Commit ad09c8f0 authored by Eugen Rochko's avatar Eugen Rochko

Import more posts

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---
title: "The power to build communities"
subtitle: "A response to Mark Zuckerberg"
date: 2017-02-20
draft: false
author: gargron
categories:
- Op-Ed
tags:
- mastodon
- facebook
---
Mark Zuckerberg’s manifesto might be well-spirited, but one thing in it is fundamentally wrong:
> In times like these, the most important thing we at Facebook can do is develop the social infrastructure to give people the power to build a global community that works for all of us.
Facebook isn’t, and can never be, a platform where people have the power to build anything. Facebook doesn’t even have the pretense of a non-profit like Wikipedia or Mozilla; there is no doubt about the company’s main focus — extracting as much as possible from you — by analyzing your data and showing you ads in exchange for advertiser’s money. A future where Facebook is the global social infrastructure, is a future with no refuge from advertising and number crunching.
Facebook simply cannot give anyone the power to do anything, because that power will always, ultimately, reside in Facebook itself, which controls both the software, the servers and the moderation policies.
No, the future of social media must be federation. The ultimate power is in giving people the ability to create their own spaces, their own communities, to modify the software as they see fit, but without sacrificing the ability of people from different communities to interact with each other. Of course, not every end user is interested in running their own little social network — just like every citizen isn’t interested in running their own little country. But I think that there is a good reason why many countries consist of separate but compatible states, and why many separate but compatible countries form alliances like the European Union or NATO. A mix between sovereignity and union. Federation.
The internet has seen many rises and falls of social networks. MySpace. Friendfeed. Google+. App.net. Each and every time, different UX, new accounts, having to convince your friends to switch over, or having to have multiple accounts to talk to them all. Do you think this cycle will stop with Facebook? Community dynamics to some extent guarantee a rise and downfall cycle, but we could stop dragging each other from website to website and stick to a standardized protocol. E-mail may not be sexy, for having been created in a simpler time, but it’s impossible not to appreciate that it still works, regardless of which provider you choose.
Do you want the website, that displays the photos of your friends with the caption “they’ll miss you” when you’re trying to delete your account, to be in charge of a global community?
I believe that with [Mastodon](https://mastodon.social), I have created a piece of software that is *an actually viable alternative to Twitter*. A federated microblogging server that continues the work of GNU social, but unlike GNU social is able to appeal to people without an active history of interest in itself. To put it another way, it’s usable by non-technical people. I don’t know if the work I’m doing is good enough to serve the future of humanity, but I think that it is at least a good, strong step in the right direction.
Eugen Rochko,<br />
Developer of [Mastodon](https://github.com/tootsuite/mastodon), admin of [mastodon.social](https://mastodon.social), the example instance.
---
title: "Learning from Twitter’s mistakes"
subtitle: "Privacy and abuse-handling tools in Mastodon"
date: 2017-03-03
draft: false
author: gargron
hero: https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/2628/1*41Gx5rCc2E4g1f6xaeHJGg.jpeg
categories:
- New Features
tags:
- mastodon
- twitter
---
*My name is Eugen Rochko and I’m the creator of Mastodon, a free, open-source federated social network server. The flagship instance mastodon.social has over 22,000 users and is growing fast.[ You can check it out here](https://mastodon.social).*
Very early on in the development of Mastodon I’ve decided that centralization and unexpected algorithmic changes were not the only one of Twitter’s problems. Harrassment and tools to deal with it have always been lacking on Twitter’s end. I reached out to people who have been affected by it to collect ideas. Here is what I gathered:
When you block someone, you don’t want to see them, ever. This means that if someone you follow shares their post, you don’t want to see it. If someone talks about them, you don’t want to see it. If someone replies to their post and mentions you, you don’t want to see it. That’s how it should be, and that’s how it works in Mastodon.
Of course maybe you don’t want to go that far. You merely don’t want to see someone’s posts, not lock them off entirely. Muting an account to remove it from your feeds is also possible.
You can hide an individual post’s text behind a content warning — whether to use this for trigger warnings or spoiler warnings is up to you. Beyond this, when you share images that you wouldn’t want someone to see you looking at in public, you can mark individual posts as containing sensitive material.
Sometimes you want to broadcast to the open web, other times you want to address only people that you know. For this purpose, you can optionally lock your account, requiring all new followers to get your approval before being allowed to follow you. Independently of this, you can individually choose the visibility of your posts. Public, or visible only to followers and the people you mention in them. The presence of public timelines — timelines of “everyone’s” posts — mandates a middle ground, where your posts are still fully public but opted-out of being listed on the public timelines.
