer around the whole eco-system, that subverts it and surplants it. I can not see anyone of the alternatives trying this. Those who pose a real danger (instagram, using the want for generational different medias) are bought.

The only way to escape, is to encourage institutional blindness in big companys. Convince microsoft that a desktop windows needs to be on there cellphones and tablets.

Convince google that no product except of search is actually viable- and these little turtles should all die fast before even reaching the ocean.

Tell facebook, that all that is longterm sellable is user-data, not user-usefullness.

The best way to archieve a new competitor, is internal self-sabotage of market dominant forces.


Switch to own hosted searx instance.

http://asciimoo.github.io/searx/admin/installation.html

One search is sent to multiple search engines and results shown as one. Just go to settings and select qwant and ddg.


If it's own hosted, what's the difference?

Whether i send queries to Google from my browser, or from my own hosted Searx instance, it's the same thing: a query from one of my static ip-addresses to Google (or other search engines.)

It seems to only make sense if this Searx instance is public and your queries are mixed with others. And in that case you have to trust whoever runs this Searx instance won't sell your data just like Google does.


You got point in your scenario it is just convinient (it still prevents fingerprinting) In mine it mixes 5 people search, is using proxy that goes over vpn to shared ip on other side of europe. And it agregates results, sorts them by results on multiple search engines not just one.


> it still prevents fingerprinting

I seriously doubt that, because the % of people using Searx is very small compared to for example Chrome. This should make you very unique in terms of fingerprinting.

Also note that simply changing the User Agent is possible in a browser as well, you don't need a self hosted Searx for that.


The search engine has no way of executing any script on you side, 5 people times 2 for two devices per person on my instance means you cant distinct them. Tens of users on other side of vpn, doesnt allow you to distinct on ip and none of useragents pass the proxy (actually squid randomizes them). And generation of random search queries prevents fingerprinting based on search terms. It doesnt allow fingerprinting.

(And no, in my house nobody uses chrome or any google account. They dont need to, they have all the infrastructure, but one of members is complaining from time to time why he doesnt have google play on his phone... :D)


Install it on a VPN?


Then why use Searx, i might as well use a VPN + Firefox.


I've never used Facebook (or Instagram or any other Facebook technology - as a web developer I've even eschewed React in favor of Vue), so I'd say you don't need anything instead of Facebook. Google on the other hand is a bit tougher for me. I use Firefox instead of Chrome. DuckDuckGo instead of Google Search. iPhone instead of Android. Apple Maps instead of Google Maps. I still use Google Docs, but only for working on files with coworkers - I don't have anything personal in Google Docs (I use a variety of other tools like Evernote and Excel for personal stuff). The one I'd like to move away from, but haven't found a good replacement, is Mail.


It's not fair to the public that FB bought up Insta/Whatsapp. That is a true lack of choice. If it were just FB, fine, ignore it, don't use it, use Whatsapp. But no, they get to buy up competition whilst telling us how much our privacy and integrity is taken seriously


For messaging, I highly encourage people to use matrix.org.

For tech savvy people it's really easy to self-host https://github.com/spantaleev/matrix-docker-ansible-deploy and the good part is that you can set up bridges to telegram, whatsapp, facebook, irc, discord, slack... So you can use those apps privately while waiting for people to switch to better alternatives (which may never happens sadly).

Bonus: the desktop app is a rather lightweight web app usable in browser, so goodbye RAM eating monsters like slack and discord.


I tried, I really did. Got my close group of ~8 friends on the public Matrix server. People would miss messages because they only use Matrix for that one thing, and would forget to login/check/etc. That and a few choice little bugs pushed them back to FB messenger. That said, I'm hopeful for the future of the protocol.


Yes, things are still moving fast. AFAIK the final 1.0 version of the protocol spec was only released last Summer.

The "I missed message because I only use xxx for that one thing" is valid for every app as long as you have fragmentation in the messaging space I think. That's why I like the idea of using the same client for a multitude of services through bridges, and not forcing people to necessarily use your network (even if they should :p)


How do you deliver end-to-end encryption in a federated architecture like that?


