Flowsee Aims to Benefit from Facebook Fatigue

By Conor Rushby |

Social networks have helped define the 21st century so far, but although Facebook recently passed one billion users, could the end of its domination already be in sight? Some argue that ‘Facebook fatigue’ is becoming increasingly common as users begin to disengage and seek new avenues for social interaction. This supposed phenomenon is inspiring startup Flowsee to offer Berliners with an alternative online networking experience.

It’s a social network with a local angle, hosting multimedia with the best content being curated to the homepage. There are also multiple category pages like photography, music and tech where users can post pictures, links and videos. The number of likes or dislikes a particular post receives affects where it features on a page, and indeed whether it makes the front page.

Sound familiar? The layout is similar to Pinterest, with a Reddit-like front page and a social element reminiscent of Facebook.

Although it’s a neat design, there is nothing particularly innovative here, but the emergence of smaller networks like Flowsee could signal the gradual fragmentation of the Internet’s networking fabric. Italian social eating network Ploonge recently set up shop in Berlin, while  niche networks such as Academia.edu for researchers, or aSmallWorld – the invite only network for Europe’s jetset elite – are providing alternatives for those fatigued with Facebook.

Of course, that’s not to say that everyone will suddenly leave Facebook – but it could be that they continue to use it for things like staying in touch friends, while simultaneously looking to smaller, more specialised networks for other uses. That in turn could see the rise of social media management tools like HootSuite so users can keep on top of multiple online social lives.

Attracting the Fatigued

So where does Flowsee fit in? Its niche, or rather its base, is Berlin. Co-founder Olivier Jarfas insists it would be pretentious to say Flowsee wants to compete with established sites that command huge user bases, but the concept would be readily scalable. They instead hope to address the shortcomings with other platforms – attracting the fatigued – while aiming to build a solid, if smaller, online community.

One such shortcoming identified by Olivier is the closed nature of other networks. On Flowsee users can connect with anybody and see everyone else’s profile pages. Category creators can’t moderate content either.

Facebook has had well documented issues with privacy, and Reddit recently became embroiled in a row after it emerged one user had been posting inappropriate pictures of his students online. Flowsee in its short existence has had its own problems – some users began posting nude photos in the ‘jobs wanted’ section, but with the use of personal profiles it’s a departure from the controversial anonymity that Reddit encourages.

Flowsee hope profiles, without the option of making friends, will facilitate a strong community – indeed the site is heavily Berlin-flavoured. The team behind it are based in the German capital, though originally from Paris, while stallholders from the Mauer Park flea market have begun using the platform to post handmade and vintage goods for sale. Olivier says it didn’t take them long to start posting pictures and videos as well.

A Social Search Engine

He said: “The problem with Twitter and Facebook is you will never find something you are not looking for.” Flowsee users, being unrestricted in what they can see, can instead search on a category, such as art, find items to their liking, and check out the merchant’s profile.

It has long been rumored Facebook is planning to build a search engine – indeed Mark Zuckerburg hinted at it at Disrupt in September. What form it will take is a moot point, it could for instance be where to buy items – or to aid the user in search of content posted on the platform.

However if part of Flowsee’s charm is its local feel, what about if the site takes off? Facebook, for example, was originally restricted to Harvard before spreading rapidly to other universities in the US.

For now Flowsee is in beta with only 500 users, and the bootstrapped business is entering an already-crowded marketplace. It therefore seems likely the social network will retain its local feel for the time being. But if it gains momentum, the team behind it are developing the design to render the site more personalised, so that if increasingly large amounts of content are posted, users can filter out the less interesting stuff.

Monetisation plans would see businesses pay to make sure their content stays at the top – but that would change the character of the platform, and cause it lose some of the charm with the Facebook refugees are seeking in the first place.