Reducing virality, increase privacy and trust

Platform shift in social networking

The other day, Ben Evans wrote a post “Microsoft, Facebook, trust and privacy” on the parallels between Microsoft’s virus problem and Facebook’s viral toxic campaigns problem. It is worth a read.

As usual, Ben makes very astute observations and sound conclusions. But let’s read between the lines a little:
– The impact of using viruses as an attack vector was reduced because we shifted to data storage and access from the PC platform to the cloud.
– Instead of Microsoft fixing the whole problem, the world fixed the problem for them (mostly).
– If you abolish the Facebook Newsfeed, you will not be confronted with viral toxic campaigns which is today’s attack vector for influencing public opinion.

initially, when confronted with a crisis people tend to look from WYSIATI point of view. This is the point where Microsoft decided to harden its software and the world to offer virus scanners.

But we ended up with cloud software. This rendered the virus attack vector mostly useless, but also solved the PC management issue in corporations. No more need to manage and update hundreds of applications across a large workforce. As long as they have a browser, it just works.

If I have to bet on social media or networks, I would expect a similar shift. Maybe Facebook can do it on their own, maybe something else will pop up. Virality made Facebook grow, but Facebook does not have to grow anymore. They are certainly in a position to reduce the virality on their platform without impacting their bottom line or growth.

If we do look at history than unbundling Facebook is probably the direction we are heading to. Instead of one company “owning” social media or networking, we are going to see hundreds of specialized niche social networks. Small groups are naturally better at keeping toxic behavior at bay which solves the moderation problem. Without a single monolithic platform, it is impossible to use virality as a distribution mechanism.

Maybe Facebook will unbundle itself, maybe someone else builds a “Shopify” for social networks. The future will tell.

The platforms of the many turn into platforms of the few

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