Is social networking dead? Of course not. It just doesn’t feel good. And the latest Facebook alternatives like Diaspora, SocialNumber, and Identi.ca aren’t exactly thriving. Theorize all you want about social media, but in the end it’s all about US, not the platform.
If you’re a nobody who wants to
meet nobody, SocialNumber may be
just what you’re looking for.
People have been asking for some time now (myself included) if Facebook is dead. A couple of years ago, an article with that title was usually a whiny piece by a socially inept nerd who probably felt just as peeved at every party they attended as they did on Facebook. But the answer to the question “is Facebook dead?” has evolved quite a bit. Some say social media is healthier than ever. But that piece was published as SEO linkbait by a marketing consultancy. Of course social media is alive, if your income is derived from telling people to use it. But the argument used in that article – that Nielsen data indicates that “more people than ever are using social media” – is one of the best arguments that it IS dying. AOL, MySpace, and just about any other previous “big thing” you can name had the largest number of users at exactly the moment they sucked the most and began their decline. If you ask people who are more interested in accurately understanding how social media actually functions rather than how to exploit it, you’ll get a different kind of answer. Like Social Media is Dead and marketers probably killed it. Or it’s not quite dead, it just needs CPR. And if you ask people who look at the money, you get an equally unenthusiastic response, with observations about Zynga, Facebook, and Groupon’s stock performance. Remember when Groupon was valued at SIX. BILLION. DOLLARS? And while a lot has been written about Google+, that’s about the extent of it. Except for rabid Googlephiles, the place has tumbleweeds blowing through it. So what about other conduits in the social media realm? Twitter and Pinterest are noisy as hell, and provide little in the way of meaningful connection for people who speak in more than 140 characters or don’t like communicating with thumbnailed images. And Instagram, Spotify, and others? They’re fun, they’re shareable, but they’re really just part of the “entertainment system of social”. So what’s next? Who knows. That’s the whole idea behind the concept of disruption in tech or media realms. And are there alternatives to Facebook? Well, the last few options to get any buzz remain a little less-than-populated. We checked out two of them – Diaspora and SocialNumber – and have shared screen shots below to make some points. And a third called Identi.ca actually looks pretty intriguing, but you have to install software to actually participate. We may do a followup piece on it, but you can rest assured you won’t be hearing about it on cable news in the next year. So below are some quick thoughts on Diaspora and SocialNumber, but now I have to get moving and share this piece on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, like a good little social media murderer. Because our boredom isn’t killing Facebook; our marketing, spamming, and “self as brand” behaviors are.
If you really identify with that old Bob Seger song, or if all your life you’ve been saying “You just wait and see! Someday, I’m gonna BE NOBODY”, then SocialNumber.com may be for you. It bills itself as the “First ever anonymous social network”. Which immediately begs the question: if networking is all about meeting people, why would you want to do it ANONYMOUSLY? Or, to reverse the question: if you want to be ANONYMOUS, why would you join a SOCIAL NETWORK?!? Their rationale is to “avoid the fear of negative implications when using other social networks”. Negative implications? Like what? Wasting all day arguing about politics with people you only know through FarmVille? I signed up anyway. More on that below.
Signing up for this site made me feel all cloak-and-daggery. So I figured that I should create a throwaway email for it, and after doing some quick research on webmail that helps you remain anonymous, I gave up. If you sign up for a service like RiseUp, they offer all sorts of assurances about protecting your identity, but if I were a government spook looking for sneaky people, I’d just train one of my recently arrested Anonymous hackers to exploit the servers. So I ended up just using plain old Hushmail. When I finally logged in, I was a little disappointed at the hot topics and numbers of users. Click for a larger image:
Yup, Anonymous, Atheism, and Sex. Unless I’m mistaken, I think you can find this all on Reddit. And if you really want to be an Anon, do you use a commercial website, or IRC channels and other mysterious and high-tech protocols? By the way, if you’re an Anon who DOES use SocialNumber and I’m wrong, please don’t get pissed and take my server down. I mean no offense. Anyway, this site also kept making me think of what Dr. Strangelove said about the Doomsday Device, i.e.: “Of course, zee whole point of a Doomsday Machine eeze lost, if you keep eet a SECRET! Why didn’t you tell zee world, EH?” So, moving on….
I was excited about Diaspora when I first heard about it, because it seemed like it had hopes of becoming everything that Facebook WAS and then abandoned in order to attempt to improve its stock valuation. Unfortunately, every time I log in, I feel even lonelier than I did BEFORE I logged in. The sparse interface is nice, but the users seem sparse too! And many of the posts seem to be about what you CAN’T do, like sharing content the way you’d like. This site got its press last year; I personally think it’s doomed. I hope they prove me wrong. But the last post in my stream yesterday was 20 days old:
This is a network driven by posts that are no longer than 140 characters. Wait. Isn’t that just Twitter? Well, not really. One thing that makes this one interesting is the fact that it’s powered with open source software that you download. Which is exactly why I DIDN’T try it; I might try later, but I think most users would delay trying it for the same reason. But when Twitter inevitably goes for an IPO, this might be one of the sites to look at. They claim they’re dedicated to remaining open source, and that, in the end, is what is missing in social media at this point.
You can talk all you want about what makes social media tick, but in the end, it’s US, not all the ways someone can exploit it to market things.
Identi.ca at least has a nice clean interface:
Is social networking….
* Required. Your email will never be displayed in public.