The past two weeks have been rough for Facebook. Some are deleting their accounts in protest of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, while others are decrying the death of social media, likening its effect on us to sugar or smoking.
But online socializing isn’t inherently bad for us, and just because many are migrating away from one company doesn’t mean that social media will disappear entirely. Instead, Facebook’s attention capture will unbundle into different companies that will satisfy different parts of our brains.
I have been keenly observing the rise of alternative social-media platforms. If you’re looking to make the switch, here are some new platforms that exist today.
If you’re just looking for a straight-up replacement rather than a new kind of experience, here are some of the platforms you could try out.
Vero. This is an Instagram alternative that topped 3 million downloads recently. The growth stemmed from users’ frustration with Instagram’s non-chronological feed. Since then, its founder Ayman Hariri has come under scrutiny for labor practices, and I’d imagine retention has been tough. Its rapid ascension shows that people are hungry to explore something new.
Mastodon.social. Much like Vero was a reaction to Instagram, Mastodon is an open-source alternative to Twitter that has tripled users in the past year. In addition to diverging from Twitter’s features, it also enables the creation of private communities, which I suspect will be a key component of the future
Musical.ly. This is a popular lip-syncing app that was acquired by Toutiao for a reported $1 billion. When you try it out, you’ll find a plethora of creative and funny videos, like the early days of YouTube.
YouTube. YouTube videos used to be links you found on Facebook. In 2012, YouTube made a small tweak to its recommendation system, and everything changed. Watch time grew 50% a year for the next three years, making it a real destination, and it’s only getting started. Over time, I believe YouTube will become the most important Google property, surpassing search.
Many companies in this category are fundamentally media properties, but unlike the incumbents, they’re aren’t just about content: They’re going to use the building blocks of social-networking software (like a software company would use a database) to build real community.
Tingles. ASMR (Autonomous sensory meridian response) is physiological phenomenon where certain soft sounds produce physical feelings of pleasure. Instead of happening upon them in the wild, a genre of videos has been designed to trigger these positive, euphoric feelings. 20 million people regularly watch ASMR videos to relax, so Tingles is building a Netflix for ASMR, since YouTube isn’t optimized for it.
Caffeine. Caffeine is like Twitch on steroids. It makes it very easy for anyone to broadcast the video game they’re playing, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they broadened over time to other domains. Given the growth of mobile presence, synchronous (live) experiences are becoming interesting again.
Peloton. The unicorn fitness company has built a decentralized SoulCycle community. Riders have messianic levels of admiration of the instructors, and it has an incredibly active and supportive community (on FB Groups today, but could easily be ported without any loss of retention). It’s a non-traditional example of what an online community can look like.
NewTV. Meg Whitman (the former CEO of HP) and Jeremy Katzenberg (the former chairman of Disney) are starting “Hollywood-style, short-form videos for mobile use.” It’s like Netflix, but only for short-form videos.
Anchor. Anchor makes it really easy for anyone to start a podcast, and it has a lot of unique material as a result.
Much of Facebook’s unbundling will go into messaging groups and apps. Those who deleted their Facebook account will probably just start using WhatsApp more, but there are some other platforms worth noting:
Telegram. The messaging app has developed a strong following in both Russia and the cryptocurrency community. It’s probably the closest thing I’ve seen to a second coming of internet relay chatrooms (IRC), which are the large active chat rooms of the 1990s. Like IRC, it suffers from a discoverability problem: There’s no great way to find new channels. I presume that will get fixed over time.
Discord. What started as a gaming chat service has become consumer Slack for different Reddit communities. Like Telegram, the discovery of new channels isn’t great, but the community has built a directory.
Houseparty. Houseparty is a group FaceTime app that’s gone through several waves of popularity. It suffers from the “chin problem” all mobile video conferencing has: You’d never take a photo of your face from below, but that’s the perspective you hold the phone in when you use it. I suspect this problem is solvable through clever use of technology.
Disclosure: Y Combinator has invested in Reddit and Tingles.