Minds.com: The Fall of the House of Facebook?
Can anyone take down Twitter or Facebook? Could any rival become powerful enough to displace the great internet and social media giants? We don’t know, but if anyone can topple them, it may be Minds.com.
Bill Ottman, the CEO of Minds.com, is laboring ferociously to displace the social media incumbents and help us communicate more freely, without censorship or loss of privacy. He wants to see the social web decentralized.
To this end, Ottman founded Minds as an open-source distributed social network. Minds bills itself as “anti-surveillance”, “anti-censorship”, “anti-shadowbanning”, and “anti-big tech”. The new platform seeks to keep any one party from controlling anyone’s online activity or presence.
The need for something like Minds.com has long been obvious. Twitter and Facebook have often been abusive,. Not only do they violate user privacy, they often block, delete, or ‘shadowban’ content for political reasons.
Ottman explained why he believes a new social network is necessary. “We started Minds in my basement”, he said, “after being disillusioned by user abuse on Facebook and other big tech services. We saw spying, data mining, algorithm manipulation, and no revenue sharing. To us, it seems inevitable that an open source social network becomes dominant, as was the case with Wikipedia and proprietary encyclopedias.“
The new social platform is almost the polar opposite of Facebook. The code for Minds is entirely open source, its messenger services are encrypted, and users can opt for anonymity. Ottman’s goal is that the data will be decentralized, and any user can remove or edit his own data.
Minds.com is developing some traction. Ottman cited a huge influx of Vietnamese users in June 2018, after Vietnam enacted an invasive ‘cybersecurity’ law. Under the law, the state would have unchecked access to User data on Google, Facebook, and other social platforms which have cooperated with the state. And the new network had over a million registered users as of April 2018, and over 105,000 active monthly users.
Ottman insists that his platform is not meant to promote anyone’s ideology. “We are not pushing a political agenda”, he said. “We are more concerned with transparency, internet freedom, and giving back control to the user. It’s a sad state of affairs when every network that cares about free speech gets lumped in with extremists.”
Ottman was apparently referring here to media criticism of GAB, which has been called a racist platform simply because a few white supremacist groups have used it. In Ottman’s view, alternative social media don’t have to become dominated by bigots or extremists. If enough mainstream users will sign on, the riff-raff will fade into the background, and he wants to make sure this happens with Minds.com.
Displacing Twitter and Facebook would be an extraordinarily difficult project.. Ottman believes, though, that his approach is assured of success. “I believe it is inevitable that an open-source solution will rise to the top”, he says, “whether that’s us or a federation of decentralized networks cooperating.”
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