Why this venture, why is this necessary now altly says…
Facebook is dramatically changing the way we communicate with our friends, family, business associates, and the other groups of people in our lives.
We are pressured to become “friends” with people that we would not have had ongoing communication with prior to Facebook.
We are also pressured to share more and more personal information with not only “friends” but “friends of friends”.
Facebook’s privacy settings are so complex that even advanced users have a hard time configuring them, understanding who can see what, and Facebook continues to change its privacy settings without first alerting users, creating serious problems with serious consequences.
Facebook subjugates our personal information and our digital identities, and then sells us, as products, to advertisers, without regard for our rights, and with no value to us.
Facebook doesn’t just want to own our communications while on Facebook, but is spreading its tentacles across the entire Web with their Facebook Connect login, Facebook Like buttons, and Facebook Comments, making it practically impossible to have private use of the Internet.
At this time there are no real alternatives to Facebook, as most people believe that no one can possibly create an alternative.
http://Altly.com is building an alternative to Facebook, with a dramatically different view of our rights to privacy and ownership of our personal information.
If you would like more details, please read the full post above.
Also, please find us on Facebook and Twitter, and share this article with others that you believe would benefit from an alternative.
Over the last few years, we have entered an important new era of digital communication. Social Networking is allowing us to communicate with each other in ways that never existed before, and we as a global society have embraced this new form of communication at an incredible rate. Facebook now has over 600 million members, 50% of whom log in on any given day. People now spend over 700 BILLION minutes per month on Facebook making it THE most used Web service in the world. – http://www.facebook.com/press/info.php?statistics
Perhaps the biggest change that Social Networking has brought about is our ability to maintain ongoing relationships not only with our close friends and family, but also with many people that we would not have maintained relationships with prior to social networking. For example, many people are now Facebook “friends” with old high school classmates that they didn’t keep in touch with prior to reconnecting on Facebook. Many people are “friends” with their co-workers, their bosses, business partners, and casual acquaintances.
In fact, we feel pressured to become “friends” with all kinds of people that we would not normally have frequent communications with. An episode of the hit show South Park addressed this issue in the episode titled – “You have zero Friends” – http://www.southparkstudios.com/full-episodes/s14e04-you-have-0-friends In the episode, Stan, a character that doesn’t want to use Facebook is pressured to join, and to become “friends” with his Father, grandmother, and even a random guy on the street. No matter how much he resists, the social pressure overcomes his resistance and he is consumed by Facebook.
Not only are we pressured to become “friends” with people that we wouldn’t typically communicate with on a daily basis, we are pressured to share more and more. Facebook makes it difficult to configure privacy settings and to target messages towards specific groups of “friends”, therefore encouraging us to broadcast our activity to every one of our “friends”. And since many of us have our share permissions set to “Friends and Friends of Friends”, a Facebook default, we are inadvertently sharing not only with our “friends” but also anyone that is “friends” with them. With the average Facebook member having 130 friends (Source : Facebook statistics May 2011), sharing with “Friends of Friends” means that you are not just sharing with your 130 friends but with 16,900 people.
To add to the complexity of understanding who sees our personal information and interactions, Facebook has a long history of changing their privacy settings, without first alerting users, and exposing our private information in ways that we did not intend. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a leading civil liberties group, documents the erosion of privacy by Facebook – https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2010/04/facebook-timeline/
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder and CEO claims that Facebook is simply creating a tool that facilitates our natural movement away from privacy. What he fails to acknowledge is that Facebook EXERTS its power over how we communicate and is FORCING social norms to change.
This erosion of our privacy creates countless, serious problems that we are just now seeing come to the forefront.
While we would NEVER think of audio recording all of our private conversations with our friends and loved ones, and leaving those recordings around for perusal, Facebook records all of our private messages, chats, comments, and status updates, and makes it extremely difficult to delete such communications. It then makes that information accessible by potential future employers, hackers, and other entities such as law enforcement, and divorce attorneys, who use Facebook, with and without subpoena, to intrude on our private lives.
A recent CNN story titled “Young job-seekers hiding their Facebook pages”, cites that ”A recent survey commissioned by Microsoft found that 70 percent of recruiters and hiring managers in the United States have rejected an applicant based on information they found online.” http://articles.cnn.com/2010-03-29/tech/facebook.job-seekers_1_facebook-hiring-online-reputation
So one must ask the obvious question : “With it being so obvious that privacy is critically important in our lives, and the lack of it creating countless opportunities for catastrophe, why is Facebook continuing to erode our privacy, forcing us to live more and more public lives?” The answer is surprisingly simple – ‘it’s just business’!
While we think of Facebook as being a communications platform that allows us to communicate with our loved ones and other people from across our lives and the world, Facebook sees each of us as a product that they sell to their customers, advertisers. And while this symbiotic threeway relationship between a website user, the web site, and advertisers has existed since the beginning of the Internet, Facebook has dramatically changed the dynamic in their favor.
Facebook, by forcing our communications to be more and more public, creates an environment where they can allow advertisers to better “target” advertising to us. Targeting of ads online is not new, but the amount of information that is collected by Facebook, and then exposed to advertisers for targeting purposes is DRAMATICALLY beyond that of any service that has ever existed.