You can peek at : https://matrix.org/docs/develop/ tldr; similar to signal afaik

The docs there for E2E are fairly old but get you an idea how it works. E2E has improved a lot in the last few months IMHO.


Interesting point, I am going to assume there is an option or bridge or plugin or something that can send an email notification that you or your group / chat room has new messages(?) - and this may be an important, perhaps default selected, option for new users trying out a matrix flavor(?)

I remember when fbk would send messages to everyone, some of my clients had a hundred emails a day from fbk in their inbox, and they were checking in several times a day, now it's become a habit regardless I think for most.


Getting emails likely would have pissed them off.


So we need an easy toggle, and option to do this via email reply.. and option to change notifications from each message into twice per day or once an hour or other options.. I think that would satisfy most people.

I hated emails from fbk and turned them all off long ago, but some people seem to like that kind of thing, so we might need options, and options for those who want a reminder but not a bunch of reminders everyday.


I'm impressed you were able to accomplish some specific thing you wanted to do using the FB settings.


funny thing about that, some time ago I tried to figure out how to stop all messages from fbook to my email, after menu hopping for some time, I allowed my gf to go into the settings and turn it all off and turn on many privacy settings. I know fbook has changed the privacy things several times since then, but I don't use it enough to have any issues I think.. I also don't use messenger app or fbook mobile, so I've gotten lucky (and helped) to get zero messages from them for years.


I tried. Friends didn't stay. In fact even I am myself not very keen on the existing implementation. I love the idea and the protocol but UX (on all the platforms) and the onboarding are really cumbersome. I don't ask anyone to go to Signal because it's centralized like WhatsApp, Fb.


I tried Matrix/Riot, but I ran into some big UI issues trying to get a E2E channel going between me and a friend (I had to "create" the channel multiple times, or add keys multiple times, I can't remember). And we share screens a lot, which Riot didn't seem to support.

It was a while ago, but I also seem to remember delayed messages.

The audio quality was nice though.


I was relly looking for something like that. I'll give a try!


Is encryption built in yet?


Facebook and Insta I can (and do!) live without. Whatsapp though, is the main method of communication, and particularly group communication for all of my friends. It's almost impossible to leave.


One approach that helped me convert some of my non-tech friends to Signal Messenger is by calmly focusing on the long term aspect -- "Think about it, you'd be using these tools for the next 40+ years. A small inconvenience for a few months will give more power to you in the long term." And then I stop. I let them take time to decide; don't insist.


On iOS it’s not a small inconvenience to use Signal. For several years now, Signal has prohibited backing up chats. So if you switch phones or get a new phone or lose your phone, all your previous chats are permanently lost. Even re-joining the chat groups you were a part of requires more work, and after that there are issues in not seeing the group name, the members and related things. Signal is just ok as an ephemeral messenger, but it’s not a solution or a replacement of any kind for the other messaging platforms that work as one would expect them to and provide key features that lay people appreciate. Going by the pace of development, my view is that it’ll be a good enough alternative in a decade.

There are also other basic issues with Signal (message deliverability, buggy and spurious “device number changed” notifications, etc.).

Note that I do use Signal and advocate it, but I do that with only certain people so that I don’t burn my personal “relationship capital” unnecessarily with a poor solution.


I don't use any of them, but I've been trying to keep in touch with an old friend of mine who's serving with the Canadian Armed Forces in Ukraine and we often miss each other's emails.

He's had to adopt a local SIM card over there for security purposes (Russia's listening) and uses WhatsApp regularly. He asked me to pick it up, and instead I referred him to Signal.

This was [part of] his recent response:

I downloaded signal but they want to confirm my number but my sim card doesnt work over here and my european card is data only.

So that is one blocker for sure but otherwise I always push people to Signal as a reasonable alternative.


Apparently if SMS verification fails, it can fall back to a phone call where a robot reads you the verification code. This means you could set up Signal with a landline, Google Voice, Skype, or Twilio.

https://theintercept.com/2017/09/28/signal-tutorial-second-p...


