Fed Up With Facebook? Here Are 5 Alternatives

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Facebook is unparalleled as a tool for social connection and organization. The same massive scale that makes it so useful, though, also makes its privacy issues, constant tracking, security breaches, and general dominance extra-concerning. That’s probably why you are looking for Facebook alternatives.

Competing social networks, regardless of how good their features are, tend to be under-populated simply because they haven’t accumulated the necessary critical mass of people. If you’re looking to diversify your social media, the Facebook alternatives below, tiny as they are in comparison, are some of your best bets.

Note: the “active users” numbers are mostly reported by the services themselves and the exact standards used to measure them may vary.

1. MeWe

  • Users: 8 million total, up to 2.8 million active.
  • Has ads: No
  • Is decentralized: No
  • Available on: Android, iOS, Web, Windows, Mac

If you’re going off of sheer numbers, MeWe is currently the most viable of Facebook alternatives. While only some of its 8 million registered users are active, they’re at least enough to sustain several communities and keep the app going. It has a lot of the features you expect from Facebook, including groups, private chats, tagging, content permissions, and even a few extras, like cloud storage and custom profiles for different groups.

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Some features require subscription fees, like extra cloud storage, encrypted chat, live voice, and video calling, pages, dark mode, etc. This is mostly how MeWe makes money, as it is ad-free and doesn’t track you or sell your data.

MeWe keeps your feed strictly unfiltered and chronological, and that reflects the platform’s general policy of not interfering with your content. They have a small moderation team tasked with identifying and removing hate speech and other harmful posts, but the platform generally doesn’t take major steps to manage controversial items.

The app itself may not blow you away, but it feels complete and doesn’t have a steep learning curve if you’re coming from Facebook. The interface, combined with user numbers, puts it among the top Facebook competitors, but it’s not open source or decentralized, which may turn off those who don’t want to trust a single entity.

2. Mastodon

  • Users: 2.9 – 4.4 million, 1.2 million active
  • Has ads: No
  • Is decentralized: Yes (Fediverse)
  • Available on: Android, iOS, Web, Windows, Mac

While it’s most similar to Twitter in terms of feel and functionality, Mastodon nonetheless earns a spot among the top Facebook alternatives, thanks to its relatively sizeable population, effective decentralization, user-friendly interface, and community moderation systems. It’s part of a larger umbrella of services known as “the Fediverse,” which means it runs using an open-source software standard that allows anyone to host servers and control their own data.

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When you set up an account, you’ll have to pick a server (generally associated with an interest community) to host it, but you’ll be able to access content from every other Mastodon “instance,” as well as other ActivityPub-based social networks like Friendica or PixelFed.

Mastodon is ad-free, the feed is entirely chronological and unsorted, and the system isn’t collecting information on you. However, unless you want to set up your own instance, you still have to put some trust in the person hosting your account data.

The server host also sets the rules for it, including the type of content they allow. Since anyone can run a server, there are instances that allow basically anything to be posted, but only those that abide by the Mastodon Server Covenant’s reliability and moderation guidelines are listed on the main site.

Twitter users will have an easier time adjusting to Mastodon than Facebook users, but it’s a fine way to keep up with people and groups as long as you don’t mind a few missing features. Basically, if Twitter doesn’t have it, Mastodon probably doesn’t either.

3. Diaspora

Diaspora is one of the oldest Facebook alternatives (started in 2010), and as part of the Fediverse, it’s open source and available for anyone to use and host. Users can choose a “pod” to store their account information and set up an account there. Once their data is on that server, they can interact with any other user on the network, regardless of host location.

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It comes with roughly the same privacy standards as Mastodon: there’s no advertising, tracking, or data-selling, but you still have to trust the owner of your pod to some degree. You always have the option of hosting your own if you want maximum control.

Diaspora’s interface is easy to use. Facebook/Twitter users will feel relatively at home. It has messaging, hashtagging, and an unsorted newsfeed, but is missing groups, events, and other things you may have grown used to on Facebook. Development is rather slow, so these features probably aren’t going to come soon unless there’s a resurgence of interest. Diaspora has been around for a long time, though, and is at least worth considering when comparing Facebook alternatives.