In a troubling article titled – “You are the Ad. Facebook has emerged from a privacy scandal to become online advertising’s next great hope. Its goal: turning us all into marketers.” – the author cites : “When we use Facebook we no longer just view the ad; we become the ad. It’s a notion that disturbs some people, especially as Facebook continues to challenge social norms about privacy and use of personal data. Indeed, one reason advertisers love Facebook is that ads can be precisely targeted to specific audiences on the basis of their stated interests, location, “likes,” and much more. “A lot of data is being harvested and monetized by Facebook and its advertisers, but users have no idea,” says Jeff Chester, executive director of a nonprofit digital-marketing watchdog called the Center for Digital Democracy.” – http://www.technologyreview.com/web/37334
Furthermore : “Conventional word of mouth reaches only a limited number of people. Facebook, where each of an estimated 600 million active users is connected to an average of 130 friends, changes all that by lending personal recommendations enormous reach. After all, anything a user does on the site can be broadcast automatically to all that person’s friends. “This is in many ways the Holy Grail of marketing: making your customers your marketers,” says Sandberg, who joined Facebook in early 2008 after building up Google’s ad sales operation from four people to 4,000. “For the first time, you can do word-of-mouth marketing at massive scale.” – http://www.technologyreview.com/web/37334/
There is clearly nothing wrong with Facebook making money, as all business has to do. What IS clearly wrong is when our privacy, our personal information, our digital lives are being subjugated for the sake of profit, without us having any meaningful capability to opt out, or even know the extent of such activity.
And it doesn’t stop there. It is hard to escape Facebook’s reach, even if we try.
Facebook wants to not only be our social network, but the holder of our identity on the web, our Internet Drivers License, our Digital Passport. A few years ago, Facebook created “Facebook Connect”, a system that let’s other web sites use your Facebook identity as our login credentials for their site. Facebook Connect has spread through the Web like wildfire, with over 1 million web sites having implemented it, and there are now sites that won’t let you log in, unless you log in with your Facebook ID. Facebook then captures some of your activity on these other sites and associates it with your profile, creating a history of many things that you do across the web.
The argument that Facebook and the participating sites raise to support this activity is that these integrations allow sites to better personalize our experiences and make it easier for us to log in. Clearly there IS value in having content personalized for us based on our prior behavior, and the behavior of our friends, BUT we should have the capability to easily understand how and what is being personalized and the ability to turn these personalizations and tracking of our behavior off.
Perhaps you’ve seen Facebook’s “Like” button popping up on your favorite websites, prompting you to “like” news articles, products, and practically anything else. Facebook wants to spread its tentacles to EVERY web site, so that no matter where we go, Facebook knows everything about us. In the first year of its launch, the Facebook “Like” button was integrated by over 2.5 MILLION web sites, and 10,000 new web sites institute the Like button every day. http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/facebook_like_button_a_year_old.php
Facebook also wants to control and collect data on how we interact with content from around the Web. Facebook’s Comments let’s web sites not build their own commenting system but simply use Facebook’s commenting system, requiring users to log into Facebook in order to comment. When the user comments, Facebook records those comments, associates it to the user’s identity, and alerts their “friends” of the comment. In the first two weeks since launch, Facebook Comments was implemented by over 17,000 web sites. – http://www.businessinsider.com/facebook-comments-is-taking-off-heres-why-2011-3
In fact, these actions by Facebook are SO overreaching and SO extreme, that some are making fun of the situation, claiming that Facebook is a program by the CIA to spy on citizens. – http://www.theonion.com/video/cias-facebook-program-dramatically-cut-agencys-cos,19753/
Is there another option? What are our alternatives? If we don’t like what Facebook is doing, what can we do about it?
Well, herein lies the problem. There are NO serious alternatives at this time. For every Coke there is a Pepsi, for every Ford there is a Chevy, for every PC there is a Mac and for every Facebook there is…. a void! Facebook has such overwhelming power that practically no one believes that trying to build an alternative is possible.
We believe otherwise!
Altly (name may change before we launch) is building a Facebook alternative. Think of it as a social network for Facebook graduates!
We believe :
Privacy is ULTIMATELY important.
We should know EXACTLY who can see what information about us.
Control of our information should be in OUR hands, and it should be EXTREMELY easy for us to control it.
WE should choose what information is stored, how long it is kept, and who it is available to.
Our digital life, our personal information is EXTREMELY valuable, and each of us should not only control who has access to it, but BENEFIT from it.
Advertisers should be part of our community, but should NOT have an unfair advantage over us.
All of our data should be OURS, and no one else’s. If we choose to leave our social network, we should be able to easily take ALL of our data with us, and COMPLETELY delete all data if we choose.
If other social networks should be developed, they should be able to interoperate with one another.
While we are not ready to release our service just yet, we have secured investment from leading venture capital funds and strategic angels that have seen a prototype of our upcoming platform, and believe that we will create a meaningful alternative to Facebook. And yes, there is an exciting business in this alternative, but is it one that is transparent about how our members’ information is shared and monetized.
We hope that when we do launch, that you will give us a try, and help us make the world a place where we can have the freedom to be ourselves, have meaningful, intimate conversations with those we love, all with the privacy and dignity that is part of our human nature.
Meanwhile, if you would like to pre-reserve your username, please visit Altly.com
Also, please find us on Facebook and Twitter, and share this article with others that you believe would benefit from an alternative.