When you encounter inappropriate content, there is a quick option to report the account, allowing you to select any offending posts and optionally specify a message.
In some cases you know exactly who you want to talk to, and who you don’t. You have a choice to outright block any notifications from people who don’t follow you (to never see a “rando” again), or who you don’t follow (limiting yourself to “mutuals”).
The federated nature of the network also has implications on behaviour. Different instances, owned by different entities, will have different rules and moderation policies. This gives the power to shape smaller, independent, yet integrated communities back to the people. As an end-user, you have the ability to choose an instance with the rules and policies that you agree with (or roll your own, if you are technically inclined).
Smaller, tight-knit communities are less prone to harbouring toxic behaviour; you could think of it as moderation work of the entire network being spread somewhat* between countless administrators of independent but compatible communities, which makes it way more scalable than a single multi-million-user company with a small safety team.
*(I need to specify that naturally, moderation is not global in the network. An admin of one instance cannot affect the account of a user on another. Admins have control over content that arrives on their instances, and can curate it with various tools. This allows places with different rules to coexist)*
Of course, communities with the sole purpose of spreading toxic behaviour will pop up too. In such cases, instance administrators can blacklist specific instances outright. It takes substantially more effort to setup a brand-new instance than it is to create a new account on a centralized social network — you have to acquire hosting, domain name, invest time in installation and configuration — so blacklist-evading is a lot harder.
With all this, [Mastodon](https://mastodon.social) aims to be a safer and more humane place.
*If you’d like to check these features out for yourself, go to [mastodon.social](https://mastodon.social).*
---
title: "Two reasons why organizations should switch to self-hosting social media"
date: 2017-03-16
draft: false
author: gargron
categories:
- Op-Ed
tags:
- mastodon
- facebook
---
My name is Eugen Rochko and I’m the creator of Mastodon, a free, open-source federated social network server. The flagship instance mastodon.social has over 23,000 users and is growing fast. You can check it out here.
If your organization is hosting a Mastodon instance, it is essentially a **self-perpetuating brand awareness campaign**. When people from other instances talk to or follow your users, they see your domain name all the time, since it is part of their globally unique usernames. It’s like those sticker ads on cars, except you don’t have to pay for them and it doesn’t disturb anyone because you’re providing a service.
![Addressing a user from another instance](https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/2000/1*LM_XJwv6YpeZxBFMJVty_A.jpeg)*Addressing a user from another instance*
Twitter has put their API behind a paywall, strangled the app ecosystem. Twitter censors tweets on behalf of countries like Turkey, messes with its content delivery algorithms in unknown ways. Remember when Facebook changed its news feed algorithms, and overnight every Facebook page’s posts became virtually invisible and “fans” worthless? Unless you paid up to Facebook, of course. **Being in control of your own megaphone** rather than relying on a third party letting you use theirs is increasingly important.
For example, [here is a story of an e-sports personality whose job became impossible because it was 100% dependent on Microsoft, which decided to turn the switch on them](https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/big-microsoft-scam-sebastian-l%C3%A4ger).
Your own Mastodon instance means **you decide what content to host**. You take back control from commercial companies. And without sacrificing reachability — normally if you self-host a website, forum, or blog it means having to bring everyone over from other places, but the federated nature of Mastodon means that people don’t need to leave their own instances to follow yours.
* [List of known instances](https://github.com/tootsuite/mastodon/blob/master/docs/Using-Mastodon/List-of-Mastodon-instances.md)
* [How to install Mastodon on Ubuntu 16.04](https://github.com/tootsuite/mastodon/blob/master/docs/Running-Mastodon/Production-guide.md)
* [Performance tuning instructions](https://github.com/tootsuite/mastodon/blob/master/docs/Running-Mastodon/Tuning.md)
......@@ -23,7 +23,7 @@ So, April, huh. A lot happened. I was putting off writing an update on here beca
Did I mention that Pixiv, the Japanese artist gallery company (sort of like deviantArt, but better) has opened its own Mastodon instance, Pawoo.net? They even made their own version of the Mastodon mascot. They have already contributed back some cool performance improvements, as well.
