Mon. Apr 19th, 2021

Will MeWe prove to be the “anti-Facebook”? The three-years-plus-old social media platform got a big boost toward that objective over the past week. They added as many users as people who live in the Twin Cities metro area — 2.5 million — based on the platform’s promises to make their subscribers their only customers:

Users are getting fed up with relentless privacy violations, surveillance capitalism, political bias, targeting, and newsfeed manipulation by these companies.

And other social media platforms are benefitting from this tidal wave. Los Angeles-based social media network MeWe, touted to be the ad-free future of social networking, is currently the No. 1 downloaded social app in the Google Play Store, and the No. 3 downloaded app out of all apps in the store.

The privacy-first “anti-Facebook” platform added 2.5 million new members in the last week.

Since launching in 2016, it surged to nine million users in October 2020, doubling its membership during each of the last three years.

The platform is currently sitting at 15.5 million members — 50% of whom are outside of North America.

The demand for a new platform might not just come from ZDNet’s above list of complaints. Instapundit’s Glenn Reynolds shares those as well, but notices something else that makes the platform a lot more attractive than Facebook at the moment:

I’m really happy with MeWe, and find its interface to be a huge step up from the cartoony-looking mess that Facebook has become.

Seconded. It’s not just a “cartoony mess” but also a functional mess as well. As someone who operates a page, the newer interfaces have become a disaster. Users used to be able to schedule posts from the first window in which they would post in real time, thanks to a drop-down selector that allowed for scheduling. Now one has to click through three screens (at least!) before being able to compose a scheduled post. The sequence for grabbing an embed code for a FB post is equally torturous now, involving a new tab and three clicks to get to where one click on the original post used to suffice. It’s as if Facebook is going out of its way to be less user-friendly, even apart from the complaint list ZDNet notes.

By contrast, the MeWe interface looks a lot like FB circa 2017ish. It’s also less functional, at times in significant ways. For instance, there doesn’t appear to be any URL associated with each specific post, let alone an option to embed it anywhere else. For a strictly social-media platform, however, the clean interface and easy use are big pluses over the current Facebook platform. One does have to wonder how long that will be the case as users demand more functionality — just as one has to wonder how long users will be MeWe’s “only customers” when financial pressures begin rising to monetize it.

The apparent rise of MeWe creates a new question, too, about regulatory response to the existing social-media giants. If a MeWe can rise up and launch successfully enough to start signing people up at a rate of 2.5 million a week, should Congress get involved at all in dealing with Facebook, Twitter, et al? Its success so far does appear to challenge the perception of de facto speech monopolies — at least at the moment. That gives credence to laissez-faire economists and libertarians who insist that the market will produce competition when demand reaches a sufficient pitch to convince investors to create one.

And they may be right. However, I’d watch to see how long it takes for Facebook or Twitter to acquire MeWe as a means of controlling their own market space and share. The more successful MeWe becomes, the more likely such an acquisition will take place. If that happens, will those same people shrug it off, or rethink their position on anti-trust enforcement?

In the meantime, I’ve opened up a page on MeWe. I may not be terribly active on it at first, but we’ll see how much fun it proves to be. Drop by and say hello.

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