Our time's pretty much all hogged up between Facebook and Twitter, but that isn't stopping ex-MySpace Music CTO Dmitry Shapiro from forming a new social network built around enhanced privacy controls for users — a problem Facebook always slams into with every new major update. The question is, is that enough for a switch?
Shapiro thinks it's enough. According to him, Facebook's expansion across the web through its "Like" and "Facebook Connect" comment ID is corroding our right to privacy. The reason he's building a new social network is because "our privacy, our personal information, our digital lives are being subjugated for the sake of profit, without us having any meaningful capability to opt out, or even know the extent of such activity."
The only real barrier stopping people from leaving Facebook is that there's no real alternative to it. With a new social network focused on privacy, Shapiro is hoping to restore the data people choose to share back to well, the people. The man has his work cut out infront of him, as it might be a little too late — Facebook is already everywhere, as he admits.
Avid Facebook users will know what I'm talking about here. Facebook updates the social network with new features and suddenly things that we've opted out of are public again. After complaining about it on Twitter for hours on end, we finally head on over to the privacy settings and manually check off what we don't want to share — again.
If we really cared about privacy, why don't we just quit Facebook all together? After all, that's what Shapiro's start-up, tentatively called "Altly," is banking on.
The answer about why we stay is quite simple, right? Because all of our friends are still on it.
Who seriously wants to hit the reset button? We've spent years uploading millions of photos, writing tons of cynical jokes on our friend's walls, poking people to death and playing way too much FarmVille that simply moving over to a new social network that may offer more clear-cut privacy settings isn't enough reason to make the switch.
For the same reason users still cling onto their spam-laden AOL and Hotmail accounts, we stick with Facebook because it's familiar. Sure, Gmail and Yahoo! Mail are way more streamlined and provide smarter interfaces, but those folks don't care; for most of us, switching is like moving into a new home — it's time consuming and hard to justify when you've been settled for years.
I've just convinced my aunts and uncles to use Facebook to stay in touch, I'm not going to tell them to try another social network. I understand it's a little scary to feel that Facebook owns all our data, but guess what? Google does too, as I have tons of private stuff stashed in Gmail as well.
The bottom line is, we give up privacy for functionality. If Shapiro's Altly (man, we hope that name doesn't stick around) can provide an experience that is leaps and bounds ahead of Facebook and deliver on its promise of transparent privacy settings, then it's possible it might fair better than MySpace did, but I'm willing to bet people will see it, hear about it, and shrug it off. Reason?
That invite for that party I want to attend on Saturday night is on Facebook.