Facebook is trialing it’s new “explore tab” in some countries. This feature sees the removal of content posted by Facebook pages from the main feed and relegated to a secondary “explore” page.
There have been a hell of a lot of business that have built themselves on the backs of social media and when Facebook decides to make dramatic changes like this, these companies can be put in dire straits overnight.
Facebook is not the only example. YouTube is a wonderful example too. So much of the content we see on YouTube is produced by professional YouTubers. People that make their living doing it. Some become very wealthy on the back of YouTube. But the constant changes to the user interface is a source of stress and changes to the algorithm is a serious risk to those attempting to earn a living through the platform. Dan Hardcastle talks about his frustrations in this 20 minute video
The fact is, websites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube form the very landscape of the internet. It’s like trying to build a house on somebody else’s land while they’re actively digging it up… except you’re also an ant and they wouldn’t even notice if they picked you up with the shovel and tossed you over the fence. It’s not so bad if you’re a large company. If you have money then you have power to persuade and a voice that will be heard. If you’re a startup or an independent SME struggling against the entrenched giants then Facebook can kill you just by rolling over.
If you believe as I do that the internet is not merely a tool and not merely a way to watch your favorite movies more or less legally, then you know what I mean when I say that the internet is a human right. It is too powerful to be left to corporate interests. As much as we love capitalism in The West, I love innovation and social mobility far more. The current landscape is unstable and it’s going to stifle and kill small businesses.
Social media is the public space of the internet. It’s the parks and the street markets. It’s the tree with the picture of the missing cat stapled to it and it’s something completely new as well. It’s a way for a company to build a brand. To reach out to people and a way for them to have a voice against all the noise. The public trusts social media far too much. We should be extremely uncomfortable giving so much of our time, thought and trust to these gargantuan private companies, when they’re selling our screen space for pennies to anybody that forks over enough cash. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen scams being advertised under the name of Elon Musk or Bill Gates promising me that I’ll rich quick.
We need to take back our public spaces. The only way for the public to be treated like anything other than cattle on the internet, is for us to take ownership of it.
A vastly oversimplified proposal could be this:
Funding from charities and donations
Open source code
Open source servers
That’s probably not a robust enough solution - but this is something that we need to start talking about. And once we find a solution, we can start to feel that we have some stability on the internet.