What would it take to replace Facebook with Discourse?

I hate Facebook, but cant seem to give it up. Lately I’ve only been using it for the “communities” I’ve joined. I stay away from anything negative or full of drama! I can certainly understand why you want to get away from it!!


Indeed – there’s a lot of evidence that Facebook et al are a big source of the increased polarization we’re seeing these days: Why Social Media Makes Us More Polarized and How to Fix It - Scientific American


I have been using discourse for just a little bit and had the amazing @pfaffman help me install a community for my small company. So I am not completely aware of all the ins and outs of this fantastic platform. But I have used Facebook groups for several community support forums and run a few as an admin.

It interesting to note that for many (including me) the only reason I am on Facebook is because of groups. Without groups I would have abandoned it years ago. In fact if the two groups I am in right now left for discourse I would happily leave Facebook. So the connection for many to Facebook is tenuous at best.

A few things I have noted:

  • People want a single click join experience to groups. They don’t want to deal with signups/logins/passwords.

  • The post and comment composition UI must be seamless and simple. Discourse is super powerful and but cognitively it is too much for many. Have to allow people to post with very little distraction.

  • the newsfeed is important yes, but what drives it is the addictive notifications system Facebook employs.

You have to ask yourself maybe we don’t want to replicate the addictive nature of Facebook. Maybe a light federation is what we want to aim at. Make it easier to join discourses with DiscourseHub. Make it easy to get notifications. And see where that gets you in the medium term.


I highly recommend watching The Social Dilemma , for those unaware they describe how Facebook works with its addictive nature of its platform. This reminds something similar like those looking for alternatives to Reddit as /r/watchredditdie or /r/redditalternatives, at the end many suggest decentralized alternatives as activity-pub, but that’s another topic for another thread.


I corresponded with an install customer today who tried and failed to replace Facebook with Discourse. Things that I would try include:

  • make the facebook group read-only
  • contrive to post links to Discourse topics to the facebook group
  • configure facebook logins

I assume that Facebook Groups must be better than the “discussions” I see in people’s feeds on facebook, but for those, it is virtually impossible to follow an entire conversation. Whenever I see a topic/thread I’d like to read I almost always give up because it takes like 2 clicks per message to be able to see them all.


Here are 4 area people spend there time in facebook.

  1. Chat with Friends. = available in discourse.

  2. Facebook Page. = Not available in discourse yet.
    *In facebook currently you can follow only 30 pages to get update in highlight notification.

  3. Facebook Group = Discourse win

  4. Create Post from individual profile = available in discourse

I like discourse compare to Facebook.

In facebook, you missed update from your friends (if you have 4000+ friends), but in discourse you can’t.

In facebook, you can’t do search as you do in discourse.

In Discourse, you can find user activity (topic create, likes, reply), but can’t find in facebook.


But you’ll never have those 4000+ friends in Discourse unless you can convince them to move to your Discourse server. That’s the hard part.


Thus the idea of Facebook signin to discourse would be crucial as you already stated.

I assume you know about Configuring Facebook login for Discourse - admins - Discourse Meta


Nice! Makes sense that any oAuth system should be configurable. Of course getting someone to check “yet another site” is an issue too. Facebook has critical mass that has been accreted over years.

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I just opened my community center within the last month. I do not have a “thriving” Facebook group, for a number of different reasons… and, my intention is that Discourse will help over Facebook in several key ways:

  • I can have public and private areas
  • People can choose a nickname to give them some privacy in ways Facebook officially does not allow! (we talk about emotional issues, so some privacy of name helps - and anonymous mode feels REALLY helpful for our community!)

I believe some groups have a natural Facebook feel to their brand and intentions. For some of us, Facebook is counter-brand. It works AGAINST depth. It hides actively links that are outside Facebook.

And related topics? It can be amazingly helpful.

Want to skim? Try that in a long FB comment; you have to expand what they wrote and what they wrote is really limited in format. Replies are hidden/nested, too.

Admittedly, I’ve invested a lot of time and energy to get my new Discourse up and who knows if it will be successful. What I’m doing, though, since I also have an email list:

  • Posting new events in the community center, no login required but encouraging replies which require sign-up.
  • Using the RSS Feed of latest.rss into my social media posting platform (Publer) and then choosing to schedule posts into my page and group from the new topics.
  • Identify people who have a desire and interest in community of ours who are, well, anti-Facebook! Help them co-create engagement in the discourse categories.

Thanks! and other ideas welcome!


There are a number of Facebook-related topics around here, and I’ve contributed to at least one other. But I think this is an important one to follow-up on too.

Restating and Clarifying the Problem

In general I see Facebook as a substandard platform that does many different things. So when we talk about it as a single thing, it’s not entirely inaccurate, but I do think it defocuses - if not confuses - the conversation. Some of what Facebook does, Discourse does not do and in my view probably should not try to do (the concept of “friends”, “pages”, etc. seem out of scope to me). But some Facebook functionality is actually very much aiming at similar basic goals as Discourse, it just does them poorly. I am speaking primarily about Groups here.

