Jimmy Wales wikipedia WT:Social social media
Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales (Image: Flikr/Joi Ito)

Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales has launched a new social media site, “WT:Social”, pitched as a platform that’s ad-free, fake-news free, and which keeps user data private.

A replacement for Wikitribune — a news wiki where professional and citizen-journalists contribute to stories — WT:Social has been hailed as a “rival to Facebook and Twitter“. The project uses a similar business model to Wikipedia (though is not associated with it), relying on donations to stay afloat. Users can directly edit misleading headlines, delete posts and flag bad actors, as well as upvote posts from their niche communities. Donors can skip the waiting list, which currently has around 130,000 people on it. 

But Wales is hardly the first entrepreneur to kickstart such a project. “Ethical” alternatives to social media giants have come and go, with none making a lasting splash. There’s been Diaspora, a decentralised network which lets users use fake profiles; Ello, social media specifically for artists; and Vero, which, when it launched in 2015, was called an “overnight Instagram killer”. 

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And let’s not forget the doomed Google+ — a graveyard even during its much-hyped launch — which has since been shut down following a huge security breach and waning interest from its already minimal number of users. 

Each alternative promised to do away with the evil aspects of social media; some buckled under their own success, others fizzled out, and many didn’t have the skills or resources to deliver what was promised. Social media is a fickle thing — remember when Snapchat’s stocks dropped $1.3 billion after a single tweet from Kylie Jenner? 

But it’s unfair to denounce WT:Social before it’s even had a chance to get off the ground. Maybe this time will be different — just like every other app has promised.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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