As you may know from prior announcements, ZCommunications has developed software for progressive social networking. It provides Facebook-like – and very soon Twitter-like and potentially much more functionality – with no commercial or coercive drawbacks. No spying. No ads. No selling user profiles. No limits on length of communications. Instead, substance and mutual aid.
It would be natural to conclude that our idea is to provide a system hosted by Z – which we call ZSocial – for everyone. Instead, our goal is far more encompassing, cooperative, and ambitious.
We want to give other organizations their own sites, hosted by them under their own logos, with all the sites linked together to constitute what we call, "FaceLeft."
Indeed, our first "co-host" has already signed on and we are now creating UTNESocial, to serve the U.S.-based periodical, Utne Reader, operating the same way as ZSocial. In time we hope there will also be – along with Utne and Z – DemocracyNowSocial (U.S.), RedPepperSocial (UK), IlManifestoSocial (Italy), AporiaSocial (Venezuela), LeMondeDiplomatiqueSocial (France/International), and many more.
Additionally, we hope there will also be organizational hosts, such as GreenpeaceSocial (International), SyrizaSocial (Greece), PSUVSocial (Venezuela), AFLCIOSocial (U.S.), and many more.
Extrapolating across the progressive media world, and then also across the progressive activist world, reveals the potential for FaceLeft.
Of course many progressive people already use Facebook and Twitter to catch up with old friends or family as well as to use these commercial systems for progressive uses with political friends. Along with the undeniable benefits of those pursuits, however, such users – and perhaps yourself, as well – are often worried at Facebook's and Twitter's corporate motives and priorities. The most recent news is that Facebook is developing tools to see where all its mobile members are literally all the time, whether they are logged in or not – quite an amazing notion when considered commercially for earmarked ads or repressively, for spying.
So we wondered, why not escape those dynamics, at least for the social change part of our online socializing – and why not do that not just to serve Z's audience, but to serve the whole progressive world? Indeed, why not develop progressive social networking without commercial and coercive negatives, and large enough to materially and socially benefit the entire world of progressive communications, activist organizations, and individual progressive users? And why not do it in a way that precludes hassle and fosters mutual aid?
How would FaceLeft work? And why and how would FaceLeft attract hosts and then their constituencies?
Each hosted system within the larger FaceLeft framework will directly serve the audience of its host, like ZSocial is for Z's audience and, soon, UTNESocial is for Utne Reader's audience. However, each hosted system will be maintained as part of the overall whole, by a FaceLeft staff.
Any individual user who joins any hosted system of FaceLeft will be simultaneously joining FaceLeft as a whole by way of its preferred host, such as Z, Utne Reader, etc.
Every hosted system will have all the features that any other hosted system has because they will all use the same architecture. Improvements will accrue to every system simultaneously with each new innovation that is put online to meet users needs and fulfill their requests. Users of any hosted system will be able to easily find contacts, groups to join, events to relate to, media to follow, and commons areas to frequent – all with public and private posting options – as well as flows of commentary to follow, polls to take, and a lot more. And they will be able to do that across all the component systems (or, if a user prefers, from within just their own chosen system). FaceLeft will be large, but also, at the flick of a toggle, intimate.
All the media providers and activist organizations that host their own component system will pay nothing to receive it. They will have no responsibilities for maintaining it. They can help with maintenance if they want, but since such organizations are busy – and it may not be their cup of tea – a FaceLeft staff will be ready to do it all.
Hosts of each component system will attract their own constituency to join their system. But they will also automatically reach out with their content, as they desire, to the whole universe of FaceLeft users.
Each user will pay $3, in the current conception, to whatever hosted system he or she signs up with.
How will we get even users who have means to afford the payment to realize that a $3 fee is incredibly low and reasonable, and is much less of an overall "cost" than giving over your personal profile for commercial exploitation? And how will we we serve those who would be unable to afford the fee?
User response will depend on users wanting to avoid ads and escape profile selling and spying. It will particularly depend, as well, on users wanting the material benefits that accrue from their progressive networking to stay within the progressive community rather than benefitting external corporations. And it will depend on users realizing that a social networking system oriented to activist and mutual aide needs, will, given time, develop facilities far more useful to their endeavors than a system that prioritizes seeking profit.
Imagine that for any of the above reasons Nikos joins SyrizaSocial (supposing that particular component comes into existence). Nikos pays $3 a month – or perhaps more, should he wish to donate beyond the minimum fee. The first third goes straight to Syriza. The second third goes to Faceleft for maintaining the whole operation, constantly innovating it, etc. The last third (in the current conception) goes into a pool that is distributed at the end of each month, with shares going to each participating host organization in a progressive way that benefits the smaller ones more than the larger ones.
