Facebook is a mess, right? It doesn’t respect our privacy, it’s built to addict us, and it’s been taken over by misinformation—we’re all complaining about it, but the number of us who have dropped it is miniscule. That’s because there’s no real alternative unless we all jump to a new network, and that’s just impossible. Or is it?
Launch, the incubator run by Jason Calacanis’, is offering seed money—$100,000 to each of seven companies—to start the process of replacing Facebook via its OpenBook Challenge. Calacanis, writing in a blog post, says that the winning Facebook alternative will respect and protect consumers’ privacy, respect democracy and protect it from bad actors, respect and protect the truth by stopping the spread of misinformation, not try to manipulate people by using the tools of addiction, and protect freedom of speech while curbing abuse. That’s a heady set of goals, but yes, it sure would be great to have a social network that did all that—and let us connect with those who sat in front of us in high school calculus.
If you think you can do all that, you have until 15 June to submit an entry here. That entry could be in the form of a video tour of a proposed service, an actual product, or a minimally viable product. On 1 July, Launch will announce 20 finalists, then on 30 September, the incubator will invite seven startups and three alternates to join its incoming class. The top 7 will each receive $100,000 in return for six percent equity.
What will be the secret sauce to replacing Facebook? Nobody knows. Says Calacanis, “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. Others believe it will be a completely new paradigm…. We think many different paths could lead to the promised land.”
Tekla S. Perry is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Based in Palo Alto, Calif., she's been covering the people, companies, and technology that make Silicon Valley a special place for more than 40 years. An IEEE member, she holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Michigan State University.