4. Minds

  • Users: 1.25+ million, 105,000+ active
  • Has ads: No
  • Is decentralized: Partially
  • Available on: Android, iOS, web

Minds is an open-source, privacy-oriented, community-moderated alternative to Facebook and has managed to attract at least 1.25 million users (as of 2018; up-to-date user numbers aren’t available). It also uses an Ethereum-based token to reward content creators and run a digital economy within the network and employs a decentralized governance system where randomly selected users can vote on content moderation decisions. The infrastructure itself isn’t decentralized in the way that Mastodon and Diaspora are, but they are considering a similar node-based system.

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In terms of features, Minds stacks up fairly well against Facebook. You can set up groups, send messages, post, comment, browse a chronological newsfeed, and do most other basic things you expect from a social networking service. New users will find the interface intuitive, especially if they’re coming from Facebook.

There aren’t any third-party ads being served on Minds (and no tracking), but members can pay Minds Tokens to “boost” their content into users’ newsfeeds and sidebars. Signing up for the “Plus” or “Pro” versions will turn off these ads and give you access to some special features and tools for creators looking to monetize the platform.

5. Sociall

  • Users: Unknown
  • Has ads: No
  • Is decentralized: Potentially in the future
  • Available on: Android, iOS, Web

Billing itself as a blockchain-based social network (referring to its SCL cryptocurrency and possibly to its data storage and hosting in the future), Sociall is currently running in open beta. At the moment, it’s a fairly functional app with a few basic social features and a Facebook migration tool that can import your profile information and newsfeed.

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Sociall doesn’t advertise, track you, or sell your information to third parties, and it gives you complete control over your data, including the ability to delete it if you want to. The team is also aiming for community-based moderation rather than top-down content management.

While they may be slated for future development, features like groups, events, and private messaging are currently missing, which makes Sociall essentially just a newsfeed app. Development updates are infrequent, and you can find people asking “Is Sociall dead?” on a semi-regular basis. They generally check in a few times a year to confirm that they’re still going, though, and once they add more features and leave beta, they may step up their marketing.

Making the switch

The biggest obstacle you’ll encounter when going through the Facebook alternatives is how unusably deserted all of them seem in comparison. That’s why the best transition tactic is probably to go with a group. If you’re starting some kind of community or meetup, consider using something like MeWe or Minds as your online meeting place. If you just need a way to keep up with a select few people, pretty much any of the alternatives listed above will work for you.

There are a lot of services gunning to become the next social media phenomenon. There’s no complete substitute at the moment, though, and the best you can probably do is use anti-tracking extensions like Facebook Container, turn on Messenger encryption, identify where your information is going, and try to stay private while shifting whatever you can to alternative services.

First published May 2019.

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Andrew Braun Andrew Braun

Andrew Braun is a lifelong tech enthusiast with a wide range of interests, including travel, economics, math, data analysis, fitness, and more. He is an advocate of cryptocurrencies and other decentralized technologies, and hopes to see new generations of innovation continue to outdo each other.

9 comments

  1. You forgot LBRY, which I currently use an alternative. It is free, cross platform, distributed/decentralized & not corporatised.

  2. One social media site I would recommend is GamingTribe. This is a haven for gamers. It’s free, private, no trackers, no ads and non-toxic. People are nice and well mannered.

    https://www.gamingtribe.com/

    and we follow a strict code: https://www.gamingtribe.com/code/

  3. You left out Parler which as far as I can tell is the hottest alternative right now, especially if you are conservative and believe you were being censored on FB or Twitter etc. It seems that’s where conservative politicians are going, along with their followers. Maybe the author of this article is left leaning and left it out on purpose?

    1. Not sure if you guys heard of Topiks app. Their main message is towards unbiased content distribution. As far as I know/read, it doesn’t lean left or right. https://topiksapp.com

  4. Hi! There is one missing in the list: Launchyoo. It’s european, ethical and transparent, and carries lots of new functions. It’s a cool alternative to FB and company.

  5. In other words, none. I don’t see anything here that would entice the majority of my friends to leave Facebook. What good is cutting-edge privacy and decentralized servers if all my friends are staying on the site that sells your info?

  6. My challenge in moving to an alternative is considering any of the non-centralized alternatives could leave me with another FB in the future.

  7. I started a Mastodon account, had it & used it for a few days, then I got this message!

    Account status
    Your account has been suspended, and all of your toots and your uploaded media files have been irreversibly removed from this server, and servers where you had followers.

    WOW! I must have ‘offended’ someone! They appear to be Worse than Facebook!

  8. Some of these look great but you can’t really trust any of them. If you want somewhere free from corporate interference then you need coldcast.org

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