If you are a German and have been on the Internet for more than a few years, you probably remember studiVZ. The social network launched at a time when Facebook was still very new and only available to college students in the United States. In its first iteration, it looked much like Facebook, just red instead of blue. A leaked PHP error message indicated that one of the source files even had the name fakebook.php. The network later expanded to high school students (“schülerVZ”) and the general public (“meinVZ”) but had no chance against the global giant. The company was sold multiple times and became practically irrelevant.
All the more, I was surprised when I heard that the latest owner relaunched the network, now directly calling it “VZ” (VerZeichnis = directory). It’s a redesign from the old social network I knew, but it looks solid. There is no general newsfeed. All interactions happen in groups. That is in line with the prevailing social media trend of niche communities and “dark social” as people realize that everybody just broadcasting creates a lot of content that either overwhelms or is rendered invisible by the algorithms.
There is no sign of APIs and integrations for VZ yet and also no business model outside of advertisements. Their only selling point with regards to privacy is that the servers are physically located in Germany.
I signed up mostly because of nostalgia. I’m not sure if VZ has any chance but, if you know me, I have a lot of sympathy for everybody who doesn’t just accept the Facebook monopoly and tries to do something different.