Should Social Networks Let You Take Your Followers to Other Services?

The Washington Post reports on the "My Friends My Data" coalition, a group of start-up founders "working to push tech giants to adopt a new industry-wide standard that would allow users to transfer their followings from one app to another, thereby creating more competition between platforms." "Large social media companies are intentionally holding our personal contact information hostage," said Daniel Liss, founder and CEO of Dispo, a photography-based social network. "This limits consumer choice, stymies competition and inhibits free speech. We are committed to giving our community members control of their friend data...." MFMD's founding members include a who's who of buzzy social apps like Dispo, Itsme, Clash App, Muze, Spam app and Collage, which together have received more than $100 million in venture funding and amassed tens of millions of downloads. The group has issued letters to Meta, TikTok, Snap, Twitter and other large social platforms calling on them to join their crusade. As the start-ups have found, competing with tech giants like Meta or YouTube is difficult when the top talent on the Internet is essentially locked in to specific platforms because of their inability to take followers elsewhere. Many creators are already on board with MFMD's initiative. Some learned lessons about ownership the hard way after the fall of Vine. Many top Vine stars were overleveraged, investing all their energy in building out their following on the short-form video platform. When the app shuttered in 2016 those who hadn't used Vine to springboard to other apps like YouTube were left without access to the massive fandoms they had built.... [Liss] said that in addition to putting public pressure on the tech giants he hopes the MFMD can be a political force as well. "I'm very comfortable engaging in the political process on behalf of what we think is right," Liss said. "Not just for our companies but also for the next generation of consumer start-ups." Eugene Park, a gaming Twitch streamer in Los Angeles with 300,000 followers, likes the idea of making followers transferrable to other services, telling the Post it "would be taking power from the tech companies and putting it in the hands of creators who really make up these giant platforms." In the meantime, the article points out, TikTok users "have taken to referring to other apps like Instagram and YouTube using 'algospeak' pseudonyms, because they say even uttering the name of a competitor can downrank your content."

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