Talking about privacy and social networks with Alexander Vanelsas of Glubble

These days the discussion about privacy on social networks is more intense. For this reason I wanted to state some questions to Alexander Vanelsas (A.V.), CEO of Glubble, a family social network.

During the last days, we hear and see several opinions about Facebook’s intention to change its privacy policy. As Mark Zuckerberg mentioned to a live audience last weekend. Here in Greece social media just become a massive trend. And it seems that some brands, personal or corporate, count the impact of social interaction in numbers of friends on Facebook, or followers on twitter. In other words: some might think that social networks are just about numbers. What makes them social then?

(A.V.): I guess this depends strongly on the perspective. For a user, a social network is primarily ‘social’. I assume that most users join such networks to meet up with friends and share things together. From the perspective of the service provider, the numbers are much more important. I always use the term network effect (as Tim O’Reilly uses it in his definition of web 2.0). The user is primarily interested in user value, the service provider is interested in network value. The bigger the network, the larger the (advertisement) revenues.

Actually people are not numbers and do no really like to be treated like that. Honestly, the communications industry should not be about how to collect numbers. Metrics of impact are not immediately connected to the number of followers, friends, readers or page views. They show you what happens socially.

(A.V.): A service provider like Facebook is primarily interested in the numbers. The more people there are on Facebook, the more page views, etc. the more money they make. Their business model is fueled by advertisement. Advertisement models need huge traffic to generate revenues. So traffic becomes one of the most important parameters for success.

I do not necessarily object to advertisement models. But there is really been only one real successful business model based upon advertisement. And that is search. Google is by far the most successful company online, because they have found a model in which advertisement actually provides value to the user. If I’m looking for something, then I’m willing to look at advertisements. In social networks the advertisement itself only has indirect value. It sponsors the service, but has little or no value in the interaction between friends.

Personally, I do not think that people changed how they feel about privacy. Openness does not mean to share every single moment of your private life. Does it? Some would say that we are responsible for whatever we post, but isn’t everybody responsible to respect and the others privacy in a specific network of people?

(A.V.): Privacy is often used in relation to terms like secrecy, trust, transparency. To me privacy is something more fundamental. Privacy (to me) is isn’t about hiding things, it’s about freedom. It is about the user having the choice to share or not share. In many cases, the user doesn’t have this freedom to choose. This isn’t just related to the online world (think about the information you share about yourself with the government, bank, credit card company etc.), but the effects and possible repercussions online are much bigger.

Our interactions online and offline are based on trust. That is why you can use, the “limited profile” option on Facebook. So that they do not share anything they post on their profile. Usually, they want to share it with connections they have in their real life as well. That is the essence of Facebook’s success.Why should we give up our privacy online, would we offline?

(A.V.): We may be moving towards a world where everyone shares everything, but I somehow doubt that this is a conscious choice. Some give up privacy in return for value, many don’t know they are giving up privacy when they join a site like Facebook. But most don’t care. And my bet is that they don’t care because they have no control over it. And if you have no control over it, why care. We have a responsibility to give users that choice. Let them decide for themselves if they want to be open or not. Instead of setting the ‘norm’ to open and force people to be ‘in’ or ‘out’.

Even more companies see the business opportunities on the web. nearly one are ago, you wrote:

I do not want to be reduced to a number, a statistical value. I want service providers to care about me. I want them to spend more time on keeping me satisfied in their service than spending time on getting more users in the network. I want large companies to act small and personal. I want the growth of a service to be truly organic, instead of getting ‘orchestrated’. I want investors and entrepreneurs to stop feeding web companies steroids to grow big. I want them to start holding companies accountable for generating revenues.

(A.V.): Good quote 🙂 It reminds me o a video I watched a few days ago. It’s from the lead developer at 37signals who talks about making money online by actually charging users/businesses for it.


There is no better way of delivering value and that someone is actually willing to pay for that value.

You are an entrepreneurs on your own, CEO of Glubble for Families, which is a network for families through which they can connect to each other and share privately on they web. Children as well as parents. (Comment: I just love the glubblenews blog, hope to see more parents blogging in Greece:) )

(A.V.): 🙂

How came this idea up and what is Glubble for Families success?

(A.V.): Glubble was founded with the idea that (small) children need to learn to be safe on the web. Instead of just letting them figure out everything by themselves we want parents to help them and teach them good ‘digital citizenship’. Glubble lets children discover the web with a fun and safe kids browser. They can connect to parents and (extended) family (brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts etc.) via a family social network.

Glubble let’s families get together online and puts all control in the hands of its users. Each has a personal where they can share important family memories. And since Glubble doesn’t use an advertisement based business model we will not invade your privacy or serve you advertisement.

What did you learn while working on Glubble for Families?

(A.V.): I learn something new every day. For example, It is very hard to deliver a simple, fun and valuable service to so many different types of people. Safety and privacy means something different to everyone. So instead of Glubble defining what that is, we try to put all control in the hands of the user. A parent knows what is best for his child. And this will be different for each parent and each child.

What would you say to upcoming entrepreneurs on the web?

(A.V.): Focus on delivering value to your user. It is the only thing that will make your company successful. Forget about becoming the next Facebook or Twitter. Forget about the numbers. Deliver value to users, find a business model that leverages that value, and your company will grow to become successful.

Interesting writings on the subject:

Saving Face – The Privacy Architecture of Facebook

Why Facebook is Wrong: Privacy Is Still Important

Dissecting Zuckerberg’s Privacy Comments

Zuckerberg: I know that people don’t want privacy

Facebook’s Zuckerberg says The Age of Privacy is over





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