An Informed Look: What is Facebook’s competition?

In his appearance on Capitol Hill this month, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg fielded a number of fairly rudimentary questions. Interspersed throughout the two days of testimony, however, were several pointed interactions between lawmakers and the embattled executive.

One such exchange came during his Senate testimony on April 9, when Sen. Lindsey Graham attempted to determine how much competition Facebook actually has. While much of the questioning related to the social media giant’s handling of user data, Graham and others had concerns that the company has effectively monopolized the industry.

The South Carolina Republican asked Zuckerberg a series of questions in that vein, ultimately leading the CEO to assert that the “average American I think uses eight different communication and social apps.”

That answer was not enough to convince some critics that the company should be spared possible government regulation.

Graham went on to question whether many of the apps Zuckerberg noted were actually direct competitors. Others, including Tech Crunch‘s Josh Constine, argued that even many of those the CEO mentioned did not constitute real competition.

Many of the top social media apps are owned by Facebook, and almost all of the others provide a service Facebook either provides or is working to obtain.

While debate remains over how robust the competition currently is, several companies are hoping to make their mark as the alternative to the ubiquitous little blue ‘f.’

Several seek to seize on the perception among some Facebook users that the platform — along with several leading tech companies — employ political biases in determining which content is published or promoted.

Social media sites and apps like Gab predate the current controversies. That site’s founders have billed it as the “free speech social network,” promising users a service “dedicated to preserving individual liberty, the freedom of speech, and the free flow of information on the internet.”

The platform is not without its own backlash, though, as critics point to extremist content that even led the site’s domain registrar to cut ties last year.

More recent startups have sought to take on Facebook more directly, providing a similar platform with modified features and an emphasis on free speech.

One such service is Right2Voice, a site started last month by Robert Farrow. In an interview with Scope News, he explained why he felt this was the right time to move forward with the project.

He cited “the constant news regarding censorship, shadowbanning and burying of news by the [tech] titans” as his motivation.

Though Facebook might be its natural competitor, Farrow said his site strives to offer additional features including blogs, forums and news aggregation services. He claims the platform has attracted 5,000 members “all from word of mouth.”

Farrow thinks Right2Voice’s stated goal will continue to attract social media users disillusioned with the current crop of alternatives.

“Our mission is to stand up for free speech and against those that are trying to control the news,” he said. “We want to empower the user to take control of the news and information they read and share. We believe people are adults and are entitled to know both sides of the argument and can make the right decisions.”

Competition is such a valued trait in America’s capitalist system that it’s written into our laws. Some already believe it’s time to pursue an antitrust suit against the Facebook, but there is a reason it has grown to be the biggest social media player on the field.

As much as critics decry many of the platform’s practices, many of these same critics are on Facebook as much as the average user — which is a lot. And it’s not as though data privacy concerns are unique to any one tech company.

With or without government intervention, Facebook will remain the social media giant until it no longer provides the services its users demand or someone else comes along who can provide them more effectively.

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