In November 2019, Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, launched a new social network platform with minimal promotion behind it. WT.Social, the revamped iteration of WikiTribune, has a two-pronged mission: provide users with accurate news while keeping their data safe.
Introducing a new social network in this day and age has its share of potential challenges. The list of failed ventures in this space is extensive – YikYak, Vine, Heello to name a few. Not to mention the already-cemented institutions of Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Establishing a foothold among the public requires a unique take on user interaction, and Wales believes WT.Social has one.
The website boasts a brand new approach to social media – “As social networks have grown, they’ve also amplified the voices of bad actors across the globe. Fake news has influenced global events, and algorithms care only about ‘engagement’, and keeping people addicted to platforms without substance.”
WT.Social has clearly prioritized combating misinformation, with fact-checking and accuracy measurement built directly into its business model – “We will empower you to make your own choices about what content you are served, and to directly edit misleading headlines, or flag problem posts.” News on the site is accompanied by links to clear sources (much like Wikipedia) and users are able to edit and flag farcical links.
Just like Wikipedia, Wales is banking on user donations to keep the network afloat without the support of advertisers. There are a couple tier options for “donors” to contribute, with a $12.99 a month plan as well as an annual $100 plan. Those who wish to forego donating will be redirected to a waitlist to gain membership. According to Wales, the platform had approximately 160,000 active users in its first month.
With Facebook and Twitter’s never-ending battle against accusations of data misconduct constantly dominating news cycles, it makes sense to brand a new platform as a differentiator that will protect user privacy. According to research, the number of social media users worldwide in 2019 was 3.484 billion, up nine percent year-over-year. Clearly, the market shows no signs of slowing down. Time will tell if Wales’ new venture will establish itself as a major player, but if it garners even a fraction of the success that Wikipedia has enjoyed, Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey will have to make room for an extra chair at the social media tycoon table.