Twitter wants to develop an open, decentralized, federated social media standard...and then join it

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/12/11/slow-knives-vs-protocols.html

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There’s already an open, decentralised, federated social media standard, of course. Mastadon.

But hey, go to town, Twitter. As long as the standard has the ability to block all Twitter instances, it might be something that people who want a better social media experience will consider.

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Yeah, obviously, others are already working on the same problem. Twitter has an odd position that it wants something that will be a threat to Facebook, but not to itself. So it will create its own Twitter-friendly standard, and hope that it will become the defacto standard by virtue of the fact that Twitter uses it.

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Meh. Let’s see what happens. My complaint about the current federated implementations are that they have two ball-and-chain dependencies:

  • A SSL crypto certificate from a signing authority. Let’s Encrypt makes that easy, but it’s still an outside dependency.
  • A DNS domain. Those are definitely subject to arbitrary cancellation, transfer of ownership, or national firewall blocking.
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Beat me to it.

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This part of the announcement sounds like the critical point of this move. Twitter really really doesn’t want to be considered as a ‘publisher’ of what people post using their service, and this is another move to stave off that sort of regulation.

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I agree on both points, but I’m not sure what the alternatives for signing authorities or domain registrars are for any Internet service. Are there proposals out there for decentralised and distributed peer-to-peer or blockchain-style management of domains and certs?

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…with a completely lopsided amount of influence over the standard. Am I right?

Even so, Dorsey is generally seen as the significantly lesser of two evils compared to Zuckerberg. I doubt there will be much resistance to his plan seeing how it could give the smaller guys a leg up over Facebook.

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Jack said the magic word!

It seems almost like this is a case where Blockchain is being invoked for a purpose it might actually be suited for, but my brain is basically running this browser plugin:

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rather than conversation which informs and promotes health

I’m sure that will be an achievable goal, and won’t be simply another algorithm which can and will be exploited by those seeking to spread propaganda and misinformation in the service of shitty agendas. And camgirls.

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Correct me if I’m wrong, but it looks like that platform is hosted on the company’s servers, and moderated by company employees. I wouldn’t really call that “decentralized.”

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That’s the main project site of the developers, which runs its own instances. You can set up a Mastadon instance on your own server, with whatever moderation and federation policies you want.

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I’m trying to avoid even thinking about blockchains. A distributed hash table might be able to solve a lot of the issues. ZeroNet uses one, but it the way they implement messages has problems.

I have some rough notes, first draft distillation from my working wiki:

http://home.primus.ca/~ronsharp/#Shadowcast

(The code is in the ugly breadboard stage, running on PC and Pi, no DHT or message passing yet. My goal is to have a goofy prototype project which will be doomed due to unanticipated problems, and then move on from there.)

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Thanks. I’ll take a look when I have a moment.

I was thinking of blockchain more as a near-cold-storage ownership ledger rather than as a hot dynamic lookup tool (DHTs make more sense for that function). But there would have to be some interchange, and it would be tricky.

Hello, Sid? Mortgage my house and buy me as many Twitters as you can! YES I’M SURE!

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More accurately, Mastodon uses an open W3C standard called ActivityPub, which makes it interoperable with other pieces of software like Plemora (another self-hosted Twitter alternative) and PixelFed (an Instagram alternative), as well as other portions of the “fediverse” that predate it but also implement ActivityPub as a federation option.

Of course, ActivityPub doesn’t use the magical powers of blockchain to do *waves hands* mystical tech things, so Jack’s probably not going to be interested in doing anything with it. Which is how we get here:

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I’d almost suggest that Mastadon tell Twitter “just use ActivityPub and our Twitter-like platform – it’s open source anyhow – and focus your development efforts on an optional ‘engagement-based monetising blockchain’ add-on instead for those foolish enough to use your completely unmoderated instance’”, but Jack poisons everything he touches with his Objectivist greed disguished as Freeze Peach advocacy.

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Can some tech nerd just explain if this change will likely lead to more Nazis or fewer Nazis on social media?

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If Dorsey is running the show on this protocol, it’ll be either more or the same amount of Nazis on Twitter proper, but without his having to take responsibility for moderating or banning them. As @Purplecat mentioned above, that’s the real point of the exercise.

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Yes. Also, maybe.

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