An Activist Social Media Network Is Coming
The Occupy Wall Street movement has done many things, although most of what it has done is yet to be fully understood. The dust will need to settle and historians will need to cogitate before anyone knows what, if any, impact OWS had on the American (and global) landscape.
There are efforts afoot, however, to create something much more tangible: a new social media network that activist around the world can use safely to share their messages without fear of being shut down, shut out, or reported to authorities. They are calling it a “Facebook for the 99%”.
There is little doubt that social media is a disruptive technology when it comes to human civilization. There were countless examples in 2011 of the power social media has to inform, enlighten and engage millions people. The events in the Middle East are the most obvious example, but the Occupy Wall Street (whose ultimate impact are less clear) is certainly another. So it makes sense that a new social media network specifically for this type of movement would be attempted.
But when you read what the OWS Movement intends for its new network you get the feeling it’s not so much a social media network for THEM as it is a new social media network for EVERYONE. This includes, marketers, of course. In fact, the social media network they are trying to create will be something a little closer to the semantic web we have all been looking forward to. A social network more easily accessible to search engines and better protected from political foes.
Read this snippet from a story at Wired.com to get a better understanding:
“I don’t want to say we’re making our own Facebook. But, we’re making our own Facebook,” said Ed Knutson, a web and mobile app developer who joined a team of activist-geeks redesigning social networking for the era of global protest.
They hope the technology they are developing can go well beyond Occupy Wall Street to help establish more distributed social networks, better online business collaboration and perhaps even add to the long-dreamed-of semantic web — an internet made not of messy text, but one unified by underlying meta-data that computers can easily parse.
This sounds less like a dream of unification than it does a business venture. Not that the OWS members can’t start their own business. Feel free. But once again I think to myself: do we really need another social media network? Granted, what they are proposing would seem on the surface to be very different from what we currently have, but would their eventual product be all that different?
More than a global network of social activism, the real crucial element of this proposed network is the infrastructure upon which it will be based. A unified sign-in system, a meta-tagging system for SEO and a protected environment for those whose identity needs to be protected. These elements would help to create a system more secure, more protected than existing systems and might give rise to improvements in sites like Twitter, Facebook and Google+.
Ultimately, like the OWS movement itself, what comes of this proposed system will only become evident if and when it is created and in use. It will only be as successful and world-altering as the people who use it; much like every other new social media network we’ve seen come along in the past few years.
The problem the coders face will be the same one that’s faced the web for years – getting people to agree on standards and to then adopt them. One long-running attempt to do this quickly is called Microformats – a way of including markup data in HTML that’s invisible to an human visitor, but which can be understood by their browser or by a search engine. Examples include marking up contact information so that a reader can simply click contact information to add it to their address book and annotating a recipe so that search engines can let you search for recipes that include ’spinach’.