Old-fashioned Facebook and the future of new social networks
Domestic social networks would promote the strengths of their specialized foundation to develop niche markets and build specialized social networks, combined with mobile payments to create an digital ecosystem of Vietnam.
Society will be more civilized if the common characteristics of newly launched social networks have different features from or even opposite to Facebook: sharing of revenue, games set up together (open algorithms), respect for laws of host countries, and localization of content.
When Facebook is outdated
Mark Zuckerberg, 37, developed Facebook in his university dorm room to a nearly US$1 trillion empire based on the mantra of "moving fast and breaking everything." But now, Facebook is in the midst of a crisis. Through thousands of leaked pages of internal documents, the image of CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been seriously damaged.
The documents make one thing clear: senior leaders of Facebook, including Zuckerberg, are aware of the potential harm of this platform to the real world (distributing hateful content, promoting fasting among minors, inciting violence).l but haven’t done much about it.
Facebook has come under constant criticism over the years for its role in spreading fake news, especially related to the 2016 US president election. In the past two months, this group has fallen into a new crisis, which is related to its former employee Frances Haugen.
Haugen accused Facebook of misleading investors and the public about its role in perpetuating disinformation and violent extremism related to the 2020 US presidency election and the January 6 riots.
According to documents provided by Haugen, there is a disparity in capacity to prevent hate speech and fake news in countries such as Myanmar, Afghanistan, India, Ethiopia and most of the Middle East compared to the rest of the world.
Facebook internal documents in September 2019 mentioned Facebook's investigation, including information about human traffickers using Facebook, Instagram, Page, Messenger and WhatsApp. The documents indicated that Facebook knows that current strategies are ineffective in preventing the spread of posts that incite violence, in countries at risk of conflict such as Ethiopia.
The whistleblower also criticized Facebook for not controlling the grouping function. Some private groups do not appear in the search bar, leaving "scary" posts, which become a haven for criminals and drug traffickers.
Facebook enhanced its platforms for young users, even when internal studies suggest that these platforms, especially Instagram, have negative effects on mental health of the user.
Many former employees accused Facebook's algorithm of severely affecting the way content is displayed on the platform. People often say "Facebook's algorithm" as if only one piece of code exists. In fact, the decision to target ads and display content on Facebook is based on hundreds or thousands of algorithms. Some algorithms analyze user habits to boost post positions based on interests, while others detect types of “dirty content” such as nudity, spam and sensational headlines to remove and lower the position of them on News Feed.
Before Facebook adopted machine learning algorithms, its employees used many ways to increase interaction. They experimented with details like button color and frequency of notifications to entice users back to the platform. However, machine learning algorithms are more powerful when they can grow based on users' constantly changing habits, rather than just personalizing content based on what they see.
Many accused Facebook of deceiving users or ignoring the obvious harm of its own platforms in exchange for data or revenue. However, if users stop using Facebook to plan, shop, play games, connect and share, they cannot find another platform to replace Facebook.
Faced with the bad effects of Facebook, many countries have had strong reactions. In Russia, Facebook has been fined a total of 90 million rubles for violating regulations for not removing content that Moscow considers illegal. To minimize the bad impact of Facebook and Google, Australia has become the pioneer in forcing the two tech groups to pay content copyright fees. Google and Facebook have to pay press agencies and content producers when users share information they create on social networks.
We cannot deny the contributions and success of Facebook in becoming the largest social network on the planet. However, it seems that this social network is getting old.
The foreseen obsolescence
Based on the development of society, the requirement for new generation social networks is inevitable. In fact, millions of people are leaving Facebook for new, smaller ones, but these social networks are also creating new standards.
In Vietnam, the Ministry of Information and Communications has licenced over 800 local social networks. Speaking at the National Assembly Q&A in 2020, Minister of Information and Communications Nguyen Manh Hung said that domestic social networks would promote the strengths of their specialized foundation to develop niche markets and build specialized social networks, combined with mobile payments to create an digital ecosystem of Vietnam.
The new generation of social networks have different characteristics from Facebook. Firstly, they are platforms and will share revenue with users. Secondly, they have a selective tool in the first place, making sure the platform is "clean". Thirdly, they make their algorithm public to users. And finally, they allow the development of the subsidiary platform on the "mother platform", so that small communities with specific cultures can be developed.
According to Minister Nguyen Manh Hung, to be successful, global social networks must find a common denominator, which are basic human needs, regardless of country, age, gender or profession. Once the common problems are solved, users will require more specific needs.
The characteristics of culture are inimitable, only those who are born and raised in a land can understand the culture of that locality. It is difficult for big global companies to satisfy the specific requirements of small groups of users who have their own cultural colors, but this is the opportunity for Vietnamese social networks.
What helps businesses succeed is also the biggest barrier to their failure. Very few tech companies can sustain their top positions beyond a 15-year period.
Facebook creates algorithms that are not public, thereby forcing users to follow its "rules of the game". Facebook users are playing "rules of the game" decided by others, Minister Nguyen Manh Hung said.
Facebook didn't build filters in the first place. The social network will face different problems in different countries. New social networks should let players decide their own “rules of the game”.
This is performed by opening the algorithm of social networks. When having the right to adjust and contribute to the algorithm in smaller groups, social network users can master their "game". As Minister Nguyen Manh Hung said, "this is human liberation".
