Af­ter pok­ing Face­book, life isn’t easy for a site named Tsu

Kuwait Times - - TECHNOLOGY -

SAN FRANCISCO: Sup­pose ev­ery time you posted on Face­book, the so­cial net­work tal­lied up the ad rev­enue it earned against your up­date and passed a per­cent­age back to you. Of course, Face­book does noth­ing of the sort - but it is much smaller ri­val Tsu.co does.

Though now Tsu (pro­nounced “Sue”) ap­pears to be pay­ing a dif­fer­ent sort of price. In late Septem­ber, Face­book started delet­ing mil­lions of posts that in­cluded links to Tsu - more than 9.5 mil­lion of them, the smaller com­pany claims. Face­book also blocks new posts that merely con­tain the text “tsu.co” but no links, warns users that links to Tsu are “un­safe” and fails to de­liver In­sta­gram posts and texts via Face­book Mes­sen­ger that men­tion Tsu’s In­ter­net ad­dress or link to the site.

Face­book de­fends its Tsu ban as a way to pre­vent its ser­vice from turn­ing into a hang­out for scam artists and op­por­tunists hop­ing to make a quick buck.

Tsu says Face­book just doesn’t want its users to re­al­ize that their pho­tos, videos and per­sonal ob­ser­va­tions might ac­tu­ally be worth some­thing.

Face­book, which has an un­der­stand­able in­ter­est in pro­tect­ing its 1.5 bil­lion users from an on­slaught of dig­i­tal rub­bish, is one of the In­ter­net’s largest gate­keep­ers. That gives it ex­tra­or­di­nary sway in de­ter­min­ing who can reach its vast mem­ber­ship - not to men­tion what those mem­bers can dis­cuss us­ing its apps and ser­vices.

That can be a big is­sue when the sub­ject in­volves a chal­lenge to a com­pany’s core busi­ness - in this case, sell­ing ad­ver­tis­ing against the ma­te­rial Face­book users con­trib­ute for free. Face­book has earned $2.1 bil­lion on rev­enue of $12 bil­lion dur­ing the first nine months of this year alone. The com­pany now has a mar­ket value of about $300 bil­lion, and no par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est in gen­er­at­ing traf­fic for a po­ten­tial com­peti­tor.

Sim­i­lar dis­putes There’s a long history of sim­i­lar dis­putes among tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies, who al­most al­ways claim to be act­ing in the in­ter­ests of their users. Ama­zon, for in­stance, re­cently yanked Google and Ap­ple stream­ing-TV de­vices from its vir­tual shelves, clear­ing the way for its own such gad­gets. In just the past few days, sev­eral banks have blocked out­side fi­nan­cial-plan­ning apps from con­nect­ing to their sys­tems, cit­ing se­cu­rity con­cerns.

Tsu, which launched just over a year ago, has grown quickly; CEO Se­bas­tian Sobczak says it has 4 mil­lion mem­bers. It has raised about $11 mil­lion in ven­ture cap­i­tal. Face­book’s Tsu purge came with­out warn­ing and af­fected a swath of users that in­cluded rap artist 50 Cent, who shared a link to a video on Tsu with more than 38 mil­lion Face­book fans. The team that han­dles 50 Cent’s so­cial me­dia ac­counts didn’t re­spond to re­quests for com­ment.

Face­book says that Tsu pays its users to post links on other sites, an in­cen­tive that breaks its rules for con­nect­ing with its so­cial net­work. In a state­ment, Face­book said it doesn’t let out­side pub­lish­ers pay users to post links on its net­work “be­cause it en­cour­ages spammy shar­ing.” The Menlo Park, Cal­i­for­nia, com­pany de­clined to elab­o­rate.

Sobczak de­nies that his ser­vice is pay­ing peo­ple to post links on Face­book. Tsu users are paid based on how much ad­ver­tis­ing it sells along­side their posts. That rev­enue-shar­ing setup is sim­i­lar to fi­nan­cial mod­els used by ma­jor dig­i­tal ser­vices such as Google’s YouTube; Face­book users widely share YouTube links with one an­other.

De­flect at­ten­tion “It feels like we are be­ing sin­gled out and they are try­ing to stop a com­peti­tor with a more ef­fi­cient busi­ness model,” Sobczak says. “What are they afraid of?” Sobczak, a for­mer ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist, says Face­book hasn’t re­sponded to his in­quiries.

Clau­dia Ever­est, a frus­trated Face­book user who em­braced Tsu to find buy­ers for her $30 draw­ings of dogs, says Face­book is try­ing to de­flect at­ten­tion from Tsu’s rev­enue-shar­ing con­cept. “I don’t think they are afraid of Tsu as much as they are of any­thing that lets peo­ple know their con­tent has value,” says Ever­est, who lives in Stoke on Trent in Eng­land. “That pic­ture you posted of your din­ner last night may not seem like it has value, but it does to the ad­ver­tis­ers.”

Face­book does, how­ever, fre­quently re­jig­ger its al­go­rithms in ways that some­times limit how many peo­ple see any given post. Such changes have alien­ated some long­time users such as Kevin Hin­kle of Lake Mary, Florida. Hin­kle had built a Face­book fol­low­ing of nearly 5,000 peo­ple, but felt as if his posts weren’t reach­ing as many peo­ple over time.

For Hin­kle, the re­duced ex­po­sure meant fewer peo­ple to ad­vise in his self-de­scribed role as a “joy­ol­o­gist.” He’s been pleased with the re­sponse on Tsu since he set up an ac­count late last year. Hin­kle says he has made about $4,100 on Tsu while av­er­ag­ing 10 to 20 posts per day. “Now it looks like it could be­come a Face­book com­peti­tor,” Hin­kle says. “I think Face­book sees where things could be head­ing and knows it wouldn’t be good for them at all.” —AP

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