My Alternatives to Big Tech Social Media Networks

Image/photo

This webpage has been created for those seeking alternatives to Big Tech run Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Reddit, LinkedIn, etc. There are many reasons for people seeking such alternatives:

  • They can be dissatisfaction with the terms and conditions that must be complied with
  • Or that a particular network is a walled garden not allowing outside viewing
  • Or they want to separate their work/family/social lives
  • Or a dissatisfaction with how their metadata or posts are shared with advertisers or third parties
  • Or that the feed algorithms are manipulated to show adverts or other posts they don’t follow
  • Possibly they’ve been banned already from a network
  • Or that a large centrally hosted service is under scrutiny from their government
  • Or possibly certain such sites are even censored or banned in their country

The list of reasons is actually endless, and the aim of this page is to highlight a few worthy alternatives to consider. This list of alternatives is not intended to be a list of everything that exists (there are hundreds and hundreds) but the one’s I’m using fairly actively still, and I will try to highlight any particular aspects that stand out for me. My preference has been to look at networks that work cross-platform on desktops and mobile, are open source, and decentralised.

An important thing to realise is that where most of your friends and family may be using say Facebook, you can expect that the majority of them will not just follow you to a new site. Also, many alternative sites do not request, or require, an e-mail address or phone number to register, so you can expect that finding any real-life friends there is not always so easy. What you will usually find, is lots of people that are discussing their passions and interests, whether those be gardening, programming, privacy, surfing, stamp collecting, or whatever. So be warned you’ll probably meet new interesting people online without having any idea whether they live next door to you, in a distant country, or have three arms and a green head.

I’m going to clarify a few terms here that will make it easier to understand what type of network is being listed here. The reason is that many are very different to the concept of just typing in a web URL, landing at the main site, and then just seeing everyone who is┬áthere. Many of these sites have no personal profile at all that you follow, and some have no server service at all based in any country.

Terminology

Open Source

The source code for the service is available to be studied and modified which gives insight into whether, and then how, algorithms are used, whether there is any tracking, how passwords and user data is stored, how access permissions are managed, and whether there are any other hooks or API’s which could share data externally.


Apart from MeWe and YouMe Social below, all other networks are free and open source software and self-hosted. Which means no company advertising or sharing of user information, with those sites being self-funded for hosting or relying on donations.

Blog Type

Microblogging – Twitter type posts limited to usually 500 or fewer characters.


Macroblogging – Much longer length posts with ability to embed images, videos, and formatting of text.

Profile vs Groups

Following a profile shows all that profiles posts, no matter what they post about. This can be ideal for following friends and family.


Following a group/channel is more focussed on a specific topic/hobby that you are interested in. Consider this option for new networks to find individuals with similar interests.

Centralised (C)

The whole service is accessible using a single web URL (eg. like www.facebook.com) which usually means legal jurisdiction is based in a single country, and there is one set of terms and conditions. Such services can be censored or disabled through access to the ownership of that entire service. It does happen that server loads could be distributed across many physical servers, even in different countries. In many cases these tend to be walled gardens (you register to login and read anything and participate), and if you leave the service, your contacts can no longer follow you or interact with you.

Decentralised (D)

The service can be independently installed, managed and accessed from different servers. This implies each server instance (or pod) is independently managed, under legal jurisdiction of the country it resides in, and can have tailored terms and conditions for each separate server. You would choose the social network and then find a specific server/pod/instance where you register and participate.

Federated (F)

Simplistically this is two or more decentralised services which interconnect to pass messages, posts, likes, comments, follows, etc between the services. Users on different services will usually have usernames with a different suffix for each service instance ie. similar to how one e-mail user could have an address username1@gmail.com whilst the other has username2@yahoo.com. Functionality is transparent though for all users. A federation need not only be across the same social network service, but when a common open protocol is used (eg. ActivityPub), different types of social networks can fully interconnect (eg. PixelFed with Mastodon) forming a large federated network.

