Why alternative social media failed intil now
European Digital Right, EDRi, the umbrella organization in Europe that defends digital human rights, states the following in its evaluation of the Digital Services Act, DSA:
“But despite the human rights improvements the DSA can bring to people, real alternatives to the current dominant surveillance business model are still needed. While the ad tech industry often claims to be useful to people by providing more “relevant” ads, it is most of all characterised by an omnipresent system of pervasive 24/7 online corporate surveillance.”
The demand for alternatives is not new. The critical part of the public is asking it for some time, but it is niot a demand of the general masses. The youth has moved from Facebook → Instagram → Tik Tok, but those are all the same vessel, omnipresent surveillance. They are centrally controlled platforms, monopolies or quasi monopolies. There is no room for independent social media. And that’s not because it hasn’t been tried, but because it has failed every time.
(1) Because alternatives tried to take the same route as big tech, centralized control, but without advertising. The main factor in their failure is the network effect. This also applies to the telephone network, for example. It is an economic principle that ensures that a product or service has more value for someone, the more users there are of that same product or service. From a certain moment the producer or supplier becomes a monopolist. But it is not a fatality. For example, it did not play a role in the roll-out of GSM networks. Because these networks are interoperable in Europe, different operators can offer their services and no monopoly can arise.
The cell phone market in Europe is organized differently than in the US. In the US, cell phone networks were not interoperable. As a result, sometimes when traveling from one state to another, you had to change SIM card, because in each state a different monopoly has formed. In fact, it would be better to speak of a ‘lock-in effect’. And it is precisely what the EU demands with DMA, by analogy with its choice for cell phone networks, that the various online platforms can exchange messages with each other, i.e. be interoperable.
James Muldoon notes in this regard:
“Currently, the main obstacle to cross-platform compatibility has been tech giants consciously designing barriers for interoperability into their products.”
(2) The Mastodon social network is not centrally managed. It consists of a federation of independent servers, Fediverse. For an explanation see the Wikipedia. Mastodon, launched in 2016, has just over 12 million users today. Advertising is also taboo. The software is Open Source. It is a federation of independent servers. Your data are safe there, although I have my doubts about that node with 8 782 288 users. The average is 5553 users. But it’s not a software suite like Meta, it doesn’t have a messaging app like Whatsapp. Mastodon is an alternative to Twitter. Twitter recently bought the Signal messaging application. It also runs on centrally managed servers, although Signal claims it does not collect and share user data with third parties. Facebook also once made that promise. Compared with the original Twitter application it has a very complex interface. The real Twitter is a lot more user freindly.
Continue reading Concept for an Alternative Online Messaging Platform (1/3) : Social Economic Considerations