"If you don't see the product, the product is you"
It's difficult to find a better way to
describe how Facebook works. As its reign of domination continues,
it has become increasingly clear that the Social Media giant's real
customers are the advertisers. The users, you, me and Joe
Bloggs, are the products that Facebook sells. Not only that,
but we have also become a very large batch of test rats with
Facebook performing a number
of social experiments on its users.
Unfortunately for Facebook, Joe Bloggs
is starting to cotton onto this behaviour and
it's not going down so well. Not only are people getting fed up
of their newsfeeds being cluttered and bombarded with "targeted"
adverts (I continually get adverts for 'mum' products and the
last time I checked I certainly didn't have any children), but
people are becoming more concerned with how their data is getting
stored and used, and how secure it really is.
This drop in confidence for Facebook
has provided a small opening for a new Social Network and Ello has
been making the most of it.
The increased demand from users to cut
out the ads and quit the data interrogation has been reflected in
"Ello is a simple, beautiful and ad-free Social Network…Ello
doesn't sell ads. Nor do we sell data about you to third
This exclusive Social Networking site
(you have to either be invited by somebody you know already on Ello
to join or you can buy an
invite on eBay for upwards of $5,000) is all about simplicity,
design, sophistication and trying to give people what they want - a
clean space to talk without having to worry about how secure this
talking is. However, Ello isn't the first Social Network to try the
ad-free idea. Both Diaspora and App.net failed to catch on and it
is unclear as to how Ello will make any money. Without a
business model it will be hard to find willing investors.
However, whether Ello works or not in
the long term isn't the point here. The number of people that
have been willing to give a very new Social Network that is still
in its beta stages a chance (45,000 people signing up per hour at
one point) should make the Social Giants such as Facebook and
Twitter sit up and take notice. Although many of us won't bother
leaving, primarily because it's too much effort to start from
square one again, by paying attention to what people actually want,
Social Media sites will help increase overall user activity.
Instead of creating data paranoia
within their users, indicating what data is going to be used and
who will be using it would go a long way in restoring confidence in
these networking sites. By being more transparent, perhaps
users would be more willing to share their data. Similarly, by
making privacy more of an automatic right for users, rather than
something they have to search for and
consciously change and implement, perhaps people would be
willing to share more freely. A win-win situation for
Rather than the acquiring and selling
of this data being some unknown dark entity, Social Media sites
should make it something consumers can be rewarded for and benefit
from through willingly sharing. Granted, sometimes their
advertising targeting goes wrong (nope, sorry Facebook, I still
don't have any children), but if it's necessary to have so many
adverts, surely it's preferable to be "bombarded" with adverts that
are relevant to you based upon data that you have willingly
provided, as opposed to completely irrelevant campaigns?
Another option would be for users to
pay for the use of a Social Media site without the ads and the data
collecting. We have been reminded yet again this week that any
(official) hint of Facebook charging membership fees would be faced
utter outrage, but perhaps by allowing users the option to pay
or not would be better received. As opposed to either everybody not
paying or everybody paying, perhaps they could take a leaf out of
brands such as Spotify, with a free version including ads and data
collection and a premium, paid version where people feel secure and
confident that not only is their data safe but they can also avoid
all those targeting adverts.