Peer-To-Peer (P2P)

These are decentralised type networks, with each computer itself being the node (doing the actual hosting) and exchanging posts, likes, follows, comments with all nodes it has connected to (ie. others whom you have befriends/connected to). Because there is no central service owner or website, it is almost impossible for anyone to disable or have any legal jurisdiction over. It is also the most difficult for users to connect to other users, and also means installing local client software, and ensuring that your computer is allowed to connect to other strangers’ computers (which is why many of these users make use of Tor and other means to obscure their IP addresses. It also means one or more of your peered connections needs to be online for your posts to be received, and for you to receive posts and comments. Scaling though is not an issue as there are zero hosting costs, and it only depends on how much space is available on each peer’s computer.

Social Networks

Social Network

Type

Alternative To

Comments

D,F

Facebook

See my video overview.

Users can create multiple channels to post from. It has profiles (with custom tags), photo albums, events, calendar, cloud storage, groups, chatrooms, wikis, macroblogging. Unique features are a channel cloning for redundancy, and being able to migrate an entire channel to a different Hubzilla server. It has various plugins that can be activated. Views can be filtered by custom groups/aspects and has very granular privacy settings.


Federates to Twitter, XMPP, StatusNet, diaspora, and Fediverse (ActivityPub) depending on plugins activated.

D,F

Facebook

See my video overview.

Another macroblogging network very similar to Hubzilla. It also has a complete profile for users with calendar, events, photo and video albums. Posts can also be limited to custom groups.


Federates to Hubzilla, GNU Social, diaspora, Mastodon, Twitter, Pixelfed, Pleroma, Plume, Misskey, Tumblr, Discourse.

C

Facebook

This is a proprietary centralised macroblogging social network with a well organised directory of groups and communities. It is an attractive alternative for Facebook users as it has the same easy ways to find groups with common interests. It has group permissions similar to Google+ so you can have broadcast only groups, or fully collaborative and moderated groups where you set the rules. But it is a walled garden in that you have to register to read and comment on posts. It also has photo albums and events, but would only include registered users. The free tier does limit you to 8GB of space usage.

C

Facebook

See my video overview.

Also a proprietary centralised network. Another good alternative to Facebook, and is based in the EU and fully GDPR compliant. Two distinctive touches are it’s founder is personally very hands-on and involved, and secondly that it is also based on principles borne from Google+ as far as it’s groups, collections and circles go. This site also has excellent group discovery to find users or groups with similar interests. This site can also import your original Google+ Takeout posts. It is true macroblogging allowing up to 20,000 characters! It is however also non-federated and requires registration to read, post and comment. It does have active moderation, which means it is a very safe and friendly place to hang out. It has a related Photos site with an excellent free tier allowing up to 512 GB of photo storage (no videos).

D,F

Facebook

See my video overview.

A macroblogging platform dating back to 2010. It has decentralised servers (pods) which federate across diaspora pods but they do not support ActivityPub so it does not federate across the Fediverse (this was decided as they wanted to retain privacy controls across their network. It also allows customs groups which you can restrict yours posts to ie. separating post to work colleagues vs family.

C

Facebook

An open source centralised  network. When you post something on Facebook, a bunch of ads show up beside it. The question is, do you earn anything from what you post? No. If you dislike this idea, you’ll love Minds. Created as an anti-Facebook social platform, Minds is all about helping content creators flourish. Each time you post, interact with another post, or simply spend time on Minds, you receive a token. You can either boost your own posts with tokens, or rewards others, or convert it to USD or Bitcoin.

D,F

Instagram

See my video overview.

An image sharing site which very closely replicates what you’d get from Instagram, including Stories, Collections and following hashtags. A big difference is you can host your own instance, or join one of the many public ones, and not only are they interconnected, but they also federate across all the Fediverse networks including Mastodon.

C

Pinterest

An open source centralised network. Ello started out as a social media platform just like Facebook, but without the ads, the infamous “like” button, and the threats to security and privacy. However, it has since pivoted into a Pinterest-like platform for creators and fans interested in art, fashion, photography, and web culture. You can collaborate with, work with, or even hire other creators.

D,F

Twitter

A microblogging platform that uses ActivityPub to federate across all Fediverse networks.  If you have a Raspberry Pi or similar single-board computer you can use it as a Pleroma server for family and friends (lighter requirements than Mastodon). Posts default to a maximum of 5,000 characters but this can be made more by the admin. It also has real-time chat for local users on that instance (not federated).