![Pawoo’s elephant friend](https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/2000/1*ovH0iFCU303mZgRCd6S5gg.jpeg)*Pawoo’s elephant friend*
{{< figure src="https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/2000/1*ovH0iFCU303mZgRCd6S5gg.jpeg" caption="Pawoo’s elephant friend" >}}
At the time of writing, the Mastodon network includes more than 486,767 users spread out among more than a 1,212 instances. That’s how far we’ve come. But it’s not just that. A lot more people have learned and become interested in Free and Open Software and decentralization. The GitHub repository has seen an absolute explosion of activity, from bug reports and feature requests (550 at the time of writing) to code and translation contributions from the community. Many people started learning Ruby/Rails and JavaScript/React.js to be able to participate. I feel like there is a lot more documentation on how to deploy a Rails application on the Internet than there was before Mastodon.
......@@ -35,7 +35,7 @@ With that out of the way, the new budget allows me more wiggling room in hosting
On a somewhat related topic, people love fluffy elephant friend, and there were a lot of calls for merchandise. That’s another way the project can be supported financially, with the added benefit of spreading awareness of it. I am still waiting on my artist friend to free up to work on new high-res artwork for t-shirts, but I have published an official sticker with the iconic cutie:
![[Available on Sticker Mule](https://www.stickermule.com/marketplace/18010-mastodon-fluffy-elephant-friend)](https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/9216/1*6iV1inXI_ADZjAwrPfLs-A.jpeg)*[Available on Sticker Mule](https://www.stickermule.com/marketplace/18010-mastodon-fluffy-elephant-friend)*
![](https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/9216/1*6iV1inXI_ADZjAwrPfLs-A.jpeg)
To conclude, here is the list of releases published since my last Patreon update mid-March:
......
......@@ -30,43 +30,28 @@ All of the above comes bundled [in our 1.5 release](https://github.com/tootsuite
**Quality of Life improvements:**
* Previous behaviour of “content warning” and “media sensitivity” being completely separate was confusing to most. This has been simplified. Media can be sensitive without hiding the text, but hiding the text with a content warning will now always hide the media, too.
* A new preference setting to always pre-mark media as sensitive on your account.
* A new preference setting to opt your public profile out of search engine indexing.
* A new preference setting to have the web UI displayed using your operating system’s native font instead of Roboto.
* When editing your profile, you now get a preview of your avatar and header. The operating system’s “no file selected” label on file inputs confused people.
* The muting feature has been adjusted. Previously it was meant only to hide someone’s toots from timelines, not to hide them from your notifications (e.g. you’d mute a friend who is annoying in general but you want to hear from when they’re talking to you). By popular demand this has been changed to block notifications, too, essentially becoming a stealth-block.
* The overview of active sessions is now a lot more accurate, and you can now revoke a session.
* The disparity between toots/following/follower numbers on the local instance vs user’s origin instance was also confusing. There was an asterisk next to the numbers with a disclaimer that they may not be accurate, but it was way too invisible. Now, profiles of users who originate from a different instance display a prominent disclaimer with a link to view the full profile.
* The character counter now ignores the domain part of user handles, and treats all links as 23 characters long, regardless of how long they are. This removes the unfair penalty of users whose domain is longer, and allows you to not worry about the length of the URLs you are sharing, since they get shortened visually anyway.
**Mobile experience and accessibility:**
* We now have Web Push notifications. It is a method of sending notifications directly to the browser, without having to use a native app (opt-in, of course). It is a relatively new web standard, which more and more browsers are implementing and it blurs the line between mobile website and native app.
* The swiping gestures have not only been adjusted to be less sensitive, but are now accompanied by visual feedback — no more accidental swiping between columns.
* Another feature making use of an upcoming web standard, which is a bit newer and may not be available in any browsers yet, is the “share” button, which acts like the “share” feature of native apps.
* All dropdown menus now open as modal windows on mobile, making it much easier to hit the right item.
* Multiple accessibility improvements — too many to list here, but including improved contrasts, screen reader support, and keyboard access.
**Admin features:**
* Admins will now receive immediate e-mail notifications about new reports.
* For troubleshooting, admins now have a button to re-subscribe to accounts from a particular domain.
* Added a domain block option that does nothing but reject local cache of media files.
* The contents of the /terms page can now be customized entirely if you want a different privacy policy than the default one.
**Other:**
......
