Millions of people have been ditching Facebook and switching to Los Angeles, CA-based social media network MeWe, touted to be the ad-free future of social networking.
Advised by Sir Tim Berners-Lee (the inventor of the World Wide Web), MeWe has surged to 9 million users worldwide since it launched in 2016 at SxSW, and has zero paid marketing ads.
MeWe CEO Mark Weinstein said in his recent TedX talk that although we check our phones 150 times per day out phones are more dependent on us than we are on them. He says that we are participating in the "greatest socio-economic event in human history" – 'surveillance capitalism'.
The business model of Facebook and the other current social media giants is to track, analyse, and monetise our data.
Our personal information is shared and sold across data companies used to target and manipulate us through marketing from social media companies, advertisers and politicians. Weinstein says that true privacy is becoming a "relic of the past".
The more time we spend using social media, the more revenue that these social media companies can earn from ad revenue.
Facebook has been developing a brain to computer interface – to enable hands free communication without us needing to say a word. Imagine how much data Facebook could collect from users then.
China has a Social Credit System that tracks its individuals for 'undesirable behaviours' such as frivolous spending, waste sorting, not visiting elderly relatives often enugh, cheating in exams, traffic violations, or for making a reservation at a restaurant and not showing up.
The system manages the reward, or punishment of citizens based on their economic or personal behaviour.
Violators could be placed on a list, preventing them from getting better jobs, or preventing their children from attending good schools. We share all of this information on Facebook and other social media tools. It would be easy to extract this information and sell it to the highest bidder.
MeWe says that it is leading the privacy revolution in social media. The social network has a Privacy Bill of Rights giving its users total control of their data and privacy.
There are no ads, no targeting, no facial recognition, no data mining, and no newsfeed manipulation.
MeWe is available on iOS, Android and desktop in 19 languages.
It has features such as: newsfeeds for contacts and close friends, pages, private 1:1 and group chats, private and open groups, disappearing content, stories, a custom camera with GIF creation, live voice and video, voice messaging, personal cloud storage, custom group profiles, dual-camera and MeWe Journals.
So how does MeWe make money? The company has a "Freemium' revenue model that gives users the basic social media experience for free, and offers optional enhancements they can purchase.
These enhancements include extra storage ($3.99 per month), live voice and video calling ($1.99 per month), and MeWe journals ($1.99 per month).
These subscriptions mean that MeWe can show each post to each fan, friend or follower, and not create algorithms to throttle posts. MeWe also has a MeWe Pro version which is intended to compete directly with Slack.
MeWe premium costs $4.99 per month, and users who want to create a page for their business pay $1.99 per month.
So will MeWe make any headway? I joined MeWe in 2013 when the beta project (Sgrouples) began prior to MeWe and have been lurking there since. It has a nice look and feel, the groups are interesting, and the group chats are really engaging.
As it gains momentum, content quality is improving all the time. With 9 million members its a much better site than Facebook was at four years after its launch.
Our shift to preserve our privacy might mean that MeWe user numbers might continue to grow.