More than 30 days have passed since Mark Zuckerberg launched his first Open Graph salvo across the bow of the USS Facebook at the F8 Developers Conference. During that time over 30 million search topics relating to "facebook privacy concerns" are now registered on Google. In my recent post, "Try Gink, Diaspora or Sharepoint…" I researched ten social networking sites that were considered alternatives by the growing number of Facebook ex-pats now searching for a more 'private' sort of networking experience.
The majority of those alternatives were either existing established networks that were overshadowed by Facebook's previous popularity or nascent new networks attracting a lot of press and early funding. Today we will look at why this anti-Facebook movement continues to gain traction and two more grass-root upstarts that want to provide additional options yet still.
Where Facebook doesn't gain a whole helluva lot of sympathy from its user-base is their propensity to act rashly by dictating "new rules" without sufficient buy-in, and then when faced with a backlash - move at snail's pace to resolve the disruption it caused in its wake. While the blogosphere was cyberventilatting with one harsh criticism after another, it took Zuckerberg over 30 days to acknowledge that a problem even existed. On May 27, in a grand gesture, Zuckerberg calls for a DC briefing with Congress behind closed doors. Is this type the type of behavior, one expects from the CEO of the number one social network in the world.
Selecting the Washington Post as his newspaper of record, Zuckerberg penned a 529-word luke-warm apology to his 400 million+ users. Indicating that his team has fixed a privacy loophole that allowed advertisers to access user identification data, he also talked about needing more time to adjust users' complex privacy control settings that at last count were up to 170 options.
According Jenna Worhtam's New York Times report, while "it sounds like a kamikaze mission (for) an upstart with a meager number of users and no capital to square off against Facebook, a social networking juggernaut with more than 400 million members and a $15 billion valuation… a handful of start-ups are eyeing the social networking industry with renewed interest."
The two new contenders I interviewed this week both describe their social networks as open source, while maintaining users' privacy and the security of data. Both are still under development with limited numbers of subscribers to date, but in my estimation have a legitimate shot at grabbing the golden ring at a historic and opportune moment in time.
As James L. Washington, Co-founder and CEO of AllMyBiz put it, "while we did not count on any shake-up in the social networking space such as the current one with Facebook, this is a great opportunity to point out the benefits of AllMyBiz."
One of AMB tenets in addition to providing users with more control over their privacy is the ability to separate one's "personal" and "professional" lives, the same as we do in our everyday personal lives. Differing from Facebook, while status updates can be updated from blogs and other networks, users can not manage one's online activities from one centralized location. According to Washington, this presents an "inefficiency and opportunity lost by not being able to manage multiple sites from one network."
AMB, on the other hand makes networking more convenient and easier to share with users who can centralize "all of their biz," including posting blogs, pictures, organizing events, sharing ideas, finding jobs, posting classifieds," all in one convenient location.
AllMyBiz is self-funded to date and the founders have bootstrapped their way to get to this point. It was founded by a management team with over two & a half decades of combined experience in web technology development and site administration. " Unlike
Facebook’s founder and the aspiring students at Diaspora,
we are not college students," notes Washington.
Since they AMB will continue in beta-by-invitation-only though the summer, they only attracted a few hundred users. "It is hard to
gauge how many users we will have (in the future) because as the
spreads we receive more and more interest. Over time we will be better
able to assess the trend and growth rate, but we have a strong outlook
growing our user base once we officially launch," adds Washington.
Leo Shimizu and David Chen are the co-founders of'Pip.io, a social networking ecosystem that has been in development for a year and a half. Differing from Facebook as well as most other social networking platforms, Shimizu describes Pip.io as a 'social operating system.'
The dominant operative word associated with Facebook is 'sharing.' Similar to the "sharing environment" most of us experienced in a kindergarten's class of "show and tell," Shimizu describes Facebook "as an insatiable need for voyeurism and narcissism." By definition, "the very platform and product can't support the type of granular privacy people want… (and as a result), people thought and expected too much from Facebook," he adds.
As an operating system, Pip.op sees itself as the next social portal paradigm shift where their system will manage Facebook, Twitter and YouTube similar to how Windows or Mac OS X allows users to utilize the Word or Excel software programs. With Pip.io, every Web site, every Web app can be a third party app in their ecosystem. While the traditional definition of an operating system was a software layer that connected third party developers with hardware resources, Pip.io connects third party developers with social resources.
Pip.io is not advocating canceling your Facebook account as they do see tremendous value in a system that has scaled to over 400+ million users. On the contrary notes Shimizu, "we don't want you to stop using Facebook, we just want you to use it within the confines of Pip.io."
To distinguish further between the two systems, Shimizu says, "Facebook bases their 'social graph' on connections between people, while Pip.io bases their 'communication graph' on connections between conversations." Pip.io "treats privacy at the molecular level of per-conversation," versus between individuals.
As far as scale, Pip.io had slightly more than 20,000 users before a NY Times article hit on May 24, which virtually doubled that numbers overnight. Also with their next iteration, version 2.0, coupled with an iPhone app due out soon, Shimizu feels that the enhanced functionality will attract a wider audience.
Interesting side note on the name. "Pipio" It is Latin for the "carrier pigeons" that were used in Medieval times. Reference to them connotes delivering messages to the proper place in the fastest time. "We loved the idea of reliability and we just thought it had a nice ring to it!" notes Shimizu.
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So with two bootstrapped companies, a lot of sweat equity and a good amount of ingenuity, these two social network enterprises are two to watch over the course of the next the year. Take them for a spin, and see for yourself if these alternatives provide you with some new insights perhaps lacking with Facebook. The timing is right to test the waters and see if there is life after FB, or if there is a way of incorporating a little bit of the old with some of the new.