......@@ -23,17 +23,17 @@ Servers which support this new protocol will use it in version 1.6. OStatus is s
Here are some of the juicier highlights from this release:
1. We’ve improved the integrity of distributed conversations. Up until now, the only server which had a full view of a conversation was the server of the conversation’s starter, as all responders sent their replies to it. But the servers of the responders or followers had only an incidental view of the conversation conversation; to get a full view, one would have to either follow the other responders, or get a reply from the conversation starter. Now, the server that receives the replies forwards them to followers’ servers as long as they are public. This means that when opening the conversation view on a different server, it will be as complete as on the origin server. This is especially helpful to those who run single-user instances, as they are the least likely to have already been following all responders.
1\. We’ve improved the integrity of distributed conversations. Up until now, the only server which had a full view of a conversation was the server of the conversation’s starter, as all responders sent their replies to it. But the servers of the responders or followers had only an incidental view of the conversation conversation; to get a full view, one would have to either follow the other responders, or get a reply from the conversation starter. Now, the server that receives the replies forwards them to followers’ servers as long as they are public. This means that when opening the conversation view on a different server, it will be as complete as on the origin server. This is especially helpful to those who run single-user instances, as they are the least likely to have already been following all responders.
2. Another feature, which is small, but has a big UX effect, is that we can finally fetch account statistics from remote profiles (total toots, number of followers, etc.), as there is now a standardized way of expressing this using ActivityPub. Technically this is not a big deal, but it did confuse new users when they saw someone from another server with a seemingly empty profile, when in reality it had thousands of toots and followers.
2\. Another feature, which is small, but has a big UX effect, is that we can finally fetch account statistics from remote profiles (total toots, number of followers, etc.), as there is now a standardized way of expressing this using ActivityPub. Technically this is not a big deal, but it did confuse new users when they saw someone from another server with a seemingly empty profile, when in reality it had thousands of toots and followers.
![](https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/2000/1*dKhj4RnceIzmX2zs5Zn2UQ.png)
3. Speaking of profiles, this release brings you redesigned public profile pages, as well as the ability to pin certain toots on them to be permanently displayed. By default, stand-alone toots are displayed, and there are now tabs for toots with replies and toots with media.
3\. Speaking of profiles, this release brings you redesigned public profile pages, as well as the ability to pin certain toots on them to be permanently displayed. By default, stand-alone toots are displayed, and there are now tabs for toots with replies and toots with media.
4. The function of getting embed codes for toots is now more accessible — through a button in the web UI, and not just through the OEmbed API. The look of the embedded view has also been refurbished, and an optional script has been added to ensure the embeds have the correct height. I am excited to see Mastodon content appear on other websites.
4\. The function of getting embed codes for toots is now more accessible — through a button in the web UI, and not just through the OEmbed API. The look of the embedded view has also been refurbished, and an optional script has been added to ensure the embeds have the correct height. I am excited to see Mastodon content appear on other websites.
5. To improve the experience of brand new users, we’ve added something in the old tradition of MySpace Tom — except instead of following some central Tom, new accounts will start off following their local admins (this can be adjusted by the administrator). That way, on your first login you are greeted with a populated home timeline instead of an empty one.
5\. To improve the experience of brand new users, we’ve added something in the old tradition of MySpace Tom — except instead of following some central Tom, new accounts will start off following their local admins (this can be adjusted by the administrator). That way, on your first login you are greeted with a populated home timeline instead of an empty one.
**All in all, this release is all about filling the gaps in the server-to-server layer, improving content discovery and first time experience of new users, and making it easier to share Mastodon content.**
......
......@@ -15,19 +15,19 @@ About 6 months have passed since [April](https://medium.com/@Gargron/april-post-
Mastodon is defined by its focus on good user experience, polished design and superior anti-abuse tools. In that vein, the web app has received numerous updates. Using the latest browser features, the web app receives real push notifications, making it almost indistinguishable from a native mobile app. It works faster and looks smoother thanks to many performance and design improvements.
![Mastodon with lots of columns pinned](https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/2560/1*6xTFy4K4JWq9nd6bXNbgmw.jpeg)*Mastodon with lots of columns pinned*
{{< figure src="https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/2560/1*6xTFy4K4JWq9nd6bXNbgmw.jpeg" caption="Mastodon with lots of columns pinned" >}}
On the desktop, it allows you to add, remove and rearrange columns. It can even be navigated and controlled using hotkeys!