D,F

Twitter

See my video overview.

Dare I say it is actually better than Twitter? It is a microblogging platform with up to 500 characters per post, and its web interface closely resembles what is great about Tweetdeck. It also has a very modern looking user interface. It probably has the largest number of active users out of all the alternative social networks. It has a chronological feed. Although https://mastodon.social/ is the biggest instance run by the creator himself, there are also many other more niche instances which are worth checking out as specific interest groups often flock to join these.

Using ActivityPub, it federates across the Fediverse. There is also a cross-poster for Twitter, and a bot to post from RSS.

P2P

Reddit

See my video overview.

Fully P2P without any central server, all posts are synchronised directly between computers (nodes). The concept is similar to Reddit but a key difference is in the moderation. There is no central moderation and readers in each topic community can vote posts up and down, to the extent too that they can even impeach the topic owner from being the owner (fully democratic). There is full transparency of all moderation.

D,F

Reddit

See my video overview.

A federated link aggregator (Reddit-like) where anyone can host an instance and federate across other Lemmy instances. Rules will differ across individual instances but the main devs’ instance at https://lemmy.ml/ does state it is a “community of leftist privacy and FOSS enthusiasts, run by Lemmy’s developers”. So it is generally a safe and friendly alternative to try out. There is also a transparent mod log.

Although ActivityPub is used it does not yet federate across other Fediverse sites.

D

Reddit

Postmill is the core source code project which you can self-host as your own instance, whilst Raddle is their flagship instance which users can join. Raddle is a “community for outsiders, malcontents and wayward dreamers”. They state it is “managed according to libertarian anarchist concepts in order to provide the best experience to its users” and does have a policy against abuse, as well as active moderation of complaints, complete with transparency as well as mediation.

D

Reddit

Also based on Postmill this is another separately run instance that is unique in it’s own right by allowing secure private connections across Tor, I2P, Yggdrasil, and LokiNet. Users from all these networks can interact with each other on Ramble. Their rules state “strongly anti-censorship and pro-freedom of speech, some things are just plain illegal and the owners of this community do not wish to be held legally liable to those who misinterpret this website’s accessibility via ‘the dark net’ meaning that it’s some sort of unmoderated free-for-all”. Their mod log is also fully visible.

P2P

Blogger

See my video overview of the Patchwork client.

Secure Scuttlebutt (SSB) is actually the protocol used to connect client peers. So you would use the various clients apps to connect eg. Patchwork, Patchbay, Patchfox, and Manyverse (Android and iOS). Plantary for iOS offers a very friendly and easy onboarding option.  It describes itself as a “a decent secure gossip platform” and can be best described as macroblogging platform. Some clients offer the option of following hashtags. You are essentially connecting to others’ profiles and following their posts. Your interface will much depend on which client you connect with. You’ll only see posts from profiles you have actually connected to, so the initial connecting to someone is quite critical, and can be done through some ‘pubs’ that are available.

P2P

YouTube

Reddit

E-Mail

See my video overview.

This open source and privacy focussed social network offers a lot more functionality than most other social networks: chatrooms, mail, file sharing, media posting (like YouTube), forums (like phpBB), boards (like Reddit), VoIP, and soon possibly wire (like Twitter). The only way to access it is by installing a desktop client app (becomes your node) that manages the P2P connections. You will see nothing when you first connect as you will need to offer your Retroshare certificate for connection, or find someone else’s to connect to, before content will start showing up. Links between nodes are authenticated using strong asymmetric keys (PGP format) and encrypted using Perfect Forward Secrecy (OpenSSL implementation of TLS). But it is also a very safe network in that if a group of friends or family just connected with each other, they would only see each other's content, and it would be like they are running their own network. It is often dubbed the Friend-to-Friend (F2F) network as you only see and share with whom you’ve connected to. Your data is stored on your computer and nowhere in the cloud. It installs on Windows, macOS, Linux, and has a chat-only client for Android.

D

Slack

MS Teams

Blogger

See my video overview.

