Why Anti-Facebooks Won’t Work.

A couple years ago now, when Facebook was at the height of it’s privacy issues, a few young kids decided they needed to do something about it. They came up with an idea they called Diaspora. It was exactly what we needed at the time, a Facebook where you owned all your own data. They posted this video:

Kickstarter video

And the web went nuts. Kickstarter was new, relatively untested, unsure of what it would become and who would want to participate. But then these kids, and they were (still are) kids, completely blew the doors off their fundraising plan netting over $200K from over 6,000 investors donors.

People were hungry for a site that would deal with the privacy issues that they didn’t understand, that they media was over-hyping.

And yet, where is Diaspora now? From their height of their traffic in November 2010, their traffic has dropped to barely over 20K visits a month.

From Compete.com

I didn’t write this post to bash on Diaspora. What they are doing, how they are doing it, it’s all admirable. And of course, they are dealing with a devastating tragedy right now. What spawned me to write this, was this TechCrunch article:

Unthink’s “Anti-Facebook” Social Network Reaches 100,000 Users

Another “anti-Facebook” has launched. And it seems to have generated some significant traffic (slightly more than Diaspora at it’s peak). And while Unthink, and Diaspora, and others may continue to generate headlines as they take on the big dog, they won’t grow to the sort of scale that threatens Facebook.

Their big problem is that they fail to take into account network effects. Simply put, the network effect says that a network becomes more valuable the more people are in it. My favorite example of this is to imagine selling the first fax machine. Until you know someone else who has one, it’s pretty useless. But once you add one person, the value has increased tremendously. And when you sell the 3rd one, you’ve doubled the value of the network. And it grows exponentially from there.

The reason Facebook is so popular is because everyone you know is there. All your photos are there. Your privacy settings are already set (I hope). No one wants to do that over again. Years ago, when MySpace and Facebook were battling it out, even the most fervent users had only a year or two worth of photos on there. But now? I have 6 years of pictures on Facebook. I won’t, I can’t, re-upload all of them. And re-tag all of them. And convince all my friends to join too. And my parents. My network on Facebook is so developed, so connected, so strong, that the switching cost of going anywhere else is too high.

There is too much inertia for most people. Some early adopters will try it out, play with it for a while, explain to their friends why they should also join Unthink, Diaspora or any other one, and ultimately, when none of their friends show up, they’ll move on. Either back to Facebook or on to the next anti-Facebook.

I applaud their effort, ingenuity and entrepreneurship, but it’s going to take a revolutionary product, not an evolutionary one to dethrone Mark Zuckerberg.

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About Ezra Englebardt
Account planner, digital nerd, marketing guru, tweeter, occasional blogger, cyclist, snowboarder, mountain biker, social media junkie and avid reader. CU-Boulder and Boston College alum. Frequent guest speaker in Boston-area universities.

One Response to Why Anti-Facebooks Won’t Work.

  1. The Hook says:

    Zuckerberg is the ultimate “Goofball Hero”; to millions of computer nerds too socially retarded to get laid, he is a hero. To females everywhere, he is the demi-god who delivered unto them the ultimate tool with which to terrorize their enemies – sometimes to death.
    I just wish he would go away and take Facebook with him.

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