Will the future of social media be dominated by the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat, or will new apps emerge to challenge their power? While Twitter’s outlook may be slightly uncertain, Facebook and Snapchat are showing no signs of slowing down. But one company is trying to change that.

The new kid on the block

Meet Treem, the startup looking to make the next “killer” social media app” Their aim is to create a social platform that gives users control of what they see on their feeds, ensuring their privacy and shielding them from unwanted ads. Not only do users have control of the posts that appear on their screens, but they can also choose which followers can see and share their posts.

But beyond all the privacy settings, the one feature that’s sure to get people signing up immediately is the company’s promise to reward its most frequent users (collectively) with 20% of the company’s net value should Treem be sold or hold an IPO. These users are identified through the use of proprietary algorithm that awards points for referrals and followers.

Solving a problem

Treem CEO Ken Kaufman sees Treem as the antidote to those social media companies that “are addicted to advertising revenue” because there is no user profile page that is public to both friends and advertisers. Instead, Treem utilizes a tree structure where users can group followers into constituent branches, such as “family” or “co-workers”. There is even an option to create a “Secret Tree”, which requires a PIN to access posts.

Not only do these privacy settings deter would-be advertisers, but they also help to prevent the spread of “fake news”. Because Facebook and Twitter encourage larger friend networks, each one helps to facilitate the spread of viral posts. Treem’s platform, which is better suited to smaller, more intimate groups, may naturally limit the reach of such posts.

Bursting the bubble

The success of such an app hinges on the new-found desires for privacy and curation of social networks that have come to the fore post-election. But Treem doesn’t really address one of the biggest criticisms of social media during the election cycle: that it allowed people to get lost in their own bubble of beliefs, helped by Facebook’s algorithms.

Treem lets you talk to the people you already know. It doesn’t give you access to the profiles of people you don’t know, which means that those who use it can easily fall into the same trap that Facebook’s algorithms create.  

Treem is trying to address two very serious issues: the lack of privacy on the Internet and the toxic spread of fake news. But in some ways, these missions are at odds with one another. In order to address the lack of privacy, Treem has made a social platform that makes it easy for people to control what their network sees. But the problem with fake news is not purely its viral nature: after all, real news goes viral too. It is the fact that fake news allows people to reinforce their own worldviews, at the expense of facts and objectivity. By trying to pop that bubble, Treem is only making it bigger.

Treem is available on both the iTunes and Google app stores.