Facebook, which used to pride itself on never being down, was taken down this morning. It’s back up now — but if the outage made you realise how much you’d miss the site if it were gone, or you want to look into alternatives, a range of sites offering similar functions do exist.
Lizard Squad claimed responsibility for the hack, but Facebook said that it broke itself. Either way, it’s useful to have your online profiles spread across the internet — whether or not Facebook is down, it’s often useful to have an alternative to the all-encompassing social network.
Even aside from the hack, Facebook is one of the only social networks to be losing users. It saw a 9% drop in active usage in 2014, according to GlobalWebIndex, and while it remains the most popular social network it’s increasingly being taken on by others like Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr.
The problem with social networks is that you can’t use them on their own — and part of the reason that Facebook has picked up such traction is that
But there are a host of alternatives, many of them well known. Twitter offers something different, and is perhaps less friendly. Google Plus is slick but has very few people on it. LinkedIn is focused on jobs.
There are other, less famous and therefore less popular, services. Path, for example, is largely built on photo sharing and messaging but hasn’t caught on much outside of south-east Asia. Ello saw a flurry of excitement for its privacy focused social networking last year, but it didn’t come to much. Similar start-up Diaspora similarly promises control and privacy when you want it — but it’s not much good if your friends aren’t there.
Ultimately, Facebook is the best of its kind: a social network where everything is bundled into one login, that is widely used enough to allow you to connect with most of the people you care about. But moving away from that bundled approach — using a different service for different functions — is increasingly Facebook’s concern, and doing the same can let you use a wider range of apps and networks.
There are a vast range of picture sharing sites, many more careful with your photos than Facebook is.
Firstly, it's worth downloading a backup of all your photos, even if you intend to keep using Facebook. You can do that from the accounts settings menu at the top right of the page, where you can click on a link to "Download a Copy of Your Facebook Data". You can then put that data, including your pictures, on another hard drive or on a different network entirely.
If you’re looking to store pictures you want to show off, like holiday pictures, you can put them on Flickr. The site offers 1TB of storage, the option to control how your photos are used, and presents pictures in a neat slideshow that you can share with friends. Like on Facebook, you can tag them, if they’re also on the site.
Alternative sites include 500px, which like Flickr has apps for iOS, Android and Windows Phone.
When Facebook Messenger was broken off into its own app last year, it became much less useful — and a better alternative is the Facebook-owned WhatsApp. It offers many of the same features, such as group chats and free texting, but in its own interface.
WhatsApp, though, can’t be used on desktop PCs or tablets. Other alternatives are often locked to devices made by the company that made them — iMessage works great, for example, but is only available for people on Apple computers, tablets or phones.
Google Hangouts is perhaps the most similar, and best, alternative to using Facebook as a messaging service, however. It works on PCs and on iOS and Android phones.
The only difference is it relies on you having the email address of people you’re talking to — but that also means that you don’t actually have to add the person on Facebook to speak to them. And it offers video and voice calls, too.
One of Facebook’s most useful features is the events feature. It allows users to fix a date and set invites to users of the service, collecting it all in one easy to access page that will also notify people if there are any changes.
Because everyone finds the Facebook events tool so easy to use, it’s hard to organise things elsewhere. But alternatives of course exist.
The most obvious one is organising events within calendar apps. In Google Calendar, for example, users can send invites to attendees — which will also show up in other calendar apps like Outlook or iCloud — and then collect a list of who might be going to an event and send alerts to them.
Google Plus might not have many people using it actively, but lots of people will have an account, if only because they have Gmail. It offers a much neater way of organising events, allowing for many of the same administrative jobs that Facebook does. After an event has finished the page turns into a kind of commemoration of the event, where users can post pictures from it.
If you’re looking for larger scale, more public events, Meetup offers a platform for running events. It publicises meetings to users so that they can find them by searching for people with common interests — but administrators of groups must pay to use the service.