Commoditized Social Networking
in a decidedly uncharacteristic move for Meta they've pledged to become part of the Fediverse... and i'm cautiously optimistic.
launching a new social network has always been difficult, because one needs to convince not just interested individuals, but also the communities that they are a part of.
the Fediverse, or more accurately the protocol that powers it, ActivityPub, has the potential to solve this problem by decoupling social network and social graph.
many networks (or more accurately servers), one shared graph.
there are roughly 2 million monthly active Mastodon users at the time of writing.
most of them are enthusiasts, who care deeply about the Fediverse' promise.
...but users of centralized social networks generally don't, otherwise they'd have switched already.
converting them by touting the benefits of decentralization, interoperability, or privacy won't work.
this isn't a dig against them, they just chose different battles.
Threads isn't pitching itself as a decentralized social network though. its "an app built by the Instagram team for sharing with text" (press statement).
the brand recognition of Instagram, combined with the ongoing instability at Twitter / X, makes it the easy choice for people to flock to.
...and boy are they flocking. Meta was claiming over 70 million sign-ups two days after launch. even if they are significantly exaggerating, it wouldn't be a surprise if their monthly active user count was to permanently surpass all Mastodon instances.
only this time, its not a zero-sum game.
once Threads starts federating, those users will become part of the shared social graph, growing it rapidly.
i believe a larger social graph to be desirable.
it will bring perceived legitimacy, that will attract users who would have otherwise ignored the Fediverse.
governments, institutions, public servants, journalists, academics, and others will join, ...but this time they aren't joining a US-owned, venture capital-funded, privacy-hostile, centrally-moderated social network, they'll be hosting their own servers.
with ActivityPub being an open protocol and Mastodon being open source, becoming part of the Fediverse has become downright inexpensive.
and not only that, building a new social network is suddenly not prohibitively expensive anymore.
will this loosen the US' grip on social, and finally enable European companies to enter the market?
admittedly, there's a risk of this being the first chapter in the "embrace, extend, extinguish" playbook.
Threads will likely be the largest server in the network, a position that they could abuse to push for undesirable ActivityPub changes, while threatening to defederate if things don't go their way.
the only way to reduce that risk is by making defederation as painful as possible.
lastly, defederation is a two-way street. communities that do not wish to be associated with Meta, can selectively defederate from them, while still being part of the network.
i'm excited :)