The Cambridge Analytica scandal might have been headline news and caused a change in the way Facebooks works, but how much of an effect as it really had on how many people use Facebook?
Despite the news that the political consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica had mined data from people’s Facebook profiles and their friends in 2012 many people are still using it and whilst Cambridge Analytica has since closed – Facebook still thrives. When the news broke about Cambridge Analytica and the scope of how many people were actually affected came to light it did certainly cause outrage. #DeleteFacebook trended on Twitter and while a number of people did follow through with the promise of deleting their profile, including Elon Musk, for many people it was all talk and no action, at least for now.
So, the Cambridge Analytica scandal didn’t quite bring about the mass exodus some people expected it would. In fact, it was revealed just last month that quarterly sales on Facebook had actually risen by 50% in the first quarter of the year. However, it will be interesting to see how the second quarter figures stand, the scandal only broke in March, so the knock-on effect can’t fully be gauged just yet. So, while Facebook’s reputation might have suffered a hit it’s still a giant in the social networking world and hasn’t suffered a mass loss of users.
You might think Facebook is coming through this scandal relatively well, all things considered. Well while it wasn’t the death knell some people thought it would be and Facebook has bounced back quite well, that doesn’t mean Facebook wasn’t damaged by the scandal. And I don’t mean just its reputation either after the scandal broke its share value fell by over 6% and its market value fell dramatically. However, what is most interesting is that Facebook was actually losing engagement with users before the scandal even broke.
The research firm eMarketer predicted earlier this year that around 2 million young people (aged under 25) would leave Facebook in 2018. And Facebook has been losing ground when it comes to attracting the younger audience for quite some time now. This latest scandal is unlikely to help Facebook gain the trust of the much-converted younger audience either. So, while I don’t see Facebook dying anytime soon could this scandal be the first major sign that it will be losing its crown as the king of social media?
Who will replace Facebook?
If Facebook is eventually going to suffer a mass loss of users, then who will pick up its mantle? There a certainly a lot of contenders but for a social media site to replace Facebook it needs to do more than simply let you keep up with friends and post photos. One of the reasons Facebook has managed to see off the competition because it was very versatile. We have already seen the introduction of Facebook as a dating site showing further versatility.
Check out this chart The Conversation Prism 5.0 from Brian Solis & JESS3 below, this visual map showcases everything social media can do for both personal and business purposes. Now, look how many times Facebook or Facebook Messenger show up on the map, so for anyone to replace Facebook they’ll need to be able to match its services.
So, let’s look at some of the contenders to the Facebook crown and see who in theory could replace it.
Out of all the possible contenders Snapchat is currently the most popular, with over 180 million users worldwide it’s certainly already a success. Although it’s still a long way behind Facebook who have over 2 billion active users.
Snapchat can also do more than just send pictures, nowadays you can record video, edit photos, chat with friends and groups and of course, there are Snapchat's famous filters. Snapchat has also made the move into wearable technology with AR glasses dubbed Snapchat spectacles.
Their first set of AR glasses had a lot of hype but it quickly fizzled out upon release, although a second model was recently released. So, Snapchat is certainly more versatile than many people think but does it match the variety of services offered by Facebook? Snapchat might see a rise in popularity in the coming months, but I can’t quite see it replacing Facebook just yet.
If you’ve never heard of Vero, then don’t worry that’s understandable until a few months ago this sharing app had less than 150,000 users. By the end of February, it had 1 million and by the end of March that had tripled to 3 million, so Vero is certainly growing fast and thanks to its stronger focus on privacy and emphasis on staying ad-free it could easily continue amassing users.
By offering what it calls a more “authentic” social media experience Vero as managed to create its own identity while also offering a number of functions to users. You can share photos and videos and chat with friends, Vero might seem a little basic but by offering a more open and free system it's crafted its own identity. For example, with Vero users aren't just sorted into friends or followers they can be put into four different categories these include acquaintances, friends, close friends, and followers. Posts aren’t sorted by an algorithm either they are displayed in reverse chronological order. Vero might not offer the same level of features as Facebook but the way it presents itself gives it a unique identity and gives users more freedom.
However, Vero is planning to implement a subscription system in the future which might not work in its favour when there are free alternatives available and while it’s growing fast now they could just as easily fade away. Despite launching in 2015 Vero is only now really growing and whether it will be able to maintain that growth remains to be seen.
If something really wants to replace Facebook it needs to be more than an app, yes, the mobile platform is paramount but plenty of people still log onto their Facebook page the “old-fashioned way” don’t they? Mastodon is also open-source and decentralised, but it operates a lot more like Twitter than Facebook.
Mastodon might not be very versatile at the moment but because it's open-source the potential is there. Who knows what exactly Mastodon could offer in the future? It's focused on micro-blogging at the moment and you have the option to share photos and videos as well as text.
At the moment Mastodon might be a bit light on features but thanks to its open-source design the potential is there for a hugely versatile social media platform. Mastodon currently has over 150,000 users which might not seem like many, but it has been gaining users quickly over the past few weeks and it has currently closed its registration due to high demand.
Again, Mastodon looks promising but it’s still a little too new to really challenge the Facebook throne, but in the future, it could be quite the contender.
The above three are the most common names being suggested as the replacement for Facebook and while they each show promise in different ways it’s important to remember the site to replace Facebook could quite easily be something completely new.
With Blockchain technology offering solutions in most markets it is no surprise that it has a number of ideas to offer the Social Media market place. The common theme is to allow content creators to reap the rewards of the content they create rather than a big corporate having top down control.
Here are 4 Blockchain based social media sites:
Sapien - The core of this social network is to champion users and truth, not financial gain. It enables millions of content creators and curators without any centralized intermediaries. It is early days but again the decentralized nature allows validation of quality content and rewards the creators of quality content.
Sola will enable its content creators to earn SOL tokens depending on the popularity of their content. Users in the Sola ecosystem do not connect by following each other. Instead, they share information with all interested users, creating a viral effect. The platform enables advanced sharing using artificial intelligence algorithms coupled with user feedback in a Tinder-like swipe. While a bad post will go nowhere if everybody's swiping it down, a popular post might eventually be seen by the entire Sola network if it gets enough positive up-swipes You are able to share photos, thoughts, news items and anyone can access your content. The key again is it is not a corporate body like Facebook that decides who see's what content. It is the decentralized network itself
Steemit is similar to Reddit as a platform. Again it enables content creators to earn revenue and grow their community. It is a points based revenue system with the points traded on the market as tokens. It is built on its own Steem Blockchain rather that utilising others. The critisism of the platform is that in order to get enough positive reaffirmations of your content you are going to have to really work at it with people saying that they have only started to earn after in excess of 200 posts
So, far I don’t think anyone as quite managed it but, in the future, who knows there are certainly some promising looking contenders. Whether this is from the Blockchain arena or somewhere else remains to be seen. The Blockchain offering seem to fairly similar and earning off content is nothing new with Medium operating this model. Facebook is only 14 years old this year and it will be interesting to see where it stands at its 20-year anniversary. I can’t see it standing still having not evolved waiting to be taken by the competition