Just make sure you don’t lose access to that number. Or you’ll find yourself locked out of Signal completely if someone else verifies an account using that number.


I've converted most of my friends to Signal. Easy switch.

[edit] The native desktop app is even better than WhatsApp's (doesn't stream data from your phone).


I'd say you were a lucky one. Persuading my contacts to move and explaining my rationale has been a long, arduous and still not quite complete process. People seem to struggle with envisaging how a lack of privacy will harm them personally.


I've also got most to switch to Signal. On Android, it's much easier as it can handle both SMS and Signal messages, so there's much less friction for usage.

Group chats are also fairly decent on Signal, I just wish there was a way for an "admin" to exist to moderate users in the group.


> I've also got most to switch to Signal. On Android, it's much easier as it can handle both SMS and Signal messages, so there's much less friction for usage.

Except my friend's gf could never really see when messages were using data or SMS. And my friend put a stop to the experiment because the linux client was leaking RAM like a dam and we both had sync problems between the phone and the desktop client (we are both huge telegram users for the smooth experience when connecting to your account and for syncing. We both despise the privacy risks though).


I empathize. It's the same situation in reverse for many people. The social networks I'm on is where my friends and/or fam are at. It becomes very hard to leave once you've imprinted your social network onto a social network platform. A very common situation.


I wonder if its possible to mirror messaging apps in some way... like to use messenger/whatsapp/{insert better app here} as 'clients' and sync messages in a non annoying way (of course, im sure this would be actively undermined)


Try AirSend (https://www.airsend.io). We use it for group communication both for personal and professional use.

It is private. Create a channel and invite your friends. Thats it.

Disclaimer: I work for them.


I had a very quick look. How is this different from Slack and how does it avoid the incessant notifications/interruptions/noise problem in Slack and similar platforms?


AirSend is custom built to address communication use case cases across organization boundaries. For instance, you don’t need to switch across workspaces to communicate with different parties. Unlike Slack It also provides the file context and task context in the same conversation space.

With respect to interruptions/noise it doesn’t have any advantages over Slack.


>It's not fair to the public that FB bought up Insta/Whatsapp.

The public probably is not able or willing to pay for extremely valuable instant global communications service that handles audio, video, photo, text, and other data. Regardless of who owns it, I know that my network of people across 4 continents derives great value from the free service.


WhatsApp was monetized before it was bought, although I can't remember exactly how.


They used to charge $1 per year after the first year


I know they said that, but I don't know anyone who actually had to pay it.


I paid it! I hoped for that model to win :(


Me too, they even advertised they charge $1 so that they will never have to sell or compromise your privacy.

Of course, that promise is worth less than $20B as we found out.


Everyone knew that was going away the moment they sold the app that had 1 billion users for 19 billion dollars.

The founders were being disingenuous when they said the data wouldn't be used for ads.


I would love to move to Signal and send anyone reaching out to me on Whatsapp an auto-reply with a Signal invite.

Couldn't find how to achieve that. Anyone knowing if this is possible?


It'd be possible, I think. You'd need to run WhatsApp web, which is an Electron app. Get into the dev tools and set it up directly from the JS console.


That's a nice idea if it works, bit hacky but still. I never used WA Web, will have a look.


Facebook has an API for whatsapp, which I believe is a closed beta. In theory you could build an app to do this for you, twilio supports this and let's you use a development key even before you get into the beta.

[I expect that's too many hoops for your use case though ;]


Thx! I found the Business API which is really for partners ( and for SMB's there is the Business app).

https://www.whatsapp.com/business/api

The Twilio API is in beta, and you can sign up. Don't know what pricing will be, but maybe for individual use a dev subscription may be sufficient

https://www.twilio.com/whatsapp

Here is the API reference:

https://www.twilio.com/docs/sms/whatsapp/api


Also see: https://www.messagebird.com/en/

Though, getting your own business-API would be cheaper, I've heard WhatsApp is very picky about granting those and instead prefer you work with a third-party partner instead [0].

