You don’t need to quit social networks if you value privacy. Take back control of your personal data with these open-source alternatives to popular social networks like Instagram, Clubhouse, and Reddit.
Social networks hold too much power over us. We upload our personal data to them, but they are the ones in control. They can restrict what we see or don’t see, what we say or don’t say. At any point, they can be inaccessible due to a government order or a server problem. And that’s not even accounting for the privacy issues and how they sell your personal data to earn ad money.
Facebook has alternatives like Diaspora, while Twitter has Mastodon. But what about the rest? Try these open-source alternatives to social networks that give you control over your data and privacy while still offering similar features as those of the big companies.
1. Jam (Web): Open Source Alternative to Clubhouse and Twitter Spaces
Tired of the screen but still want to talk to people? Clubhouse and Twitter Spaces have exploded in popularity because of their audio-only chat rooms. If you haven’t got an invite yet, or don’t want to give personal data to a big company, Jam is an open-source and free alternative to Clubhouse with loads of features.
At its core, Jam works exactly like the others. Host a room from any web browser, share the link with others, and join to start speaking. You can control who speaks and who listens. Give each room a topic, description, and an action button with a URL.
Since it works on peer-to-peer (P2P) connections, Jam can only support 15 speakers and 30 attendees in a room. That’s much less than Clubhouse. But Jam makes up for these shortcomings through other things, like giving animated emoji reactions from your avatar to what someone said. You can also add your own branding to a room.
And of course, since this is open source, you can protect your data by hosting Jam on your own server. It can be as basic as a Raspberry Pi. More features are coming soon to Jam from a team of enthusiastic developers, so keep an eye on this one.
2. Pixelfed (Web): Open Source Alternative to Instagram
Most people have heard of Mastodon, the alternative to Twitter trying to be a decentralized micro-blogging platform. But not many know that the same company has an open-source Instagram alternative focused on privacy called Pixelfed.
The default feed is similar to Instagram, wherein you follow people and see the photos, videos, and Stories that they are posting. You can Direct Message users, comment on posts, and act just like a standard social network. Each post allows for a maximum of 10 photos or videos.
Pixelfed won’t bother you with ads and sponsored posts. It runs off peer-hosted servers, so there’s no big bad corporation trying to fill its coffers by utilizing your personal data. The web app runs entirely in a browser, whether on computers or phones, and it does store cookies.
3. PeerTube (Web): Open Source, P2P Alternative to YouTube and Vimeo
YouTube and Vimeo are the biggest free video streaming platforms for the average person to upload or watch clips on the internet. In return for that “free” tag, you’re handing over personal data and putting up with censorship and takedowns, targeted ads, and other issues.
PeerTube offers an open-source alternative to YouTube that runs off a peer-to-peer network much like torrents. Each PeerTube instance hosts its own videos, so there are no server costs to pay for or other needs to serve you ads. Each instance or host is free to put any content they like (as long as it meets community guidelines).
Of course, you can use PeerTube without hosting an instance yourself, just like how you watch YouTube videos. Browse the content curated by PeerTube, use the browsing filters on the main site, or watch things recommended by channels that you follow. It’s a great option to host your videos online while retaining control of the data.
4. Lemmy (Web): Open Source Alternative to Reddit
Reddit was long hailed as a bastion of free speech on the internet, but recent controversies of censorship and investments have taken the sheen off it. There are a few others like Voat and 4Chan, but Lemmy is an open-source alternative to Reddit that runs on a federated network.
A federated network is a type of peer-to-peer network where anyone can host a Lemmy instance, and connect to other instances creating a mesh of joint data. As a user, you probably want to join the default Lemmy.ml, but you can find other servers on the main Lemmy website.
In terms of usage, it’s pretty much what you get with Reddit. Primarily this is a place to share links and add commentary, with nested comments to drive a conversation. An upvote/downvote system moves the priority of links, and the whole thing works through a web browser even on mobiles.
5. Glimesh (Web): Open Source Alternative to Twitch
For live streamers, especially gamers, the choices these days boil down to Twitch, YouTube, and Facebook Live. But all of them come with their own restrictions, especially in terms of monetization and how others can discover you. Glimesh tries to give control back to the host.
This open-source streaming platform claims to be “built by the community, for the community.” The focus is on how content creators can interact with their fans more easily and build an online audience and how users can discover online streamers. Apart from gaming, Glimesh supports other live streaming genres like art, music, tech, IRL, education, etc.
Glimesh is currently in the alpha stage, but you can register and try it out already. Features like subscriptions and payments, video on demand and media, and other important aspects are coming soon. The dev team stresses transparency and openness and is ready to answer any questions in their Discord channel.
Privacy and Protection Don’t Mean Social Networks are Good for You
This range of open-source alternatives to social networks gives you an option to connect with people online and still protect your data. But these still don’t solve the basic issue with social networking: too much of it isn’t good for mental health.
While these open-source social networks don’t show ads or infringe your privacy, they can still affect how you think based on how others portray their lives. So exercise caution in what you expose yourself to, and don’t fall into the trap of tech addiction.