The problem is that Facebook makes it easy for everyone, at least at first. Easy as a user to join a group, to keep up to date on it in the feed of posts that they already visit, and easy to contribute with comments or new posts. It’s a familiar UI, notifications are centralized, and there is even somewhat “smart” filtering so that, for example, the group(s) I am a member of that have literally 1000s of posts a day do not completely overwhelm my main Facebook feed.

And it’s easy for Admins/Community Builders, too. Starting a group is free and takes only a few minutes, and you have an existing somewhat “captive” audience there (any of your existing Facebook friends, for one thing), who all have just a few clicks to make to join your community (as few as 1, “Join”, if you don’t want to require people to review rules).

Some of these Facebook advantages, especially for admins, are difficult to overcome, or are outside the scope of what Discourse as a product and team probably want to provide (e.g. free hosting for everyone). But we can and I think should try to tackle the user side of things, because without that built-in audience, fewer admins would choose Facebook Groups in the first place.

So we all agree that Discourse is better than Facebook Groups. And yet… there are many very successful and active Groups. This is a problem we as Discourse users, admins, community builders, and indeed the development team itself should all be thinking about seriously. Because those people on Facebook aren’t there because they think it’s the absolute best way to talk about their topics of interest or have good, er, discourse. They’re largely there because it’s convenient, in numerous ways people have talked about above.

So forget the “friends” concept, forget “Facebook is about people focused vs. topic focused”. That’s only true about some parts of Facebook. In Groups the post topic is the focus, not the person. Just. Like. Discourse. And that makes it a Discourse competitor. A crappy one, but one with an unfair advantage. I hope we can work to dismantle that advantage over time.

Possible Solutions

So what can we do? Well, most of the likely better (or at least most obvious) possible solutions have been raised in this topic already. Figure out a way to unify authentication (on an opt-in basis) and provide options to both admins and users to control that (e.g. for users “auto-login to Discourse instances that are part of Federated Discourse”). Determine one or more good methods for unifying notifications across multiple Discourse instances, and make it something that is cross-platform, including Desktop. Perhaps even create a unified “Facebook feed-like” view that presents Topics from multiple forums in a single list, ideally with topic previews. These are really the minimum we can and should be talking and thinking about, and hopefully working on, to overcome the Facebook inertia.

But maybe we can even get more radical. Personally, I’m looking into the possibility of actually injecting Discourse posts into the Facebook feed. Not by posting them to Facebook with e.g. Integromat, but by actually hacking the Facebook feed with a browser plugin. :grin: And if it’s possible to actually do (still investigating, and I know it probably sounds crazy), I am willing to put some money down on it. So I’m just saying, my money is where my my mouth is. If I can do anything to support efforts more focused on Discourse improvements like the above, I’m happy to do that too.

Edit: Sorry @RickThrivingNow , didn’t actually mean to reply directly to your post.


Interesting thoughts.

One thing that would be useful is something quite radical:

A Facebook group migration tool. It could feature:

  • Full post and discussion migration
  • automatic setup of accounts with Facebook login integration
  • a better mobile app for notifications.

With these three things and an easy to setup freemium cloud service (already exists!) one could provide a terrific alternative to Facebook groups.

So the Facebook Groups API is fairly limited for migration. This is where a browser plugin could come in useful. In particular what you need is not a full wholesale migration of legacy content but rather a move of the meta data of the group plus invitations for the users. The legacy conversations just stay in Facebook.

Injecting discourse into Facebook? Not so much in my opinion. Moving people into a new environment that’s better but not so unfamiliar? Better.


We’ve tried it and failed.


Facebook makes it hard to migrate off their platform to anything else for obvious reasons. What was the largest and most difficult obstacle in your opinion?


I agree that moving people over is ideal, however even if we got everything mentioned in Discourse above to solve the problem: simplified design, unified notifications across Discourse instances, etc… it’s still a separate app/site that people have to check notifications on. Discourse is not going to replace Facebook, it is only an appropriate replacement for one small part of FB, which is Groups. So people will still be on FB, and many will just not want to have to deal with a separate platform, even if their login is integrated from FB, even if it looks familiar and simple, etc, etc. It’s just “one more thing”. Do you see what I mean? That’s why I’m investigating the FB feed injection concept.


I see what you mean. But, Facebook is going to probably shut you down and ban your account you use to do this. Somehow you need to inject into their system? Terms of service will need to be obeyed.

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Facebook would never know, it would happen locally on the user’s machine. There are already multiple Chrome plugins that manipulate the Facebook feed, and none of them have been shut down. :man_shrugging:


Are you referring to something like Facebook Container for Mozilla Firefox?

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No, more like Facebook Purity (there is another, similar extension too).