Written by: Danielle Pittner
Picket lines, sit-ins, and burning flags are images which come to mind when the word ‘protest’ is uttered, or used to be. We’ve all seen the effect of social networking on the communication, organization, and execution of protests. Now, we see a subtle protest of the protest vehicle itself: Meet Friend.io, a private social network created as an alternative to the mainstream networks already in existence.
Type www.friend.io into your browser and stumble upon what could be remnants from a early ’00s Friendster-style site. Once past the old school appearance, there are sidebars very similar to other well-known social networking sites: Interactions, Live Friends Feed, Friends Online, Upcoming Birthdays and Events. The site resembles a hybrid love child of Facebook and Myspace’s more basic sensibilities featured early on in their brief co-existence.
After launching in December 2011, Friend.io President and Network Administrator Doug Freitag tells Social Media Portal that his network is “a social network for the rest of us, a different kind of alternative. It’s based on a new way for people to share their history with others they care about but offers a multitude of features beyond that.”
That “popular social networking site many of us used” is, no doubt, Facebook, and one of the changes alluded to include the recent Timeline feature, which has been yet another unwelcome transition for users. Facebook’s Timeline feature seems to have a love/hate effect on most people. Freitag fell into the latter group. Not that he hates Facebook, in fact, he has an active account as does Friend.io. (Friend.io users can even import all their friends from a very long, slightly obscure list of email providers and social networks.)
However, Freitag simply doesn’t like how Facebook chooses to operate today, as he expresses to SMP.
“They have become something outside of Mark Zuckerberg’s original goals of making the world more connected, in my own personal opinion. I think they have to satisfy investors, so changes become imminent.”
As the saying goes, imitation is the highest form of flattery, and “original” ideas are rarely original – but more like tweaked copies. While Friend.io isn’t exactly replicating Facebook, it sure has a solid Facebook-type foundation.
Freitag tells BTR, “We’re not trying to be Facebook or copy everything they have, we wanted something better, out of corporate greed’s control. Timeline had a lot to do with it, but that’s not the reason we made Friend.io. Friend.io is more about principal, not so much about competing with other social media sites.”
Friend.io stands out from other social networking sites due to its philosophy regarding privacy. As Freitag says, “Friend.io is about family and friends but with you in control, that’s how it should be. Our lives, activities and information should not be controlled by a website that decides what should be shared with everybody in the world.”
Beyond privacy, though, there are more provocative additions Friend.io provides to the social networking experience, as well as technological tools to keep the network alive and hip to an ever-changing mobile society.
Born at the request of some Occupy protesters, an online petitioning system will be available on Friend.io and can be shared through Facebook and Twitter. They’ve got an iPhone and Kindle app, a new Android app, a version of the ‘Like’ button, social bookmarking, video chat, and a whole lot more in the works that Freitag tells BTR he can’t yet reveal.
If you haven’t heard of Friend.io, it’s probably because they’re a private company without investors or advertising. They’re banking on the word-of-mouth system and thus far, it’s worked. The site already boasts 707,000 users and expects steady growth.
Looks like folks really do want some privacy. Watch out, Facebook.