Then, there's click-to-chat for simpler communication if the client's WA number is known [1].

[0] https://faq.whatsapp.com/en/general/26000239/?category=52452...

[1] https://faq.whatsapp.com/en/general/26000030/?category=52452...


Could you not just set you status in WhatsApp to all people to contact you via Signal?

Not as good as an auto responder but at least people would see it when searching for you in the app


Some alternatives to FB and WhatsApp exist - I’ve been working on an alternative social network called Thread (https://get.thread-app.com). Check it out!

I’d also recommend services like Signal for secure, private messaging.


We brought it to ourselves by not being willing to pay for WhatsApp.

WhatsApp before getting bought by FB was begging for money and is my understanding that it was on the verge of bankruptcy.

Public had a choice of free(as in beer) products vs privacy. We chose the former.


Whatsapp used to cost $1/year which covered operating costs (first year free).


Not true, WhatsApp did have a pricing test where certain users were pushed to pay 1€/$ per year. It was never unilaterally enforced.


Is that what that was? I remember getting the app and wondering why no one I knew ever had to pay for it.


It’s interesting because capitalism is all about choice and competition. But what if a player is so successful that it can pay to absorb any competitor that poses a serious threat? I don’t know how capitalism self heals from that.



Indeed. And FB retaining Instagram/Whatsapp apps+branding effectively squashes future "unbundling" attempts.

The way I look at it, if not even Google can beat FB at personal social networking (Google+), then FB has a monopoly and this is not a free market. Sure, anyone is free to start a startup and try to do what FB does, but I mean...

I suspect the only reason the government hasn't gotten involved in this matter yet is because FB offers seemingly non-essential service. A different situation than Microsoft and browsers.


My grandparents’ generation and my parents’ generation aren’t about to invest any effort into learning a new app. They’re happy with Whatsapp, it was the first to do what it needed to do easily, and unless a new app offers a compelling new feature, they’re not going to find it worth their time to learn it.

Unfortunately, they might not understand privacy concerns, but even if they did, they don’t have the language fluency or technical capacity to verify the claims of security.


Capitalism isn't all about choice and competition.

Free Markets are.

Capitalism is about the means of production being held in private hands - but those private hands still do their best to own all of the means of production and to lock out potential competitors.

The two get conflated (free markets and capitalism) but they are different beasts. In fact, you can have a free market socialism (tried semi-successfully by Yugoslavia). But ensuring free markets via regulation is how to keep Capitalism from becoming a Gibson novel.


Do you have a good read of free markets? I often see them pop up in discussions defending capitalism, and always got the idea they are some kind of utopia in the way they were presented.


Free market socialism? How would information about value be propagated? That's usually done via prices and money.


Some options:

a) Also using competition, prices and money, but with factories, companies and lands organized by worker's cooperatives, with the profit shared according with some logic not based in mere property.

b) Using only prices and money while keeping updated data about production and consumption, and updating prices based in these data. Perhaps easier with modern technology than in the past. The information about these things can propagate in wires and communication means like the other kind of information that the society needs.


I think that a) already happens when a company shares its profits with the workforce. Mere competition will force the competitors of such a company to do that as well to attract talent.

Item b) sounds like capitalism and blockchain to me :)

About item c), heuristics and politics don't go well together, according to my intuition.

But these are just my opinions. This is a fascinating topic.


There were some nasty edits from the parent


Precisely. "Prices and money" is the "free market" part. The "socialism" part means "collective/social ownership of companies and means of production".


It doesn't, that's one of the classic examples of when a natural market is not a free market. Even in its original definition, Adam Smith antipicipated a role for government to intervene to prevent just such situations.


> It’s interesting because capitalism is all about choice and competition. But what if a player is so successful that it can pay to absorb any competitor that poses a serious threat? I don’t know how capitalism self heals from that.

Capitalism is not naturally stable and it needs regulation to work to the benefit of most people. Without that, the capitalists work to destroy capitalism in order to benefit themselves.


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