XMPP is an open protocol that supports Instant Chat, Messaging, Presence, Audio Calls, Blogging, Video Calls, Chat Rooms, IoT, and much more across 1,000’s of XMPP servers and numerous client apps. It supports end-to-end OpenPGP or OMEMO encryption for end-to-end encrypted secure chats. XMPP is a set of standards, and depending on which ones the client as well as server supports, those are available for use. All XMPP servers and clients support basic chatrooms that can be subscribed to for real-time chatting on the chatroom topic, but some like Movim have also implemented the standard for pubsub full blog subscriptions. Movim could be the easiest for many new users to start out with. Like IRC, a server will host various chatrooms (and other services) with a number of registered users. Your app needs to connect to the server with the service you want to use. There is a service discovery, usually to list available services.

D

Slack

MS Teams

See my video overview.

Primarily a text based real-time only chat network. Some client apps support direct client-to-client file transfer as well as E2EE chat. One of the longest active (from 1988) social networks, and also one of the very lightest on storage as well as bandwidth requirements. Many open source projects and games use IRC as their official support channel with developers. It consists of IRC network servers (anyone can host one) with conversation channels operated by users. A user can use their IRC client app to connect to multiple servers and subscribe to participate in any number of channels (a channel is like a room with a defined topic). One idiosyncrasy to note is that no chat history is kept on the servers, so either your client stays connected 24/7, or you use a bounce server, or you don’t see what was posted while you were disconnected. Libera Chat is one of the most popular IRC networks with a Tor connection too. There is a /list command that can be used to see what channels are available to join on a server.

D

Slack

MS Teams

See my video overview.

An open source self-hosted collaboration platform. It’s not a social network per se, as it is more an alternative to Slack and intended probably for corporate in-house use or customer support, but if one was to make this open to the public to register on, it has rooms/channels like IRC and XMPP, so it could be said to be similar. It can also be applied for customer support type channels, and has a few add-ons for further integration.

D

Slack

Discord

MS Teams

A free and open source self-hostable and decentralised platform compatible with Discord. Fosscord is free, open source, extendible, self-hostable, decentralised, themeable, secure, encrypted, and compatible with Discord… It’s going to be better than Discord! Right now it is still a work in progress, so not everything is fully in place.

D,F,P2P

YouTube

It is a free, open source and decentralized alternative to video platforms, providing you over 400 000 videos published by 60 000 users and viewed over 15 million times. So some people host Peertube instances themselves (Decentralised), it also federates using the ActivityPub protocol (so Mastodon and other Fediverse sites can follow, like, and comment), but it’s browser viewer can also do peer-2-peer for more viral videos to distribute the network load. Peertube is free/libre software funded by a French non-profit organization: Framasoft (tax deductable for French taxpayers). Choose carefully from the instance list as some sites may not be free, and some have restrictions of storage space too.

-

YouTube

FreeTube is a YouTube client for Windows, Mac, and Linux built around using YouTube more privately. You can enjoy your favorite content and creators without your habits being tracked.

C

YouTube

A great feature that Odysee offers for YouTube creators, is a linkage to their YouTube account to automatically republish their videos from YouTube on Odysee (including all previously published YouTube videos). This is attractive to creators as it acts as backup of their YouTube content (especially if their video gets removed by YouTube), it is zero effort, and it satisfies the many people who do not want to use YouTube. It also means a lot of good content is available on Odysee. It is built on the Lbry blockchain where you earn a bit for watching videos, creators get paid for publishing, and viewers can also tip their creators. Whilst this works well inside the platform it is not at all easy to convert these LBRY credits into say Bitcoin, although there are some exchanges where you can apparently sell your Lbry credits. They have speed as well as quality controls for most videos allowing for slower bandwidth users. They are a lot more permissive than YouTube but do prohibit things like pornography and content that promotes violence or terrorism.

D,F

Amazon GoodReads

BookWrym is an open source self-hosted alternative to GoodReads. You can host it yourself or join an existing instance and just use it. It federtaes across the whole Fediverse of networks.

For more on general alternatives to Big Tech sites and services you can also visit my page at https://gadgeteer.co.za/my-alternatives-big-tech. I also maintain a categorised list of hundreds of excellent free and open source software products at https://gadgeteer.co.za/opensourcesoftware.