Like so many, I've been watching what is going on with Zuckerberg's Congressional Hearings. Let's face it, here is a man who had a brilliant idea to take advantage of the internet and the way things were changing to help people connect with others all around the world. In the last month, a few sticky wheels got oiled in a big way, and Zuckerberg got massive amounts of poo thrown at him for breaches in privacy, security issues and general business practices. I like, everyone else, wants to know what is going to happen with the popular social media platform. And we also want to know what Zuckerberg has to say about all of this mess.
Do I think he deserves to be summoned before Congress? Well, that's not for me to say either way, but I do believe that some heads need to roll over this massive privacy breach that hit mainstream media in recent weeks. Do I think he need to go to jail, like some are suggesting? Hell, no!
I want to say that you can't blame the guy for making this up as he goes along, but that really isn't an excuse. He's been at this for fourteen years. He should know the rules by now. But I don't think he should lose everything that he's worked for either.
Facebook might appear to be a monopoly, but it's not Zuckerberg's fault that Google+ sucks.
I picked on this particular comment because it was interesting. Senator Lindsey Graham started the conversation about monopolies by comparing Facebook to a Ford. How the Senator could draw this comparison is beyond me. Facebook is NOTHING like a car. But I understand what he was getting at. It's about choices.
If I buy a Ford and it doesn't work well and I don't like it, I can buy a Chevy. If I'm upset with Facebook, what's the equivalent product that I can go sign up for?
Is there an alternative to Facebook in the private sector?
Zuckerberg's answer might have seemed cagey, but it wasn't. It was the reality.
The average American uses eight different apps to communicate with their friends and stay in touch with people.
Then the Senator, as far as I'm concerned, showed his ignorance when it comes to the internet and social media.
Is Twitter the same as what you do?
Zuckerberg did the best he could to answer this question, stating that Twitter overlaps with some of the services that Facebook provides, but I think even I would be constantly blinking at the Senator's question. Clearly, the man had NEVER used Twitter or Facebook. The two are COMPLETELY different. I should know. They both form part of my personal online platform and Facebook is NOTHING like Twitter.
Facebook is for connecting with others in the community over longer posts, joining discussion groups to get help when needed. You have pages where you can advertise your wares for all the world to see, and through your personal profiles, you can share the updates of your personal life.
Twitter is for short concise messages that are public from the word go. You can create messenger groups, but there is NOTHING that comes close to the discussion groups that you get on Facebook. And there is no distinction between public pages and private profiles. That's not the way Twitter works. The only feature that is similar between the two platforms is the private messaging system.
But I carry on...
The Senator then asked:
You don't think you have a monopoly?
It certainly doesn't feel like that to me.
For a moment, let me take a deep breath and try to forget the Senator's ignorance of social media. He comes from my parents' generation. Many of them that age don't get involved with social media, hence they have no clue how social media actually works. Some of them struggle with email. The Senator probably has social media himself, but he likely farms it off onto someone younger and more up with the times. I'll just blink and shake my head, then drink my chai latte.
Here's the real deal, folks. If you are looking for an alternative to Facebook, with the same community-based features that Facebook has, you WON'T find anything — not in a one-stop-shop platform. Google tried to compete against Facebook with their introduction of Google+ back in February 2014. It was a MASSIVE flop, because it was too difficult to use, it was business focused, and there was no chat threads that could be easily followed. Google+ had NONE of the functionality found on Facebook, not to start with.
In November 2015, Google redesigned Google+ and tried again, failing again. They brought in Google Hangouts to compete against Facebook Messenger. However, even to this day, Google has NOTHING that comes even close to what you can do within the main Facebook site.
So let's break this down feature by feature, and actually point out what the alternatives are.
This is a texting type system, and for this you have lot's of options, depending on what contact details you have for the ones you want to communicate with. Through Messenger, you can text your friends, or have video chats, or an audio chat. The video and audio chat features are limited, but the same can be said for the alternative options, which include:
- Google Hangouts,
- Twitter Direct Messaging system,
- SMS txting through your phone provider,
- and that's just the ones that I personally use. I probably shouldn't forget to include Apple Facetime, but that's only available to those on Apple products (and my iPhone and I have a love/hate relationship, so I won't use Facetime).
These are public pages that are basically advertising pages for businesses and public figures. You post that latest whatever, just like you would on your private profile — but it's public. Added advantage, if you wanted to run ads through Facebook (not that I have the inclination to do so, at this point), you can boost a post by paying out the dosh. Basically, it's an electronic billboard that has constant changing messages. The best alternative to this is... wait for it... A COMPANY WEBSITE! A BLOG!
(Okay, I'm getting cynical. I'll try to cut it out.)
Seriously, Google+ is actually an alternative to this particular feature of Facebook. And Google+ and Facebook Pages is probably about just as effective as each other. If you are running a business, you would be silly to not use both. It's so easy. You can connect your blogs to post to both automatically. That's what I do.
These are community pages and discussion groups, where people can post questions, and off you go. The rules for the various groups are up to the various group admins. Facebook only gets involved if there is an issue that is out of control and the group moderators/admins aren't getting off the bums and doing something about it. With different levels of privacy for groups, ranging from Secret to Public, the Groups feature really is just a glorified forum.
Alternatives... Any forum website out there, for which Reddit is the first one that comes to my mind. (All the other forum sites that come to my mind are actually for writers only. Anyone else would find them totally boring.)
This is like a noticeboard idea, where you can mark yourself as interested in going to a particular event, and you get updates and notices about that event. Any community noticeboard works as an alternative. One that I subscribe to is Meetup. You can ask questions of the event organizers and share it with others, just like you can on Facebook; however, Facebook has a larger reach.
Many people confuse Profiles and Pages, because they behave in much the same way; however, it's against Facebook rules to use a Profile for advertising. However, you can still post all the latest news about your lives and get responses. If you want your life to be public, then get a blog. Or sign up for Twitter. Use Instagram. I don't know... Pick something. However, if you want a private existence, there is really only one option: get off social media.
(Sorry, the cynicism just wouldn't stay away.)
Zuckerberg was right when he said that the average American uses eight different apps to connect with others. If I look at my own practices, on a regular basis, I use:
- SMS txting via my phone provider,
- Google Hangouts,
- Facebook (ALL of its features),
- my podcast Conversations in Science,
- my blogs (both my personal blog and the Editor's Blog on Black Wolf),
- and occasionally I actually use my phone as a phone. (Shock horror!)
That's more than eight! But I have known that I'm not like your average American for some time.
So where was I going with all of this? Oh that's right...
Yes, Facebook has its issue, especially with this security settings issue which I wrote about on the Editor's Blog on Black Wolf. But you can't blame Zuckerberg for the inefficiencies of the other social media sites. Each site has its purpose, and you have to choose wisely as to which one you'll use (something else that I've written on in the past), but don't expect to be able to walk away from Facebook and find a one-stop-shop equivalent elsewhere. It's not Zuckerberg's fault that Google+ failed to be all it promised to be.
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© Copyright, Judy L Mohr 2018