Bye, Google Plus

Social Network Journey for Google Plus replacement

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In case you don’t know, I am an avid Google+ user. On 8th October, 2018, Google announced to close Google+ around Summer 2019. The company revealed that Google+ has low usage and engagement — 90 percent of Google+ user sessions are less than five seconds. And most important, there was a security flaw which exposed users’ profile data. As seasoned Google+ users, we know Google+ is no way close to Facebook. We just enjoy staying in a small town. But after the Google’s announcement, we realize the small town will turn into a ghost town eventually. It is a wake-up call for us to find a new town. So I have started my new social network journey among different “next-generation social networks”.

Journey to the Net

First things first, it is a journey for Google+ replacement, not Facebook replacement. As of current date (October, 2018), Facebook is still too big to be replaced. It is just like Thanos in <Infinity War>.

As long as one man stands against you, Thanos, you’ll never be able to claim victory

Do you remember the tbh app? Facebook acquired the company in October 2017 and 9 months later, they shut down the app, as easy as Thanos snapping his finger.

Thanos' snap

During my journey on different social networks, I short list following 5 platforms that interest me most.

1. MeWe

Social Network: MeWe

The major selling point of MeWe is their privacy policy. They claim you own your content, no ads, no filtering, no data tracking, no data mining and no facial recognition. Yes, it is obvious that they are targeting Facebook’s “evil business model”. Besides their privacy policy (although it sounds no good from data scientist’s prospective :]] ), they have a nice UI and many groups for different topics. You can mainly join those groups without adding people on your contact. Since MeWe will not control / manipulate user’s content, it is definitely a good place for family members sharing content in their own group.

We go to another aspect, as MeWe is a private company and there is no ads and data selling, then how does MeWe make money? Subscription. Registering and posting on MeWe are all free, every user has his/her MeWe cloud to store his/her content in 8GB limit. You can subscribe and pay to increase your cloud size. They also provide a MeWePRO account which contains features like full encryption chat and Google Drive and Office 365 integration.

2. Mastodon

Social Network: Mastodon

Mastodon is a Twitter-clone and decentralized social network, that means all user info and contents are stored in different independent servers around the globe. Then those servers connect with each others to form the whole Mastodon network. Your contents are stored in one of those servers, if you don’t like the moderator on the server you have registered in, you can move to another one or even host your own server and connect to Mastodon network.

Since Mastodon is an open-source project and anyone can deploy his/her own “instance” (i.e. server), there is no ads targeting users at all.

3. diaspora*

Social Network: diaspora

The diaspora* project is another decentralized network like Mastodon. It is open source, no tracking, no ads and all about freedom. So you can expect crazy people with crazy postings there :]] .  While Mastodon is a Twitter-clone, diaspora* is more like a Facebook alternative as you can post as many as 65,535 characters. Like the “groups” use case in MeWe, you can follow your interested “tags” in diaspora*. So you can “see what you want to see” there.

Once again, diaspora* is an open source project and there is no business model.

4. Minds

Social Network: Minds

Other than the machine learning topic that we always talk about in CodeAStar, there is another red hot topic that we haven’t mentioned so far — the blockchain technology. Minds is a blockchain backed social network, users’ contribution in the network is rewarded by “Minds token”. Minds token is an Ethereum utility token, which means you cannot trade it to money directly, but you can use it to operate certain actions in Minds network, such as “boosting” (promoting) your content to gain more viewer. The mastermind behind Minds is Bill Ottman, a free speech advocate. Thus users can experience no censorship, no data mining, fairness and transparency social platform.

Please keep in mind that Minds is a private company, it still needs to make money. They sell Minds token for users to boost their contents, get commissions from user pay-to-subscribe groups and offer a paid membership to filter any boosted content.

5. Sola


Besides Minds, there is another blockchain backed social network, Sola. Sola is a content based social network, rather than a user based one. The network features AI algorithms for sharing content by user feedback, likes Reddit‘s Upvote and Downvote concept. Popular posts will reach a wider audience, while unpopular ones will go nowhere. Sola has its own utility token SOL, users get SOL when other users vote your content. Then users can trade SOL to other currencies from cryptocurrency exchanges.

Sola is a private company, it makes money by advertising, SOL transactions commission, token sale and ad-free account offering.

Analysis on Social Networks

Let’s sum up the above 5 social networks.

architecturecentralizeddecentralizeddecentralizedtheoretically decentralizedtheoretically decentralized
similar social media(s)FacebookTwitterFacebookFacebook / SteemitReddit / Steemit
business models- subscription - no
- donation
- no
- donation
- subscription
- token trading
- subscription
- token trading
- advertising
major features - #Not4sell
- Users own their info & content
- Independent servers interact with each others
- No advertising, racism and hate speech
- Independent servers interact with each others
- Not controlled by the Diaspora team
- Freedom of Information
- Blockchain backed
- AI algorithms on content sharing
- Blockchain backed
users2 million
1 million+

I would like to remind all the readers here once again, it is the journey of Google Plus replacement, not Facebook replacement. If you feel okay on using Facebook, just stay there. Facebook has 2 billion plus users currently, it is much larger than all those 5 social networks combined.

Among the 5 networks, MeWe is the one with the best UI and UX. I do enjoy using it but there is one thing on my mind. Since there is no advertising on MeWe, they need to rely on users’ subscription to support their operation cost. And I doubt the current business model can help MeWe grow.

Then we go for Mastodon, Mastodon is mainly Gargon (the Mastodon creator)’s one-man open source project. There are many people using his source to host Mastodon instances forming a big interconnected network (fediverse). It is no worry for the Mastodon’s growth. But the thing that worry me is the “rules of instances”: every instance in the fediverse has its own rules, like Gargon’s instance ( silences all messages from alt-right instances. And rather you are alt-right or not, it depends on instance moderator’s decision.

Diaspora* uses the decentralized structure like Mastodon and forms its fediverse. The restrictions / rules on diaspora* are relatively looser than Mastodon. At one point, even ISIS used diaspora* to spread their messages. It seems diaspora* is a fair place for people with different point of views. For the drawbacks on diaspora* are its “average” UI and low user counts.

Blockchain backed networks

Before we talk about the remaining 2 blockchain backed social networks, I would like to point out that, I personally don’t like the reward system on social network. The idea of rewarding content provider is good, but it brings out another problem. We used to post anything we like to speak our mind, but once a reward system is involved, people may post / speak things that can gain more reward. Then Gresham’s law applies (“bad content drives out good content”).

Bill Ottman is an advocate of Free Speech, I believe Minds can provide users another platform to send their thoughts. For Sola, I might be wrong, it looks more like a token farm to me.


G+ is now the sinking Titanic. And from our past machine learning exercise, Titanic Survivors, we know unless you were female and a first class passenger, you hardly survived. So I start to move out from G+ and join the new social networks. I hope to see you all in MeWe, diaspora*, Mastodon and Minds. (disclaimer: those links are all my invitation links :]] )


What have we learnt in this post?

  1. Introduction of 5 next-generation social networks and their business models
  2. Usage of blockchain technology in social networks