Earlier, Pocket-lint tried to come up with some Facebook alternatives...
And then, it occurred to us that there are no competitors at the same scale. If you have a job where you manage a Facebook brand page or group, you need a Facebook account. And if you use many apps and services online, you likely sign in to them with Facebook. If you wanted an alternative, the nearest competitor would likely be Twitter, but that's an altogether different beast with a separate use-case scenario.
Yet, in Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony before the US Senate Judiciary and Commerce committees, the Facebook CEO was forced to admit that Facebook is, effectively, a monopoly. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) brought up the monopoly issue: “Who’s your biggest competitor?” he asked. But the CEO struggled to answer, naming Google, Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft as “overlap[ing]” with Facebook in different situations.
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“If I buy a Ford, and it doesn’t work well, and I don’t like it, I can buy a Chevy. If I’m upset with Facebook, what’s the equivalent product I can go sign up for?” Graham asked. Zuckerberg tried to say the “average American uses eight different apps” to connect with their friends, but Graham then asked him point-blank if Facebook was a monopoly. Zuckerberg replied, “It certainly doesn’t feel like that to me."
If that wasn't awkward enough, the CEO had to answer questions about whether Facebook would always be free to users, supported by advertising. Zuckerberg seemed to leave open the possibility of a paid version of Facebook. While answering questions to Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Zuckerberg stated: “There will always be a version of Facebook that is free. It is our mission to try to help connect everyone".
The phrase “a version” seemed to suggest that a paid version could one day happen. However, he added: “We believe we need to deliver a service that everyone can afford.” Still, Zuckerberg left room for a paid way to opt out of data collection and targeted advertising.
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In light of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook's CEO is testifying before Congress to answer questions about how it handles user data. Pocket-lint is following along and will update this post with any pertinent information. Follow our Facebook hub for the latest.