When you get annoyed by notifications for a toot of yours that’s gone viral, or a conversation you’ve been tagged in that you no longer have interest in, you have the ability to simply mute the whole thread. If you keep encountering content you hate and it always comes from a specific domain, but your admins won’t do anything about it (or perhaps it’s annoying, but merely on a personal level), you no longer have to rely on your admin: You can simply hide everything from a particular domain for yourself.
![One instance’s preview in Discord](https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/2000/1*CCHSuaR7daptHcIwl3J6Wg.png)*One instance’s preview in Discord*
{{< figure src="https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/2000/1*CCHSuaR7daptHcIwl3J6Wg.png" caption="One instance’s preview in Discord" >}}
A lot of attention has been given to how the user interface presents itself to onlookers. Both in terms of OpenGraph tags, which is to say, how links to Mastodon look when shared on other social networks or apps like Discord, and in terms of the sign-up, about, profile, toot and hashtag pages. The profile pages let you filter someone’s toots, for example to only see ones that include pictures or videos, which is a great addition for all artists and photographers. The sign up and hashtag pages do a better job of showing what’s actually inside in terms of content.
Mastodon is a global experience. That means a lot of language diversity. Since most people don’t know most languages, language filters have been added so you can decide which ones to see.
![Custom emoji in action](https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/2000/1*bTH8BapEkzwwDnchjAa6_w.png)*Custom emoji in action*
{{< figure src="https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/2000/1*bTH8BapEkzwwDnchjAa6_w.png" caption="Custom emoji in action" >}}
Another addition is custom emoji. That is a concept more familiar to Discord and Twitch users, but it’s a first for a social network. Custom emoji add flavours to instances and allow people to express very specific things that could never be conveyed by standardized Unicode characters.
......
---
title: "This Isn’t About Social Media. This is About Control."
date: 2018-02-19
draft: false
author: mainebot
hero: https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/1000/1*6jfDdmdbGDIheNvg2mFbvg.jpeg
categories:
- Op-Ed
tags:
- mastodon
- amazon
- facebook
- twitter
---
Human beings, above all else, are storytellers. It’s how we relate to our own past, or personalities, or each other. It’s how to connect with the world around us, make sense of events, and assess values. We rely on stories to function as agents in the world.
These stories are often told in-person: “oh, I did this today, I felt like this, then this happened and I was like ‘whoa no way!’” In times past, we relied on an oral tradition to pass on values, moving towards the written form as literacy grew and cities became the primary way people lived.
Social media was, in a sense, a way to bring the oral tradition to the written world: a living discourse of our personal histories as it happened, recorded in the way we chose suited the narrative best. We could disagree on the details because the details weren’t as important to the story as the telling.
But now, the story itself is being told for us.
Our histories, our sense of belonging to the narrative we create, is under constant revision. Facebook and Twitter took away linear history from us. We don’t see our participation, we see our contributions, and only if they’re popular enough with our peers (and therefore, advertisers) to generate traffic.
We get a gloss, an abstract of our personal story, cut together with posts we neither wrote nor relate to. Our history and interests, the very way we define ourselves, is cut together with elements from what has been decided to be profitable, and therefore interesting, to maximize our engagement with a false telling of history.
We have effectively lost our agency in telling ourselves, and each other, the stories that define who we are. By inches, our control over identity has been eroded, monetized, and sold.
Before I go further, I want to talk about ‘The Self Driven Child’; a book recently covered at [Scientific American](https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-case-for-the-ldquo-self-driven-child-rdquo/). It’s an interesting read throughout, but the important takeaway is this: the gradual loss of autonomy in the lives of children and adolescents has led to a marked increase in rates of anxiety and depression, an overall increase in the occurrence of mental health issues, and worsened sleep.
This is more than simply a removal of choice in activities: our sources of distractions have increased, the freedom for many to choose has been replaced by homework and structured activities over agency and free time.
The online space, particularly the venues of Facebook and Twitter, have slowly replaced the agency of the participant with a structured, gamified facsimile, and they’ve been doing it for over a decade. In fact, they’ve been doing it long enough that for many people, they never knew a version of it that wasn’t entirely out of their hands.
When the linear timeline was removed in favor of their own algorithmic sort, they removed our control over the conversation entirely. Instead of you and your friends in discourse with each other, you’re talking around the sources of content you’re being told to see, read, and like. You are in direct competition with a corporate notion of your personal history, identity, and relationships.
