In today’s Exponential Investor

  • Platforms down
  • Get Signal
  • Three principles of our changing world

On Monday afternoon I was doing a usual skim through my Twitter feed (by the way you can follow me @samvolkering).

I noticed a few people started tweeting about Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) being “down”. Then Instagram was “down”. And, finally, WhatsApp was also “down”.

All quiet on the [insert name] front…

Those few tweets turned into a tsunami of tweets. Across the globe all of Facebook’s services were offline. You couldn’t send any WhatsApp messages. Instagram feeds weren’t loading … and you couldn’t post anything. Facebook, you just couldn’t access at all.

There were even some (dubious at best) reports that Facebook employees couldn’t even get into the building because their passes weren’t working.

Meanwhile on Twitter (NASDAQ:TWTR)… it was business as usual… meaning, lots of memes about Facebook being offline and Jack Dorsey (CEO/founder of Twitter) being responsible for it.

This was one of the best ones I saw:

Source: Twitter

The Facebook outage was no doubt disruptive. It even wiped 5% off Facebook’s stock price, which is the equivalent of around $48 billion in market cap.

You’d think that with those massive social sites all down, and Twitter thriving, it would see a boost to Twitter’s stock price…

Nope.

Twitter was down more than Facebook in Monday trading. How that works, I’ll be honest, I don’t know.

Nonetheless, this does raise an interesting question.

Let’s say this happens again, for whatever reason. It’s a situation where Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp all go offline… but not just them.

What about if Twitter were to tumble as well?

Throw TikTok into the mix too.

What if all the big social sites were offline, not just for a few hours or even a day. But for months, or perhaps… for good?

You need alternatives. OR if you decide to ditch Facebook and its other services for good, then what else can you use?

Try Signal

I’ll be the first to admit, I use WhatsApp a lot. It’s my main communication app with friends and family.

I use it to share what’s going on with all my family in Australia. I use it to video call my dad so he can see and chat with us halfway across the world.

I use it with friends here to organise catch-ups. I even use it with my wife when we’re in the same house (but different rooms) so that we don’t have to shout and wake up a sleeping baby.

When WhatsApp was down yesterday, all of that communication came to a grinding halt.

For a moment it was actually pretty good. The notifications, messages… distractions, all gone. But then I thought, if this is a longer term outage, what next?

The good thing is I use another messaging platform that wasn’t offline yesterday, in fact, to my knowledge it’s never been “down”.

It’s called Signal.

I use it to connect with other friends and family who aren’t big fans of WhatsApp. In other words, they hate Facebook and thereby hate WhatsApp. Facebook owns WhatsApp, just in case you weren’t sure.

If WhatsApp were to go down permanently, it’d be ok. Not for Facebook, but for all the rest of us.

Other applications would lick up the slack, like Signal.

The great thing about Signal is that its primary focus is on privacy. Thanks to it being a not-for-profit organisation and open source it doesn’t rely on your data to exist (like pretty much all of Facebook’s services).

Those who should know a thing or two about privacy, like Edward Snowden (the whistle-blower who revealed the NSA’s pervasive surveillance tactics), says, “I use Signal every day.”

And even Jack Dorsey says, “I trust Signal because it’s well built, but more importantly, because of how it’s built: open source, peer reviewed, and funded entirely by grants and donations. A refreshing model for how critical services should be built.”

I like Signal. It does everything WhatsApp does, but with better privacy and data protection.

I’m trying to get all my family and friends to use it. And if you’re interested, I reckon you should check it out too. You can find its website and information on it here.

Open source, free, never down

The idea that Signal is open source is powerful. That something which is free, can be so significant, relevant and successful shows that not everything needs to be built and bastardised by “big tech”.

Big tech can be for the people, by the people, with decisions and development from the community itself. The combined intelligence of a widespread, innovative, people-first community can actually become a powerful entity, disrupting traditional networks and structures.

Signal is evidence of how this can exist.

Another is bitcoin.

When you break it down, bitcoin is a free, open-source application. That application just happens to be a global monetary network.

There is no central controller of bitcoin. All decisions on its development are by the community in the interests of the community. Anyone can participate, anyone can have their say.

And importantly, when you decentralise and distribute the responsibility for running that network to the community, you also tend to find that it becomes exponentially more secure and robust.

Bitcoin’s network has never been “down”. There is no “offline” status for bitcoin. That’s because of its essential nature as an open-source, decentralised and distributed network.

Furthermore, bitcoin is not alone in these respects.

Our very world is changing due to these three principles:

  • Open-source
  • Decentralisation
  • Widely distributed amongst a community.

Imagine Facebook, without the organisation, but on an open-source, distributed, decentralised network. That means a network which doesn’t need to hoard and sell your data to make revenues, because it doesn’t need revenues to exist.

That means a network where the primary focus is on connecting people, in the online world, with control over your privacy at your fingertips, not some unknown developers in Silicon Valley.

The very fabric of how we connect, interact, transact is being altered by decentralised, distributed, open-source networks. And I believe that it’s going to unlock the most significant wealth opportunity we’ve seen since the internet… perhaps even more than the internet.

Until next time…

Sam Volkering
Editor, Exponential Investor