What happened to AllSocial?

The slick-looking social network promised free speech, privacy, and better handling of user content. It’s been offline for over a month.

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Numerous social networking services and apps have challenged Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram’s hegemony over the years. These challengers have included the likes of App.net, Diaspora, Ello, Google+, Path, and Peach, to name a few. Some of them (e.g., Google+) were outright challengers, while others (e.g., App.net, Path) appealed to niche audiences or needs. And some (e.g., Ello, Peach) are still active, albeit in smaller, less ambitious forms. In any case, many of them were, at best, a blip on most peoples’ radars.

Meanwhile, Facebook et al. have kept trudging along, their dominance still intact.

In April 2019, another challenger threw its hat into the ring: AllSocial. At the time, Facebook and Twitter had come under increasing criticism for censorship and bias (particularly with regard to conservative viewpoints), privacy snafus, and their algorithmic approach to determining what users saw (which resulted in people seeing less of their friends’ content, and more from advertisers).

AllSocial claimed to remedy all of that.

AllSocial was making a serious go at being a vibrant, entertaining, and engaging social network.

In a June 2019 interview with The Daily Signal, consultant Rolfe Carawan laid out AllSocial’s vision: little-to-no censorship (except for pornography, threats, and violence) and no banning or shadow-banning users for their personal or political beliefs. In Carawan’s words, “we really are trying to make this a winsome place where people can share their thoughts and their ideas and really express their conscience without fear of being banned.”

(Some of this was undoubtedly due to AllSocial’s own apparent links to conservative circles. Back in February 2020, a Twitter user named Devin Nunes’ Mom’s Son Devin posted an extensive thread documenting some concerning ties between AllSocial’s leadership and various conservative Christian and pro-Trump organizations.)

Additionally, AllSocial promised “no selling of anyone’s data” (though the aforementioned thread contained evidence that their data policy was still pretty permissive) along with a more organic approach to displaying content that ensured your friends and followers saw your posts in sequence. As this October 2019 press release put it (emphasis mine):

Currently, when users post on other social media sites, less than 10% of their followers actually see that content. AllSocial fixes this massive issue by not allowing an algorithm to determine what your friends and followers see from your profile. With AllSocial, 100% of your content is delivered to all your followers 100% of the time… AllSocial has purposefully retained this chronological method for their newsfeed, allowing you to see every single post from those you follow and allowing your important messages to actually be seen by your followers each and every time.

Every social network needs to have celebrities and influencers to serve as their face and help promote it as a cool, worthwhile destination. To that end, AllSocial began partnering with and promoting folks like:

Indeed, AllSocial specifically touted their non-algorithmic approach to displaying content as one reason for social influencers to sign up, claiming that it would create “a more consistent, meaningful connection to their fan base.”

AllSocial also launched channels that focused on everything from beauty, fashion, and travel to BBQ, K-pop, and Royal Family news and gossip. They hosted an open forum to discuss the killing of George Floyd and social media’s impact on the subsequent demonstrations. They even made donations to food banks and COVID-19 charities for every user who followed Colton Underwood. All of these things made it quite obvious that AllSocial was making a serious go at being a vibrant, entertaining, and engaging social network.

Until it disappeared, that is.

I first heard about AllSocial back in April of 2020, when a client asked me about it. Being the technology and design geek that I am, I was immediately intrigued; creating a new social network is, at the very least, an audacious engineering and design task.

My initial impression of AllSocial was that it was very similar to Twitter in terms of both layout and functionality (and perhaps even too similar). It had a very nice, inviting design, with a vibe and color palette that looked more akin to a lifestyle magazine than Silicon Valley. And being a new user, I was instantly prompted to join a few of the aforementioned channels to start seeing content.

In short, AllSocial’s developers and designers had clearly gone out of their way to make it feel as inviting and stress-free as possible.

It’d be nice if someone could present a legitimate alternative to Facebook et al.

I never posted anything on AllSocial other than a few quickly deleted test posts, nor did I try to send any traffic to my AllSocial page. But searching for “AllSocial” on Twitter returned a number of people announcing that they were jumping ship for AllSocial — often because of its “no censorship” policies — and urging their followers to join them.

As of May 2020, AllSocial had 1.6 million users, with hopes of nearing 10 million users by Christmas 2020. Unfortunately for everyone hoping to build and enjoy a freer, more liberated online presence on AllSocial, it effectively went dark on June 19, 2020. If you go to AllSocial’s website as of this writing, you’ll see the same message that’s been there for over a month:

Our AllSocial.com website and our AllSocial app are being taken offline today for a maintenance update. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

Similar messages appear on AllSocial’s Facebook and Twitter pages, where questions concerning its status and return have received no official response that I’ve seen, leaving users frustrated and confused.

There are any number of reasons why AllSocial has, from all indications, shut down: they ran out of money, they encountered insurmountable technical issues, the company was poorly managed, they were sold or bought out, there was a data breach, and so on. (Not surprisingly, Devin Nunes’ Mom’s Son Devin recently posted another extensive Twitter thread concerning AllSocial’s shut down, surmising that it was essentially a data-harvesting sham.)

Unfortunately, until AllSocial actually responds to their users, there’s no telling what actually happened. In a bit of cyber-sleuthing, I’ve even found some of the company’s officials, who apparently still work for AllSocial, but there’s been nary a word concerning their employer’s status.

All of which is a shame, because it’d be nice if someone could present a legitimate alternative to Facebook et al. (competition being good for consumers and all that).

Until AllSocial actually responds to their users, there’s no telling what actually happened.

AllSocial was clearly courting those who perceived the currently dominant social networks as dismissive of conservative opinions even as it was presenting itself as a mainstream network. (As opposed to say, Gab, which has a similar “free speech” appeal but has become firmly associated with the far right, alt-right, and other extremists.)

Ideological concerns and censorship issues aside, though, there was still a lot about AllSocial that looked promising. Heck, just the fact that it presented users’ posts in chronological order was a big selling point for me.

But with each passing day that “offline” message remains on AllSocial’s website, it looks increasingly likely that AllSocial is sharing the same fate as Google+, App.net, and the many other social media challengers that have tried and failed before them.

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