This can be seen most effectively with Instagram: the timeline is filled with sponsored content from strangers, ads indistinguishable from real posts, “suggestions” and even injections into your search history and tags, and more: this isn’t a case of being given suggestions for ‘things you might like’. This is you being told, explicitly, what to like. Your history isn’t a record anymore; it’s a matter of corporate revision under strict audit.
“But we’re free to participate, or not, on these platforms,” you’ll say. And yes, you’re right; we can take our ball and go home.
But we won’t, and we shouldn’t have to.
It’s naïve to think that we should choose to not participate in public discourse if we’re unhappy with the current social media zeitgeist. More than a luxury, the norm for many, many people in the world today is access to communication and discourse with people around the world, irrespective of borders or ideology, politics or religion. It’s as unrealistic to suggest simply not participating in social media as it is to suggest not paying for electricity, foregoing the internet, or cancelling your phone. Doable, sure; but frankly ridiculous for most of us.
We need a platform that isn’t owned by corporate interests, geared towards the collection and sale of personal information, or the monetization of the social experience through aggressive depersonalization and the service of advertising.
This is why we need Mastodon.
*To get started with Mastodon, go to [joinMastodon.org](https://joinmastodon.org/) and pick a place to call home! Use the drop-down menus to help narrow your search by interest and language, and start tooting!*
---
title: "The Centralization of Power on the Internet"
date: 2018-02-28
draft: false
author: mainebot
hero: https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/2000/1*qEhCKxSQMf1NFACKmxjTkQ.jpeg
categories:
- Op-Ed
tags:
- mastodon
- amazon
- facebook
- twitter
---
The online space is dominated by a small handful of companies that command a disproportionate amount of power and influence over the entire online experience, not just social media. So much influence that several of these companies have fundamentally altered many aspects of life offline; often described with the floral language of the privileged as ‘disruptive,’ but more clearly understood in the common tongue as ‘destructive.’’
The five most valuable companies at the end of 2017 were, in order: Apple, Alphabet (the company that owns Google), Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook. each business not only depends on, but commands large parts of the technological landscape. What do all these companies have in common?
* Each are worth north of half a *trillion* dollars
* They dictate the online experience, not describe it
* They push extremely hard to have a closed ecosystem
* They are monolithic, centralized power structures with unimaginable influence
These companies all are attempting to dominate the metaphorical place I generally call ‘the last mile’. This is, in shipping, the distance from the distribution center to your door, but it’s a term that can apply to the space between the content and your computer. If a website publishes news, or videos, or any sort of media at all, these are the companies that work to force it through a portal they own, rather than let you, as a user, leave their experience and go someplace else.
Control of this last mile is something that should be in the hands of people, and not centralized inside a corporate structure. Imagine an internet experience where you could never leave the walls of Facebook, or you couldn’t watch a movie, or a video, or even see a picture, outside of something with a ubiquitous Google logo in the corner.
[In a recent article at Splitsider](http://splitsider.com/2018/02/how-facebook-is-killing-comedy/), Sarah Aswell speaks with Matt Klinman about the effect Facebook has had with online comedy and, in a sense, the overall problem it’s had on all forms of media as they occur on the internet. Go ahead and read it; I’ll be right here.
Facebook’s attempt at consolidating the entire internet experience through their initiative [internet.org](https://info.internet.org/en/) and collaborative partnerships therein are a direct way to deny the developing world the sort of unregulated, unflattened internet experience we take for granted, and are rapidly losing. Imagine more than half the world’s population never experiencing an internet of possibility, of different voices, of free expression, that wasn’t designed to be under the total provisional control of Facebook, including its direct need to control the entire pipeline for publishing all content, monetizing all experiences, and forcing advertising at the user.
Consider what Klinman said:
> “Facebook is essentially running a payola scam where you have to pay them if you want your own fans to see your content. If you run a large publishing company and you make a big piece of content that you feel proud of, you put it up on Facebook. From there, their algorithm takes over, with no transparency. So, not only is the website not getting ad revenue they used to get, they have to pay Facebook to push it out to their own subscribers. So, Facebook gets the ad revenue from the eyeballs on the thing they are seeing, and they get revenue from the publisher. It’s like if The New York Times had their own subscriber base, but you had to pay the paperboy for every article you wanted to see.”
Think about Amazon, and it’s attempt to control the commercial, mercantile experience.
