Wikipedia Co-Founder Launches Ad-Free Social Media Network to Take On Facebook, Twitter

Fed up with Facebook and Twitter? Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales is hoping you are.
Donna Fuscaldo

Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales wants to give the world an alternative to Facebook and Twitter: a social media platform that's advertiser free and doesn't rely on algorithms to populate the top stories. 

Sound archaic? Wales is hoping individuals are fed up enough with the likes of Facebook and Twitter that it will take off. 


Donations to fund operations

“The business model of social media companies, of pure advertising, is problematic,” Wales said in an interview with the Financial Times discussing his new social media company WT:Social. “It turns out the huge winner is low-quality content.”  Wales was referring to the clickbait and misleading headlines that have infested social media platforms. 

While WT:Social is separate from Wikipedia it's adopting its business model, relying on donations from a small section of users to enable the social network to operate without advertisers. Since its launch in October Wales said the site has received more than 200 individual donations, underscoring how a new generation of consumers will pay for content they deem valuable. He pointed to Netflix and Spotify as two other examples.

WT:Social currently has about 50,000 users, a minuscule fraction of the more than 2 billion active monthly users on Facebook. Wales is hoping to grow the social network between the tens of millions to hundreds of millions of users.  “It won’t be massively profitable but it will be sustainable,” Wales told the paper. "The company only has a handful of staff, including developers and a community manager." 

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Will this radical idea take off?

Another way this new social media platform is trying to stand out is by posting the newest link first rather than the post with the most likes like on Facebook or Twitter. The site could add a button that will let users recommend stories in the future. “This is a radical, crazy experiment of mine,” Wales said. “I’m happy to say I don’t know all the answers.”

It just might resonate given the current climate for the leading social media companies. With Facebook in the crosshairs of regulators and privacy groups and Twitter banning political ads on their platform, there's a lot of turmoil in the industry.  That's been leading for calls to boycott the social media companies, particularly Facebook. 

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