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What are the best alternatives to Facebook?

Are you on the hunt for a good Facebook alternative? While it may seem like a daunting task, you can rest assured you’re not alone. Whether it’s because of hidden AGBs, data protection issues, or platform rules and regulations – the reasons for finding an alternative to Facebook are common and more and more users are looking to avoid the Californian social media giant. The market for similar networks is massive, and there’s a large selection of platforms ready to accept Facebook’s digital refugees. In our guide, we’ve already introduced some of the biggest and most important social media platforms around.

But regardless of whether you’re using Twitter, Instagram, or Google+: Awareness and consideration about privacy and data protection are also important factors in choosing to use any of the other social media giants. One common complaint targeted specifically at Facebook is that that Facebook Newsfeed algorithms decide exactly what you do and don’t see. Another problem is personalized advertising, which is of course only possible through accessing and interpreting personal user data. As you can see: the list of criticisms for the social network market leader is long. So it’s good news that there are a few other alternatives to Facebook on the market. Some of these Facebook alternatives offer less advertising, others offer improved data protection, and some even offer extended functions and features that aren’t currently available for Facebook customers.

Diaspora

The platform Diaspora is a social world online that puts your data back in your own hands, according to its own slogan. Its range of functions is similar to those of Facebook. Users can publish status updates, share posts and images, and comment on other people’s posts. And just like on Facebook, you can control who gets to see your own posts as well. Diaspora uses hashtags to order posts, meaning that you can use these to find like-minded people who share your interests. Linking Diaspora to your Facebook profile is also possible, and the software has its own chat function. Diaspora is also an open source project.

One of the main features that Diaspora prides itself on is its decentralization. This is to do with its technical background: the platform consists of many different networks, known as pods. User data isn’t collected and stored centrally by the provider, instead the infrastructure is distributed by users themselves, with data carried by these so-called pods. If you have good technical know-how, you can actually operate your own pod, which essentially functions as a server. This means that you can be certain that your private data remains private and in your own hands. Less technically gifted users can use ‘open pods’ in the network instead.

With a little over 60,000 new users joining in the past 6 months, Diaspora is certainly only a very small drop in the ocean compared to Facebook. But its decentralized system and the control over your own data that comes with it makes Diaspora a definite option for users concerned about data protection. Lastly, Diaspora is completely ad-free.

Advantages Disadvantages
✔ Secure alternative to Facebook ✘ Prior programming knowledge required for managing your own pod
✔ Full control over private data ✘ Relatively few active users
✔ Decentralized system  

Ello

Since its founding in 2012, the operators of Ello have taken on a challenging task: they want to establish Ello as the leading, ad-free alternative to Facebook and other social platforms. This means that they’ll avoid personalized advertising at all costs. With Ello, there’s absolutely no forwarding of user data for advertising purposes and that isn’t likely to change. The platform is financed by a freemium model that involves the exchange of individual functions for small payments. There’s no official data about the number of users currently on the Ello network, but various sources range from 1.5 million to 4 million registered users, although the number of active users is assumed to be relatively low.

When it comes to searching for additional sources of income to finance the project, Ello’s creators are rather creative: they have plans to begin generating revenue through user transactions carried out on their network – so by taking a commission on CD sales, for example. One of Ello’s principles is that its users aren’t obliged to use their real names, which had previously been the case at Facebook and caused outrage. When it first started out, Ello was a closed network, only accessible through an invitation to join from a registered user. This has since been relaxed, and today Ello is available for all interested parties. Critics of the site claim that Ello can’t really be considered a true Facebook alternative because it’s lacking many of the basic functions required to compete. For example, private communication between users via a chat box function is currently not possible. Ello’s focus instead is on high-quality content for all to see, making it an excellent environment for artists and photographers. Users from creative backgrounds are often attracted by Ello’s simple, minimalistic design, leaving lots of space for user posts to shine.

Advantages Disadvantages
✔ No advertising from user data ✘ Limited reach
✔ No requirement to use your real name ✘ Only rudimentary functions at present

EyeEm

The photo application from EyeEm, a startup based in Berlin, is less of a direct Facebook alternative. But its clear focus on images makes it a definite alternative to Facebook-owned Instagram and other networks that feature a lot of visual content. The photo app is available for iOS and Android and can also be accessed via your browser.

