Today @Macius_Szczur and I were discussing about how an app that could kill Facebook would have to look like. This is obviously not a simple project at all, but I think it’s worth thinking about. Facebook won’t last forever, and thinking about what might come next could inform our next project related moves.
There are already alternative social networks that are competing against Facebook, but haven’t managed to replace it, yet. Perhaps they will sooner or later, but it’s also very likely that they still lack some crucial component. First of all, let’s take a look at some of the competitors:
- Google Plus: In some respects, Google Plus is superior to Facebook, but it failed to engage users as much as Facebook did. Facebook seems to do a lot of things right to bind people’s attention to it. Also, Facebook has the obvious advantage of being the largest player in the field of social networks, and that in itself creates a disproportionate advantage that is hard to overcome.
- LinkedIn: In some sense, LinkedIn is the business oriented serious version of Facebook. It could be called a social career network, if one likes. This however limits the scope of LinkedIn relative to Facebook.
- Diaspora: As one of the very first decentralized social networks it offered an alternative for people who are concerned about privacy. The feature set of Diaspora is actually relatively decent, but it still failed to get a huge amount of traction compared to Facebook.
- Tsu: Tsu is a rather new social networks that shares a large part of its profits with its user base. Users get rewarded for sharing content that engages people. Profits are also spread through a so-called family tree. Tsu has gained popularity quickly, but it still lacks a lot of the functionality that other social networks provide.
- Synereo: Synereo is the newest and technologically most sophisticated social network, but still in its earliest stages of development. It’s blockchain based and decentralized. In contrast to Tsu, users are rewarded for reading content, rather than producing it, which is actually more in line with the reasoning behind an attention economy:
If those social networks can’t kill Facebook, what can? It certainly needs to be some kind of social network, but it needs to be so much better than Facebook, because even if it’s somewhat better than Facebook, the inertia behind Facebook will enable Facebook to survive any moderately superior competition for many years. So, here are some of our ideas about what a Facebook killer might need:
- A trust system. A system that allows the formation of trust networks. People decide how much they trust friends of friends. This will facilitate making interesting contacts and making business.
- A reputation system. A public peer to peer reputation system like Quantified Prestige would be of tremendous benefit for any social network. Users can earn a high reputation though their actions on the network and are rewarded with attention and potentially even economic benefits.
- A financial transaction layer. Interacting with banks, peer to peer economics systems, cryptocurrencies, crowdfunding platforms or online shops would be of great advantage for a social network. People could use the social network for real economic activities. Ideally, the social network should support innovative ideas like flux currencies.
- An aggregation system. Content and conversation are pretty much fragmented around the web nowadays. A blog post can be shared on different social media platforms. People can comment on the blog itself, or on the different social media, so different discussion threads will be started. In the end, it gets hard to see all the online reactions to one single piece of content. An intelligent aggregation system, like the one I proposed in the following thread might fix that:
- Personalized artificial intelligence agents. Facebook uses artificial intelligence to decide what content to present to its users. The users have little control over that AI. A worthy Facebook competitor needs to use AI solutions that can be easily personalized by its users. There are lots of possibilities for the use of AI systems. Bots could facilitate financial transactions between users of the network, as explained in the thread
- Platform independence. Ideally, a social network wouldn’t depend on certain platforms, but would rather just care about the connections between people themselves. Perhaps the real successor of Facebook is not just another social media platform, but rather a social networking protocol. It could play the role for social networks that HTTP plays for the web in general. What would a SNTP (Social Network Transaction Protocol) have to look like? I’m not sure, it’s just a very recent idea that we might explore in detail here. In any case, it should care more about social identities than about platforms or even specific decentralized networks.
What do you think? What features does an app need to actually take over the place that Facebook currently inhabits? Is there something like a single killer feature, or is it rather a meaningful combination of features combined in a clever way?