There is no denying that social networks have drifted away from their initial purpose and seem to sink every week. Fake news, cyberbullying and discrimination are concerns surrounding the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram. So, information provided on these platforms often raise some eyebrows and a lot more questions which is why people are wondering if there is a better way to not only communicate but also get reliable information.
Jimmy Wales, the creator of WT: Social recently stated that there he is frustrated with Facebook and Twitter on their “clickbait” approach which led to the creation of their alternative solution to this growing problem. Unlike other platforms, the service, like Wikipedia, contains no advertisements and runs off donations. In just over a month since its creation in October, 2019, the newly launched platform is taking the world by storm with over 200,000 users already. To boost the idea of relevancy, when a new user signs up, they would be placed on a waiting list with thousands of others. To skip the list and gain access to the site, users either had to make a donation or share a link with friends.
WT: Social is made for the purpose of legitimate news, microblogging and social networking. Since, it is a paid platform, it limits the misuse of the platform unlike other platforms where anyone can sign up for free and share anything without any real content control. Since, users are not the products of this newly launched platform, ads and data misuse are out of the question, which is what we hear up till this point.
So, how it works is simple. If you pay a fee you can join right away, if not you have to wait for a while and hope that an existing member invites you in the platform. At the moment, it looks like a very basic web-based operation. What is amazing is that in an App centric society, they have managed to get over 200,000 people on board which shows exactly the point Jimmy was trying to make. Consumers are looking for authenticity and just because you make something easy and accessible does not mean that it is the only relevant option in the market.
On a podcast with Tech Tent, there was an interesting point which stated that there had been plenty of attempts at something similar which had come to nothing. He laughed and pointed out that on one such doomed network I appeared to be his only friend.
Facebook and other social networks have faced a lot of criticism
There is a rather obvious question which will come in to play and that is how this platform will get people hooked. All social networks revolve around addiction and getting people attached to it almost all the time. His mission was about completely rejecting the idea that a social network had to be addictive. Engagement is their main metric and since all social networks have a pure advertising business model, its not about putting forward relevant content but more about putting content that is addictive and brings about more clicks.
Because both issues that are commonly fueled by the chase for advertising dollars and/or users’ own data, Jimmy Wales bets on a subscription model funded by the most passionate advocates for quality content and data privacy.
“Existing social networks work on a pure advertising business model,” explained Wales. “This drives them to addict you, to keep you on the site. Their incentives are in the direction of outrage, radical discourse, trolling − not your human flourishing.
This is why, according to Jimmy, fake news and misinformation spreads through these social networks and WT: Social will be packed with high-quality content and debate that people will value and then be inclined to support financially.
From an ethical point of view, this idea is spot on and to support it, the success of Wikipedia is second to none. Today, it is among the top 10 most popular websites in the whole world and has neither ads or click bates. There is no thought about optimizing the platform for addiction or time spent on the site and still, it is incredibly popular. This shows the company thrives on pure information and their consumers of this information are those who simply want to learn something.