Three things for Congress to tell Facebook to do now
Until we re-organize our economy or someone comes along with the money and intent to make it happen, Facebook’s not going away.
There are things we can have Facebook do, and in one case, start doing again which can help independent social media thrive along with it.
If I were in the position to regulate Facebook and Instagram, I’d order these changes immediately.
Links in posts
Anil Dash described Instagram’s prohibition on links in posts and comments as a slow knife killing the web.
This is Instagram keeping you on the app, instead of using a post as an invitation to see more about someone’s work or cause. If you want to directly convert a view into a sale, you’re forced to use Instagram’s checkout and fulfillment. It encourages inaccessible text in images. And because for many people, Instagram is the web, unless you follow a person or org on Instagram, you miss out on calls to action.
When I talk with artists and creators, they’d love to have their own blogs so their careers and livelihoods aren’t at the whim of Instagram’s policies or algorithms. Enabling linking will free many people and organizations to consider the rest of the web as a place to publish.
RSS in and out
You used to be able to link your personal Facebook account to a RSS feed from your blog or other source. Facebook would pick up new posts from your RSS feed and people who followed you on Facebook would see them. Other than creating an account setting up the feed, you didn’t have to engage with Facebook, but your friends could follow you there. It was one of many ideas that Facebook borrowed from Live Journal.
RSS publishing is still around, but only for approved publishers using Facebook’s Instant Articles system.
You could also follow your friends’ public posts through RSS. Now you have to write constantly shifting code to attempt to scrape Facebook and Instagram.
Make links real on mobile
On Facebook, as well as Twitter, when you click a link in a post or a tweet on mobile apps you stay within the app and the site is rendered in a web view. You might even get a warning that you’re leaving Facebook in order to keep you on the app.
Those web views won’t have the same set of features, including tracking protection, which viewing a page on mobile Firefox, Chrome, or Safari.
Treat a link as a link, and have it open in the user’s default browser.
Break the wall, close the company store
The common theme of these proposals is to break the walled garden that Facebook built around itself and Instagram for the sake of engagement and monetization. None of these will destroy it. It’ll make them less valuable, but we as the people, not Facebook can prioritize healthy, independent and diverse media over the portfolios of a few.