By Elton Gomes
Startup incubator Launch is giving away $100,000 dollars to anyone who can build an alternative to Facebook, “while protecting consumer privacy,” after the news surrounding the data breach of over 87 million Facebook users, by data firm Cambridge Analytica came to light.
Meanwhile, in an attempt to reinvent itself, Facebook has announced a slew of measures ranging from its content removal policies to a “clear history” button, and CEO Mark Zuckerberg admitted to his failure in being able to protect Facebook users.
Here’s what happened
Launch claims that “Facebook is a destructive force in our society,” and it is ready to invest $100,000 in anyone interested in developing a more secure version of Facebook.
Jason Calacanis, an angel investor and CEO of Launch, believes that like several other social media platforms from the past have met their demise, Facebook’s time has also come. “All community and social products on the internet have had their era, from AOL to MySpace, and typically they’re not shut down by the government—they’re slowly replaced by better products,” Calacanis wrote in his blog post. Calacanis then urged everyone to “start the process of replacing Facebook.”
The official website of the incubator states that they are “looking for teams that can actually build a replacement” and teams will be judged on “their ability to execute.” Individuals will have to apply to the competition and state their mission statement, strategy, and team members. After this, Launch will select 20 finalists and asses them over a period of 90 days. After 90 days, Launch will offer seven teams to join their incubator, and it will invest $100,000 in each team.
Launch has already received roughly two dozen teams for one of the prizes. Calacanis said he hopes at least 100 participants will apply to the site before applications close on June 15.
Applicants wishing to participate should meet the five criteria: “protecting user privacy, protecting democracy from ‘bad actors,’ stopping the spread of misinformation, not making people addicted to the service, and ‘protecting freedom of speech, while curbing abuse.”
Calacanis opines that developers might have to tap in the novelty factor to replace Facebook, “In order to beat Facebook, many believe the winning team will have to not only build a base functionality that is familiar to users looking to switch, but also provide new experiences that will make users passionate about the new product.”
Why you should care
Facebook has been dominating the social media market for a long time, and even though after the outbreak of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, a #DeleteFacebook campaign gained some steam, it failed to puncture really large holes in the company’s reputation. In fact, after Zuckerberg’s testimony in Congress and the release of new privacy policies, the shares of the company have regained some steam.
Facebook’s misadventures with user data may have dented users’ trust in social media, however, the company seems to have the situation under control. Additionally, it is important to remember that Facebook also has other applications, including WhatsApp, Instagram, and Messenger under its belt. These apps have become so ubiquitous that people find it hard doing away with any of them. An alternative to Facebook seems like a novel idea, but Facebook will continue to have its imprint over our digital lives.
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