Are Services like Micro.Blog the answer to Problems like Facebook, Twitter and Fake News?

Recently, I have entered a Renaissance. Long after having abandoning blogging and podcasting, I have decided to start blogging and podcasting again. I was motivated listening to Mason Reece and Danial Jalkut, on their podcast, CoreIntuition. Both of them are long term developers on the Macintosh and iOS. Mr. Jalkut has long developed MarsEdit, which is a program on the Mac to blog and handling websites on different services.

For several years, I have listened to them talk about developing software and discussing the web and Apple. In recent years, Mr. Reece has discussed creating a web service called Micro.Blog. My understanding of this service is that it would be an open service on the Internet to micro blog, which is sort of like what you do on social networks like Twitter, and Facebook where you write short posts. One of the key difference between Mr. Reece’s project and Twitter and Facebook is that with his micro blog service the real customers would be the users and not advertiser. Mr. Reece pointed out that on Twitter and Facebook you don’t control your posts and work. Twitter and Facebook control your own work. And because they are free service, you are not really the customer, rather advertisers are the real customers as they are the ones who pay Twitter and Facebook.

So Mr. Reece created Micro.Blog, with the goal to create a service where the users are the real customers. It is free to use if you want to host it on your own WordPress blog (self-hosted). Alternatively, for $5 per month, his service, Micro.blog, gives you your own url sub-website and you can post your micro posts on that site.

Here is the key thing: By requiring users to pay $5 per month to have a sub-website on Micro.Blog, Mr. Reece is sending the message that the user is his real customer. And this is important, because we have seen that when these things are free, eventually the users are getting screwed. Twitter and Facebook are showing that when a social network is free, it can eventually became terrible for real users. Twitter in recent years has become filed with bots that post advertisement or worse, they post fake news. Similarly, Facebooks news feeds has been filled with creepy advertisements and of course fake news that possibly swayed the last presidential election. And now we find out that millions of users on Facebook had personal data take by entities for nefarious users. The answer is that social networks will be better off if there is a true cost to being a user.

When MySpace.com was at its zenith, Facebook was created and overtook it because MySpace had become a cesspool with junky accounts and Facebook offered quality. Facebook offered quality because you had to have a real identity. Initially you had to have a Harvard.Edu email account and later .Edu email accounts at other colleges and school. Facebook became the place where real identities had be used. This insured that real people and not fake accounts were in that social network. The problem with Facebook’s business model is that since it wasn’t charging users, it had to make revenue from advertisers. And to get advertiser, Facebook had to get more users, which resulted in Facebook making it easy for anyone to create an account, including fake accounts.  As Facebook grew its users, it grew its advertiser base.  And advertising has eroded the enjoyment of the service. Same with Twitter. Even worse, free for users meant that there is no friction for those who want to create bots and fake accounts to flood Facebook and Twitter. Free means a troll can open an account, and if its closed, it can open another account.

So the answer to creating a social network that doesn’t devolve may be what Mr. Reece has created. $5 per month is too great a cost for trolls and the creators of bots to flood Micro.Blog with users accounts. $5 per month helps keep the crud off of the social network. But it also not just about that. Micro.Blog is also about the movement to allow the users to control their own data. Mr. Reece has made it easy to use his micro blogging service for free on one’s own blog. But if you pay him to host it, he has made it easy to save your data and also to cross-post the micro posts to services like Twitter.

In the spirit of control, I have also hosted my main blog, MacsFuture.com on a web server hosting site, A SmallOrange and used WordPress software to set up the site. This way I can easily take my website to another web server host if I don’t like SmallOrange.com to host it.  Now I give up something by doing this. There are much larger users on social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram than on Micro.Blog and those who come across my WordPress site. So I am likely to get fewer eyeballs looking at anything I post. But if we are going to take back the Web and keep it independent and in control of small users, we need to pursue sites like Micro.Blog. Sites that are not cynical about the user.

So let the experiment begin.