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 terms and conditions, 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 to social media platforms, we’ve already introduced some of the biggest and best-known social networks 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 the Facebook Newsfeed algorithms decide exactly what you do and don’t see. Another problem is personalised 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 decentralisation. 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 an estimated 750,000 registered users, Diaspora is certainly only a very small drop in the ocean compared to Facebook. But its decentralised 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
✔ Decentralised system  

Ello

Since its founding in 2012, the operators of Ello have adapted the network: initially they want to establish Ello as an ad-free alternative to Facebook and other social platforms. Now, its goal audience has been decreased a bit. The platform focuses predominantly on designers and photographers.

With Ello, there’s absolutely no forwarding of user data for advertising purposes and that isn’t likely to change. The platform is financed through partnerships with companies and sales: artists can sell their artworks on the platform. There’s no official data about the number of users currently on the Ello network, but it’s estimated at around one million registered users, although the number of active users is assumed to be relatively low.

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 registered users. 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. 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

Vero

An exciting Facebook alternative that was released in 2015, but has only recently seen a huge influx of new users, is the social network Vero.At the beginning of March 2018, for example, CEO Ayman Harari, worth billions of euros, announced an increase of more than three million users, after Vero had previously been a relatively niche app with around 200,000 active members. Not only effective influencer campaigns played an important role, but also the current offer of free lifetime membership won users over. The app, which is available for iOS, and Android, might only be available with a paid annual subscription in the future. However, the offer has been initially extended until further notice.

The annual fee, however, is intended to help out the developing company, Vero Labs, by being its main source of income. The idea is for the platform to remain free of advertising in the long run and not to share any user information to make a profit. In addition, the company generates revenue through transaction fees that merchants have to pay when selling products through Vero and implementing the ‘buy now’ button.

Although Vero is similar in many respects to competitors such as Facebook and Instagram (profile, structure, timeline, news feed), the platform offers some interesting unique selling points: The messages in the timeline are not pre-filtered by an algorithm, but appear in chronological order. Contacts can also be divided into four categories: ‘followers’, ‘acquaintances’, ‘friends’, and ‘close friends’. These groups can then be selected or deselected as the target group when a post is published, so that only the desired audience is informed.

To create and verify a Vero account, a private telephone number has to be entered.

Advantages Disadvantages
Unfiltered, chronologically sorted timeline Private telephone number required
Ad-free Fee-based in the future

Clubhouse

A mix of Messenger and podcast: The Clubhouse app attracts users through innovative features and the promise of exclusivity. The platform is based on the use of audio. While Facebook relies on images and text, Clubhouse lets users talk to one another. Users can open their own chat rooms to focus on a specific topic. They can moderate discussions or talk events with others. Listeners can raise a virtual hand and are allowed to speak using their smartphone’s microphone if a moderator permits them to.

The app was originally designed for business chats among Silicon Valley employees. Since then, the breadth of topics on the app has expanded enormously. This is in part driven by influencers who are invited to the platform to launch their own chat rooms. In the US, celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and Kevin Hart have already joined the app. In Germany, several TV stars and politicians are already using the app.

Besides its VIP members, it’s the artificial shortening and consequently FOMO which has generated massive interest in Clubhouse. You can only become a member of the network if you’re invited by another user. Its developers have announced that they plan to roll out the app for other devices soon.

Besides the elitist approach, data security has been criticised on the app: users of the app are required to grant access to their private phone book. This means third-party data is being shared with other services. It’s not yet clear whether Clubhouse adheres to principles set out in the GDPR.

In order to protect your privacy, the video will not load until you click on it.

Advantages Disadvantages
✔ innovative approach ✘ sign-up only after invite
✔ possibility for discussions on broad range of topics ✘ only available for iOS right now
✘ data security concerns

Reddit

The so-called social news aggregator  Reddit is an established alternative to Facebook, without ripping off some other heavyweights. The way it works is simple: users share content which can be up-voted or down-voted by others. This promotes interesting content while boring pieces quickly disappear. One incentive for this are Karma points. Users with a higher number of these virtual points are more respected across the platform.

The website is divided into sub-forums – so-called Subreddits. In terms of categories, Subreddits can be found for almost any topic of interest. From memes to popular culture to business to politics – users can exchange views on anything. Typical social media features like adding friends are not a feature of Reddit. Users do not have to join using their real names. They can sign up with any username of their choice; adding an email address is optional. The network has already enjoyed huge popularity in the US.

Advantages Disadvantages
✔ users do not have to use their real name to sign up ✘ few common social media functions
✔ various topics  

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 1.7 billion daily active users Personalised 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 750,000 registered users Ad-free Data can be hosted externally and privately on a private server
Ello 2014 Around one million registered users Ad-free No personal data is given to ad operators
Vero 2015 Around five million registered users Ad-free No personal data is passed onto third parties; Private telephone number required
Clubhouse 2020 Over 600,000 registered users - App accesses private contacts and may not be GDPR-compliant
Reddit 2005 52 million active daily users Personalised ads can be deactivated No personal data required

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