![](https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/7744/1*1_pQeoTAbj_-uux6bZaOBg.jpeg)
Consider every store on Amazon: identical in many ways, with little to nothing allowing one to differentiate from another. The only details highlighted are: cost of item, shipping rates, and is it prime available. It homogenizes the entire experience of purchasing online and drives everyone to a single site to buy. Once it has the only reasonable online space to shop, it takes total control over the vendors, their ability to sell, and can arbitrarily charge people to be able to participate in their space. Just like Facebook and publishers of content.
Amazon’s push to dominate the last-mile of delivery means they would own every part of the pipe: who gets to sell, who sees the products, and when it arrives. It runs shipping competition out of business and privatizes every step under a single brand. If you want to compete on the market, you have to chase prices to the bottom you can survive on, or you’ll be eliminated. Amazon’s goal, like Facebook’s, is to absolutely conquer the space and disallow any competition at all.
Even looking in the recent past, you can see this pattern playing out, over and over. Amazon buys Whole Foods to take over a large segment of physical shelf space for grocery shopping. Social alternatives like Instagram, WhatsApp, Periscope, and more, and bought and folded into a single experience, changed from update to update, until it becomes a homogeneous experience with no discernible difference from the company that owns it.
Centralized control takes away the power of choice, and replaces it with an illusion of selection.
Mastodon is a powerful first start in allowing people to take back their channels of engagement. It gives everyone an opportunity to, in part, diversify their online social universe, and prevent money from being the sole deciding factor in who gets to see, hear, or say anything on the internet.
*To get started with Mastodon, go to [JoinMastodon.org](https://joinmastodon.org/) and pick a place to call home! Use the drop-down menus to help narrow your search by interest and language, and find a community to call your own! Don’t let the fediverse miss out on what you have to say!*
---
title: "Replacing the Pillars of the Internet"
subtitle: "A brief overview of current efforts and innovations in the decentralization movement on the World Wide Web."
date: 2018-03-07
draft: false
author: mainebot
hero: https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/12000/1*1P5qRd7pWr2Xse7-VuIoNg.jpeg
categories:
- Op-Ed
tags:
- mastodon
- amazon
- facebook
- twitter
---
*This article assumes you’ve read my previous two blog posts, [here]({{< ref "posts/2018-02-19_This-isnt-about-social-media-this-is-about-control.md" >}}) and [here]({{< ref "posts/2018-02-28_The-centralization-of-power-on-the-internet.md" >}}). Why not give them a quick read if you haven’t already?*
To balance out the doom and gloom of an internet wholly under the thrall of corporate interests and fed through single channels devoid of competition, it’s worth being aware of just how pervasive and powerful an idea decentralization is in the 21st century.
The structure of things now are remnants of the way things have always been done: we trust in a singular authority to manage everything behind the scenes so that our experience on this side remains seamless. ISPs, once a central requirement, are increasingly becoming outmoded, antiquated, and unnecessary. Do we need a middleman managing what is, for all intents and purposes, access to a utility?
Now, the same goes for the acts of communication themselves. We don’t need centralized servers, ostensibly the property of a single organization: we live in a time when the computers we keep on our persons, on our desks, and even run as virtual instances in the cloud are powerful enough to accomplish the same ends, without the need for a profit-driven entity to do the hard work for us.
Decentralization of services on the internet is critical. It has fundamentally transformed the way we share large files online already: bittorrent is, whatever you might think of it, a hugely successful demonstration of the power of decentralized services.
Mastodon is more than just a twitter-like platform. It’s proof that microblogging isn’t something that needs corporate ownership to be functional. Moreover, it’s flexible: with very little tweaking Mastodon instances can operate like Instagram, like Snapchat, or like any other content that comes tucked away in a container.
More than functionally-similar, it can maintain cross-compatibility, and continue to federate with instances that can run with completely different rules. One project, Peertube, does exactly this. A federated, decentralized video sharing platform using the same backend as Mastodon, but around the sharing of video clips.
Outside of social media, decentralization is, and has, paved the way for radical communication. We often don’t consider this, but the World Wide Web itself is decentralized (or should be, lest we ask Facebook), and so is Email: the original federated communications system. Going forward, these ideas are taking on a new life.
![](https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/8192/1*hEV04QagABCWErJl47SRHQ.jpeg)
[Matrix](https://matrix.org/) is exactly the kind of exciting development that high-speed, synchronous communications have been waiting for, and more. It offers extremely secure end-to-end communication, is designed to be applicable to just about any communication channel, and ready for enterprising developers to implement it. Not later, but now: you can start using Matrix immediately.
