We humans are social creatures. It’s probably the main reason we became so dominant on this planet so it’s hardly surprising we are trying to cast our social nets out into the unfathomable new digital landscape. But is the hyper-connectivity we get with the internet eroding our humanity? Are we unwittingly becoming just a vast marketing and consumption engine put into play by multi-billion dollar corporations?
Of course you don’t have to read the terms and conditions on most social sites to know they are going to be cashing in on your data. They have shareholders to please and salaries to pay and as harsh as it sounds, if you’re not paying for something you’re not a customer so you don’t really have the right to complain. Luckily (because most people don’t read the terms and conditions) there is a growing archive of notable points in most mainstream services terms at TOSDR.org. So you can see for yourself quickly what rights you’re giving away by clicking ‘I Agree’.
One network that’s aiming to disrupt this space right now is Ello. It’s set itself up as an ad-free social platform that promises never to sell your data. Here is the manifesto posted on thier site:
Every post you share, every friend you make and every link you follow is tracked, recorded and converted into data. Advertisers buy your data so they can show you more ads. You are the product that’s bought and sold.
We believe there is a better way. We believe in audacity. We believe in beauty, simplicity and transparency. We believe that the people who make things and the people who use them should be in partnership.
We believe a social network can be a tool for empowerment. Not a tool to deceive, coerce and manipulate — but a place to connect, create and celebrate life.
You are not a product.
Very 1984. A browse around the public beta profiles shows a platform with promise though – it’s amazing how uncluttered a page looks with no advertising. It’s in invitation only beta right now and I’m still waiting for mine, but if it manages to build a network, fast, I’d say this site has potential as long as you can persuade all your friends to move with you (big ask). Right now it’s 100% free but reading the FAQs they’re planning to add ‘special features’ which you’ll have to pay for to keep forever, so essentially making this a freemium financial model. Whether that breaks the appeal of the website will depend entirely on whether it becomes unusable if you don’t pay for the upgrades.
Personally, I don’t have too much of a problem with some of my data being sold to pay for the free stuff I enjoy online. Convenience over conscience every day, right? In fact it’s hardwired into the human brain to use the least possible cognitive power to perform a task in order to conserve energy. One interesting new site is 100% with me on this and wants to charge through the nose for advertisers to take a look inside my digital life – but they also want to split the money they make doing this with me.
Tsu is in closed beta right now and you can’t get in without an invitation from someone already inside, which makes it criminally hard to access I’m discovering this week. The site has no contact link either, although I have tracked down emails for the developers… but as yet, no reply. It’s beginning to make me wonder what they are hiding, and how a site built on a financial model reliant on lots of people viewing the pages, can beta test itself on a closed network that hardly anyone can view.
Regardless this is one I will keep an eye on. If they pull it off it could completely change the way we perceive social media; being financially rewarded for staying in touch with our friends and family, and occasionally buying a novelty can opener we didn’t really need through an ad-words banner.