by Geoff Gillette
There has been a lot of discussion and speculation about a mass exodus from Facebook in the wake of their ongoing Naming Policy debacle, with many people jumping ship for that scrappy new upstart Ello. But is the rumored exodus actually happening and is it all because of this burgeoning culture war spiraling out of the naming fiasco?
The simple answers are Yes and Not Really
So who’s leaving and where the heck are they going?
While it is true that a great many people initially sought out one of the coveted “invites” from Ello, and at one point Ello was reportedly getting 40,000 profile requests per hour, the truth is that Facebook has been hemorrhaging users for a while now. Time Magazine, ABC News and Mashable were all reporting over a year ago that younger users were bailing out long before anyone ever heard a peep about the naming policy.
Facebook is aware of this “age drain” and they’ve taken steps to make sure that they can still monetize that age group even if it isn’t through Facebook. The $1 Billion dollar acquisition of Instagram or the $19 Billion buyout of Whatsapp show that the crew in Menlo Park have no interest in sitting on their laurels when there are dollars to be made.
So Facebook has been losing users, primarily in the younger demographic, but this recent mess has seen more people searching for alternatives like Ello.
Where are they going?
For the younger users, they are going to sites like Instagram and Snapchat, partially for the rapid-fire nature of communication on those venues but also because of the illusion of privacy. It is also in keeping with the way younger users are communicating. Less long-winded status updates and more quick pics of whatever happens to catch their attention at that moment. Ticked off about something? Take an “Angry Selfie” and Instagram it with #Ihatethisrandomthing. Then you move on to the next one.
Others are looking to replace Facebook, with something that lets them post anonymously, speaking their minds on whatever they want. So sites like Yik Yak, Reddit and Ask.fm have seen their numbers rise. While these aren’t strictly social networks by the same yardstick as Facebook or Twitter, they allow users to communicate with each other, post pictures and interact to a degree.
Of course there’s Ello, which has been billed as the “Anti-Facebook.” It lets you use whatever name you like, you can post whatever the heck you want (within limits) and you don’t have to stare at any ads or deal with algorithms controlling what posts you see, or have to pay money to promote your posts so that others can see them (blame it on the algorithms…that’s what I do).
Then you have this clever idea to build social networks by taking some of the monetization away from Facebook and putting it in your pocket. Tsu was recently profiled on Venturebeat, which talked about how users can build, organize and maintain their own social networks and get paid for it. The idea being that when you join you are given a code that you can give out to get others on your social network.
As you generate social content any revenues that are created go partially to Tsu and partially to you.
With all those choices and with people supposedly leaving Facebook in droves, why isn’t Facebook broke? Shouldn’t everyone’s newsfeeds look like a scene out of High Plains Drifter, with tumbleweeds and coyotes running down the middle of the street?
Therein lies the crux of the problem. Many people will leave Facebook, but their families, their friends, their co-workers don’t. So suddenly a person who yesterday had 500 people they were connected to, whose posts, updates and videos they followed, is in the hinterlands.
The people who are leaving are finding themselves cut off because all those people they invited to join them on Ello didn’t want to bother creating a new profile, or can’t figure out how to use the shortcode to join your new network on Tsu.
They’re like that guy who hates the Big City and decides to chuck it all and go live in Alaska “off the grid.” They buy themselves a little cabin out in the wilderness, get in, get settled, let out that big sigh of relief from being away from it all. Then the realization sets in…they are away from it all. Cue howling wolf sound out in the distance and you get the whole picture.
And let’s not even go into all of the things that are still wrong with Ello and the very strong probability that in order to make money at some point they’re going to be asking you for money in some way, shape or form. Or that while they don’t have ads (right now) they also don’t have a lot of functionality. This Buzzfeed video does a pretty good job of visualizing Ello in its current state.
The depressing bottom line if you are a Facebook hater is that, at least in the short term, it’s going to be a somewhat lonely road. If you’re a celebrity or have a fan page and want to start afresh somewhere else, you can’t count on all your followers coming with you. Barring either some major shift in the social media universe or a major screw-up on the part of Facebook, the social media giant may indeed be too big to fail.
So, if you’re going to leave Facebook (assuming you’re not going total social media blackout and finding that cabin in the Alaska woods) where will you go? Let us know in the comments!