This is a serious development: serious enough that the forthcoming Librem-5 phone from [Purism](https://puri.sm/shop/librem-5/) incorporates it natively.
Let’s think about the future, by thinking about the present.
Despite the current US political climate, many states are enshrining net neutrality rules that disallow ISPs to play favorites with traffic. This is, to my mind, a powerful step to ensuring they operate as utilities and not as luxuries.
But do we need ISPs at all? Many communities have sued large ISPs for failing to deliver on contracts, and opt instead to install and manage extremely high-speed fiber optic networks themselves. In New York, this has gone one step further: [NYMesh](https://nycmesh.net/).
![](https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/6104/1*vLtFVPTHJGDfw3XOl4C1Sw.jpeg)
A decentralized, high-speed network that operates from node to node, independent from ISPs, and at no profit. Not only is it community-owned and oriented for public use, it’s functional even during emergencies, for anyone willing to participate. The speeds it delivers are comparable, and exceed, what you can get from traditional ISPs at reasonable prices.
As hardware improves for line-of-sight data transmission and for mesh networks to operate phone-to-phone, or even from local wireless repeaters owned and maintained at the municipal level, the need for corporate structures to exist as a measure of control disappears altogether. We are on the cusp of a massive shift towards an end to the central control of our experiences, but only if we’re willing to make the changes individually.
Mastodon isn’t the first decentralized anything, but it’s the first real proof that we can have what, until recently, has only been promised by huge corporations at the cost of our privacy, our data, and our intellectual freedom. It gives back a platform; the first of many.
How long until someone develops a way to host a facebook-alike platform without the need for a centralized server? It doesn’t have to be long: we have the means today, all we need now is the will to change.
*To get started with Mastodon, go to [JoinMastodon.org](https://joinmastodon.org/) and pick a place to call home! Use the drop-down menus to help narrow your search by interest and language, and find a community to call your own! Don’t let the fediverse miss out on what you have to say!*
......@@ -17,7 +17,7 @@ Deep down you always knew it. On the edge of your perception, you always heard t
It doesn’t matter if you call it a “data breach” or not. **The problem is how much data Facebook collects, stores and analyzes about us**. You now know how Facebook’s platform was used by 3rd parties to meddle in elections. Now imagine how much more effective it would be, if it wasn’t 3rd parties, but Facebook itself putting its tools to use. Imagine, for example, [if Mark Zuckerberg decided to run for president](https://www.cnbc.com/2017/08/15/mark-zuckerberg-could-be-running-for-president-in-2020.html)
**#DeleteFacebook** is trending on Twitter. Rightfully so. Some say, “even without an account, Facebook tracks you across the web and builds a shadow profile.” And that is true. So what? Use browser extensions that block Facebook’s domains. **Make them work for it**. Don’t just *hand *them the data.
**#DeleteFacebook** is trending on Twitter. Rightfully so. Some say, “even without an account, Facebook tracks you across the web and builds a shadow profile.” And that is true. So what? Use browser extensions that block Facebook’s domains. **Make them work for it**. Don’t just *hand* them the data.
Some say, “I don’t want to stop using Facebook, I want them to change.” And that is wrong. Keeping up with your friends is good. **But Facebook’s business and data model is fundamentally flawed**. For you, your data is who you *are*. For Facebook, your data is their money. Taking it from you *is* their entire business, everything else is fancy decoration.
......
......@@ -28,7 +28,7 @@ You can find out a lot about a person by looking at who that person associates w
In a social network, associations are important for other purposes, too. Finding good content by looking at who your friends follow, or confirming that an account is not a bot or sockpuppet by looking at who follows them. Still, **Mastodon now has an option to hide who you follow and who follows you from your profile.**
Of course, that isn’t perfect — the people you follow, and the people who follow *also *have profiles… But it’s at least a small obstacle to unsolicited data collection.
Of course, that isn’t perfect — the people you follow, and the people who follow *also* have profiles… But it’s at least a small obstacle to unsolicited data collection.
![](https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/2000/1*MHHC2NRdzytfTL6NL7mWjA.jpeg)
......
name = "Tremaine Friske"
bio = "Writer, editor, lousy agitator. Advocate for socialized structures and transparency."
[social]
mastodon = "https://octodon.social/@Mainebot"
......@@ -266,6 +266,18 @@ body {
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......@@ -308,6 +320,12 @@ body {
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......@@ -370,13 +370,27 @@ body {
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......@@ -432,6 +446,18 @@ body {
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