According to sources at the company, the app currently has around 18 million users (Figures accurate as of June 2016). The platform is growing, collecting big investments and extending its functions and features on a regular basis. Its basic idea is the same as Instagram’s: EyeEm is a platform made for sharing photos. Snapshots and professional images can be uploaded and then shared with the community on EyeEm and other linked networks – with a range of different filters and editing tools to add that extra star quality.

One feature that’s specific to the business model for EyeEm is that users can offer their own photos voluntarily on the startup’s marketplace. EyeEm sells these images with stock licenses to Getty Images and other purchasers. Users then receive a share of the revenue generated. This means that EyeEm isn’t just a platform for displaying images – you can make money from them too. And it’s not just an incentive for the user to post as high-quality photographic content as possible: the social network itself requires this in order to finance its business through advertising.

As a Berlin startup, EyeEm has to follow German data protection laws, which are stricter than those in the USA. And the user-friendly presentation of data protection information on the network has also received great praise: Users have access to the full terms and conditions of the data uploaded to the site and how it will/won’t be used, but they also receive a simple, comprehensible summary of this.

Advantages Disadvantages
✔ Good alternative to the large image networks ✘ Smaller reach than Instagram
✔ A potentially lucrative business model for users ✘ Not possible to share images privately
✔ customer-friendly explanation of data protection  
✔ Conforms to stricter data protection laws than in the USA  

Path

Path is a good Facebook alternative for users who care less about a large community and instead place far more value on having a selective friendship group to keep in contact with. At first, the number of friends per profile on the platform was actually limited to 150 contacts (though this has since been lifted). The app is available for iOS and Android.

The basic functions on Path are pretty similar to those on Facebook: you can share posts, photos, and videos. You can also show your friends the music you’re currently listening to, the TV series’ you’re following and of course your current mood. You can also exchange private messages with friends. Path is often thought of as an intimate, personal network. But unfortunately, it has had some struggles with data protection issues in the past. The most recent of these was an unfortunate incident in 2013 when the company was found to have stored data belonging to minors. Since then, the Path has been forced to have its privacy policy checked every two years and has recently promised users that it will no longer store any personal data on its servers.

Path works via a form of freemium model: users can unlock different filters and stickers on Path Premium for a small fee. According to sources, Path has around 30 million users, the majority of whom are from Indonesia. In the last year, Path was taken over by Daum Kakao, and the company now operates many of its features, including its leading messaging service, from South Korea.

Advantages Disadvantages
✔ Good usability ✘ Strong criticisms about its approach to data protection in the past
✔ Attractive interface with many functions  

The best alternatives to Facebook: an overview

Facebook has been and remains the undisputed king of the social network market. Granted, in some regions of the world, like Russia or China for example, there is a more level playing field with the success of popular alternatives to Facebook who take an equal market share. But for the most part, Facebook is the worldwide leader when it comes to social interaction online. If you’re using the platform, you’ve got no choice but to accept the network’s settings on privacy and data protection and live with them. If you don’t want to do this, then you’ll have to find a good alternative to Facebook – and either convince all of your friends, family, colleagues, and acquaintances to join you, or be prepared for the fact that your online friendship circle will be significantly reduced (to begin with at least).

  Founded in Users Advertising Data protection
Facebook 2004 Around 1.65 billion active users Personalized advertising Facebook’s constant troubles with data protection and claims to a lack of paid tax have damaged its reputation greatly in recent years. It openly admits to using user information to run targeted advertising campaigns, and it gives users the option to hand their Facebook data on to other third parties in exchange for faster registration on external sites
Diaspora 2010 Around 60,000 active users Ad-free Data can be hosted externally and privately on a private server
Ello 2014 No official data figures, estimates of between 1.5 and 4 million registered users Ad-free No personal data is given to ad operators
EyeEM 2011 Around 18 million users Ad-free. Users can (voluntarily) offer their own photos on the site’s stock photo marketplace for a share in the revenue Terms and conditions of data protection conform to stricter German laws because the startup is based in Germany
Path 2010 Around 30 million users Personalized advertising Recurring issues with data protection have left Path heavily criticized in the public eye. New policies promise to change this

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