The Future of Open Source Communication
The past 10 years has seen an exponential rise in communication across the internet and social media applications. The rise has certainly transformed the way that we communicate and opened many more doors for ideas and information to be spread. However, in recent years awareness has risen in regards to the ethics behind these platforms (e.g. Facebook, Tiktok, Twitter). Their business models are driven by advertisements which inadvertently has made engineers design for advertisers and not the user. This has led companies to design products that to retain users rather than build a tool that helps them communicate. I believe the design goals of a product should be centered around a consumer rather than making the consumer the product.
The conversation surrounds many social media companies and apps, such as Facebook, which use user data to display ads and increase user retention. However, this information is not always accessible by the user. We all know too well how fast we click the “agree to the terms and service” button whenever we use a new application. There is a lot that can be hidden within that companies should make very apparent to users. Whenever a new platform is developed, I believe it is the company’s obligation to clearly define their actions and what they do with the user data. Take WhatsApp as an example, the Facebook-owned service has recently been hit by a wave of criticism over privacy concerns. In a recent update, WhatsApp stated it would be sharing more user data with Facebook, which is already known for putting people at risk. After these events, the apps ‘Signal’ and ‘Telegram’ saw a significant increase in users. Why? Signal is an open source non for profit that focuses on privacy. Additionally, open source business models allow users to contribute to make the applications they want. In many ways this democratizes the whole design process by giving a voice to the user. After WhatsApp was criticized occurred, Signal saw a jump from 246,000 downloads per week to 8.8 million.
I believe and encourage the future of social media should be in open source, non for profit and transparent organizations. Given the amount of user that use these platforms, it is imperative they have a say in the design of these communication platforms.