With this approach, imagine that the U.S.-based AFLCIO joins and elicits participation from a significant subset of its relatively massive membership. Not only does the AFL-CIO and FaceLeft benefit, but this would also yield a big influx to the shared pool and every host would benefit from that. Ditto for the PSUV joining. These shared funds will hopefully help facilitate local hosts being able to subsidize participation by audiences that could otherwise not afford the fee.
The technology for all this is within reach. We can, and indeed we already are, using an early incarnation of it, and the current facilities, which are already quite good, can only get much better.
Faceleft as a whole, would be, then, a universe of users organized into component systems hosted by various organizations. Appealingly, unlike the usual situation with political alliances, the host organizations would have nothing to dispute about with each other.
For example, suppose a user somewhere in the system has an idea for an innovation. If it isn't controversial and isn't too hard, the FaceLeft staff just does it and everyone benefits. If it is somehow controversial, or hard, it goes into a list that the universe of FaceLeft users and hosts vote on. That way everyone sees what users and hosts want, and programmers pursue innovations in light of the preponderance of preferences. Growth of any part of the whole, and of the whole, benefits everyone.
Could FaceLeft take root and grow?
Suppose we initially have Z, Utne, and then also, say, Democracy Now (U.S.), Red Pepper (British), Il Manifesto (Italian), Le Monde Diplomatique (French), Aporea (Venezuelan), and Babylonia (Greek), as media hosts (or some other set). Then, with a good selection of initial media organizations aboard, let's say we start advocating for participation much more widely with other progressive media groups of all sizes and focus. Once the vision gains some legs, why would a media group prefer that their users continue to exclusively use the largest spying agency in the world, a giant corporation, Facebook, without any material or organizational benefit accruing to progressive institutions? Why would they not want to team up with other progressive outfits, all over the world, in a shared effort that benefits everyone involved, materially, politically, and socially, even though there is no cost, no risk, and no reason for dispute or hassle?
Simultaneously, we begin communicating about Faceleft with a few activist organizations – feminist, ecological, labor, immigration, peace, or other groups around the world – and then, having involved enough of them to make the case for viability and significance, we branch out more widely on that side, as well. The same dynamic as with media organizations ensues. Once we get a few serious activist groups on board, would an activist or otherwise progressive organization who is invited thereafter say, no, I don't want to help provide a real, viable, worthy, alternative to giant corporations who are stealing our profiles and implicitly and sometimes even explicitly defining the range of our communications? I don't want to be part of a project that materially and socially benefits progressive organizations rather than giant multinationals – especially when participating yields revenues for my organization and involves no additional work for our overstretched staff?
Okay, now imagine FaceLeft has a growing array of hosts. Ten, twenty, forty, or more. Will its user membership grow? Will the constituencies of these host media outfits and activist organizations sign up as users sufficiently for the revenues they contribute to finance steadily adding tools and features to aide all members? Will the evolving scale and features warrant people making this social networking community the hub of activist and progressive social networking?
It seems to us quite a few folks would, once FaceLeft is growing, join its ranks instead of joining Facebook and Twitter, and that vastly more would do so to augment those commercial operations, still using Facebook and Twitter to engage with wholly non political audiences, family, and friends, but using FaceLeft for more social and political purposes.
The hardest step of succeeding may be getting the first few host organizations on board. And that is why we are now writing up the full FaceLeft idea for the Z audience. Anyone who wishes to get on board and help in the early stages can certainly join ZSocial (or, soon, UTNESocial) and urge others to do so as well. But many of you are also in other constituencies, and in addition to directly joining ZSocial or UtneSocial, or getting others to do so, you could suggest hosting a FaceLeft component site to various other potential host organizations. At first, these need to be rather large – else the costs of setting up systems would exceed our means. But once a bunch of large organizations are aboard and their constituencies are signing up, reaching out more widely will be possible.
Here is the punchline. FaceLeft is a way for alternative media and activist organizations to cooperatively host a collective effort that provides a great service, generates massive connectivity and mutual aid, and advances the financial prospects of all alternative media and activist organizations.
We hope you will agree with us about the potential of FaceLeft to benefit social change as well as serve all its participants, and that you will, in light of that, support FaceLeft. We hope as art of the Z constituency you will join ZSocial and that you will urge people you know in other constituencies to take a chance on advocating for a widely shared international mechanism for left media and activist institutions of diverse kinds to work cooperatively to each other's collective benefit.