This year was all about the messaging app, and for good reason: Social networks behaved abysmally in 2014. Sharing information and photos privately with friends is a compelling alternative to social networks with their ads, weird research experiments, and harassment.
That's not to say anyone is abandoning social media, but more and more users are pressuring companies to be better and more honest about how data is used and what is being done to make networks like Facebook, Twitter, and new anonymous social apps safer spaces.
Does Facebook finally have a rival?
No other network can challenge Facebook in terms of active users (1.35 billion and still growing), but when the company deleted the accounts of well-known San Francisco drag performers, a new kid on the block welcomed the influx of users with open arms.
The issue: Real names. Facebook has always been hinged on identity. After all, you can't search for your high school crush if everyone uses pseudonyms. But drag performers who created new identities for themselves were being punished for not using their birth names. Activists banded together and found a new network, one that allowed for anonymity and is free of ads: Ello.
After the fledgling network, which is still in beta, made headlines and grew by leaps and bounds in just a few days, Facebook clarified that its real name policy actually just meant "authentic" names. The ruckus died down, as it always does. It was clear that Ello would never kill Facebook, but the platform is still growing and adding new features--clearly no flash in the pan. And who needs a Facebook killer when you have a solid Facebook alternative?
Twitter's abuse problem
Twitter is an online forum that allows people to take on pseudonyms, so of course it has trolls. That's just the nature of the Internet. But this year it became clear that the network has a lackadaisical approach to cracking down on abuse.
In August, bullies tweeted comedian Robin Williams's daughter Zelda doctored photos of her deceased father in the days following his suicide. Then attackers doxxed female video game developers in a Twitter campaign that included rape and death threats. And those were just the major incidents. Abuse on Twitter happens daily on a smaller scale, and the harassment is largely aimed at women.
So the company finally acknowledged its abuse problem and set out to solve it. So far, the steps have been incremental--a faster way to file a complaint against another user and an easier way to manage your block list--but Twitter said more tools are on the way to help people feel safer on the platform.
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