Oct1

A New Era for Social Media?

Posted by Sarah Holt

Grant McMaster questions whether social media is facing a sea of change…

Social media, it’s the pastime of the decade, occupying hours of waking time for people of all ages.

Status, standing and group validation for life choices and activities are sought for and received through the vicarious clicking of a ‘Like’ button, but what’s the price?

Social networks like Facebook must support their vast data centers, running costs and staff salaries, not to mention the bonuses paid to founders and shareholders. And the way they do that is by selling the most valuable commodity they have.

That commodity is you. Or to be more specific, the vast amount of data that you generate. This data is mined and exploited in numerous ways and it’s valuable to every single company out there on the web.

The data that users of social media generate shows their political leanings, religious beliefs, daily habits, where they work and what they do, what they eat and what they think.This data is immensely useful to marketing companies, retailers, governments and academics but there’s a question that isn’t adequately addressed.

Just who owns it?

Social media sites believe that they own the data. Many include their statement of ownership and intention to sell your data as part of the sign up process. Yeah, that’s right the bit that you agreed to without reading.

Not many people minded this initially, but add in a certain level of unscrupulous manipulation of people’s news feeds as part of a secret social experiment, an algorithm that chooses for you what you get to read, and the enforcement of the use of real names amongst certain users who run a very real risk from using their real names, there’s a problem.

And it’s this problem that has led to the development of a new breed of social network that includes sites like Ello.

Ello is a private social network. So private that you’ll need an invite to become part of it, and it offers what it claims is a complete opt-out of data mining and exploitation. It seems to have caught the imagination of the public.

The appeal of Ello’s approach to the public lies in offering to respect their privacy and desires and treat them as individuals and not a mindless commodity to be profited from and tinkered with.

That appeal has seen the small team behind the scenes struggling to cope with an influx of Invitation Requests to join the network that reports indicate has topped 50,000 an hour.

Some have labelled it a ‘Facebook Killer’ and it very well could be, although that wouldn’t be immediate.

The Internet has trends, with the general public following the herd to the next best thing. It happened to Myspace, and perhaps it’s now happening to Facebook, but even at a rate of fifty thousand applications an hour it would take around three years for all of Facebook’s members to migrate to the site, and many simply won’t.

Ello won’t be entirely free, and that’s literally the price to pay for privacy. It’s likely that a single account will remain free, but people wanting to have multiple linked accounts will have to pay a premium, as will companies seeking to have a presence.

Ello is intriguing, but it’s not the first alternative to Facebook that’s appeared in recent years and only time will tell if it truly has the potential to take on the behemoth that Facebook has become.

Apply for your invite here.

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