If there exists a social network that makes a difference or goes against Facebook, with the mindset of sharing revenue, setting up the game together (open algorithm), respecting the laws of the host country, and offering localized features, this social network will change the world, Andy make society more civilized.
The rise of new-style social networks
Many experts believe that if other social networks imitate Facebook, they will dig a hole for themselves.
YouTube chooses to focus on video, LinkedIn focuses on creating a job social network, and Twitter simplifies everything to become a social network for lazy readers… Recently, TikTok has emerged and is a threat to Facebook when it goes in the direction of spreading short videos under 15 seconds, and Clubhouse chooses to build houses for those who like to talk.
For Facebook, if the algorithm and compliance with the laws of the host countries are dark areas, TikTok chooses to do a different way. It focuses on selling TikTok resources, including algorithms. BytePlus sells partners a secret recipe of TikTok - an algorithm that keeps users engaged by scrolling down repeatedly to watch recommended videos that the system thinks users like to watch. Partners can use this technology to customize their own apps and websites. TikTok chooses to comply with the laws of the host countries and shares with users its content creation.
The latest report by Nikkei Asia shows that TikTok has overtaken Facebook to become the world's most downloaded app. TikTok has announced that it has up to 1 billion users.
The success of TikTok has urged Instagram, YouTube and others to launch similar services. Total time spent watching TikTok videos in the US and UK is longer than YouTube; and short videos are getting more and more attention from users.
From the perspective of each country, Facebook has also been unable to keep up with the very high localization of social networks such as KakaoTalk in Korea or Line in Japan or Zalo in Vietnam...
In South Korea, about 87% of people between the ages of 20 and 29 use social networks, but 99.1% of Korean mobile users use KakaoTalk. The services provided by Kakao are not too innovative but still are able to surpass Facebook. There are many reasons for this success, from local content (K-pop stars) to Android focus (73.86% of Korean Android users).
Before a powerful competitor like Facebook, KakaoTalk can succeed by addressing the unique needs of domestic users.
In Japan, LINE is the leading social networking app with 86 million monthly users, compared with 26 million users for Facebook. LINE is different from other social networking apps like Facebook, Instagram. This app creates its own merchandise platform with four well-received mascots that represent every emotion appropriate for the Japanese. LINE itself is so iconic that the company opens stores in Tokyo and other major cities across the country under the brand LINE Friends. These stores sell their own line of products such as toys and stickers, allowing users to enjoy experiences like no other social network has.
While most social networks like Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp are developed towards global users, LINE is especially for Japanese people. It has all the important features that Japanese users are looking for, making it a “must have” messaging app for most people.
In Vietnam, there are up to 90 million social network users, but Zalo is the most popular name today, with about 67 million users. Zalo is used by many Vietnamese people because this application can text, make good quality calls and send high quality photo and video files to each other. At the same time, online public services and question-and-answer portals are gradually integrated and become a trusted lookup address for users. Zalo is approaching users based on the mobile messaging platform, expanding into super applications such as electronic payments…
When the Covid pandemic broke out for the 4th time in Vietnam, Zalo Connect application helped hundreds of thousands of people in difficulty to get free food, medicine, medical equipment... Zalo is on the way to becoming an indispensable social network for many Vietnamese.
Facebook changes its name to Meta to follow the new trend
It seems that the rise of new generation social networks has made the largest social network on the planet face the choice of "change or die". On October 29, Facebook officially changed its name to Meta. Metaverse isn't a new idea, but it only caught attention when Zuckerberg started talking about it earlier this year. It comes from the 90s novel “Snow Crash”, in which people escape the real world to immerse themselves in the virtual world. This change shows the ambition to get into the virtual universe (metaverse) that CEO Zuckerberg believes to be the future of the Internet.
Meta announced to spend $10 billion in 2022 to develop technology needed to build virtual universes. At Facebook Connect, Zuckerberg showed off a bit of his hyperspace ambitions. In a demo, users meet in virtual space as cartoon versions or fictional characters such as robots, representing virtual reality.
The Meta CEO predicts that elements of the metaverse will be common in the next 5-10 years. The group will have to invest billions of dollars before the virtual universe reaches large scale.
Facebook will build a virtual world using virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR) so that users can immerse themselves in a metaverse full of everything in the real-world including meeting rooms, entertainment areas and their own apartment. Many other projects are being conceived waiting to explode when Facebook fires the opening shot for the 'virtual universe' game.
If the metaverse works as expected by Zuckerberg, the platform will allow users to customize avatars as well as freely paint and decorate digital spaces with images, videos and books. They can invite friends to their “home” online, or two people can sit and listen to concerts together despite the fact that they are at two ends of the world.
Metaverse has characteristics similar to those of the new generation social networks that allows multi-connection among platforms. Metaverse users are given the freedom to design their own content and experiences. Users will have a deeper and more multidimensional experience. Virtual supermarkets will allow users to interact and shop for goods and this will be the place to run an inclusive economy.
Zuckerberg said the virtual universe could become an important social platform, with many tech companies joining in, over the next 10 years. Zuckerberg is expecting this virtual universe to reach a billion users in the next decade.
It is not clear whether Facebook will achieve its goal, but it is undeniably a bold move.
Australia has been at the forefront of an uphill battle against tech giants, though it's still at a starting point.
As the world is curbing the influence of tech giants, this presents an opportunity for Vietnamese social networks to create a foothold by finding their own directions.