How Musk can reinvent the internet without even trying

Billionaire entrepreneur and innovator Elon Musk could have opened a new chapter in Internet history, albeit unintentionally. Their new Twitter policies and the digital refugees you createdmost fleeing to the hitherto dark Platform similar to Twitter Mastodoncould give birth to a very new kind of social media experience.

By buying Twitter, Musk, a self-described free speech absolutistreinstated accounts belonging to former president donald trumpthe right wing satire site bee babylon and the occasionally crude left-wing comedian kathy griffin. This was combined with the removal of verification requirements (which have since been updated) while adding a monthly fee, as well as mass layoffs at the company.

More recently, Twitter has suspended several journalists who reported information about Musk’s jet.

Unhappy with the changes and the controversy, some users stampeded to other services, such as Mastodon, the much smaller European alternative to Twitter, the brainchild of the free-speech advocate and German software engineer. eugene rochko. But can Mastodon compete with the reach of Twitter? Though 1 million Mastodon users pale compared to Twitter’s 238 million users, Mastodon’s secret weapon is that it’s more than just a site. It is a federation of sites that can maintain their autonomy while exchanging information with each other. Mastodon uses an open and free system social networking protocol, ActivityPub, which allows any social media to connect with any other, as long as they are open and transparent to each other. Various platforms, such as YouTube-like PeerTubealternative instagram pixelatedsocial media Friend you already do The switch from Twitter to Mastodon and ActivityPub could be an epoch-making digital revolution, comparable to the invention of the web itself. ActivityPub can restore the web and its most sophisticated layer, social networking, to the open and universally connectable vision of the Internet itself. Our most popular social media platforms—Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok—remain walled gardens, only allowing users to exchange information within apps under the same ownership or create apps within each platform. This drawback does not apply to ActivityPub-enabled sites. Far from walled gardens, they are fields connected by open paths.

What is ActivityPub and how does it work? At the simplest level, it is a method (protocol) for social media servers to communicate with each other, even if they are owned by different entities and dedicated to different purposes. Imagine CBS News, BBC, National Review and Fox News creating their own social media servers using the Mastodon UI and ActivityPub as a server-to-server protocol. All the owners of these sites need to do to connect to each other is list each other’s server addresses in a “federated sites” list.

Immediately, users of sites that talk to each other will be able to follow other users’ posts or comments across server boundaries. This has several advantages. The first and most important is that the owners of social networks have a direct and immediate relationship with their users. Owners don’t need to be corporate, by the way. Independent media organizations, non-profit organizations, or user cooperatives can create their own media servers. They can develop their content policies, methods of privacy protection, and methods of financial support, from advertising (which they control) to support based on subscriptions or donations. Social media owners can also decide when and how to open access to other members of the federation. This may include trial periods or suspension of communication.

Finally, any business or nonprofit can use their own social media interface, not Mastodon, and still be able to talk to other sites using ActivityPub. The interface can include new tools, such as a trust button to replace the like or favorite buttons. My colleagues and I created the TrustFirst social networking server powered by ActivityPub and Mastodon. In it, machine learning analyzes the content you are about to share or like and tells you if the content is trustworthy. A new button invites to trust or not and the trust value is used to spread more or less the content.

More intriguingly, Musk could also implement ActivityPub on Twitter, like tumblr did it. It would ensure the long-term reach of the site, while Twitter users will have the cake (being on Twitter) and eat it too (not be bound by its rules).

The genius of the Internet is that it allowed and should allow independently owned and operated sites to communicate with each other. This is reflected in the very name of the internet, which is a network of networks (inter-net), not an integrated network. The closed detour of social networks in the history of communication could become a very interesting detour. Watch out for sharp turns!

Sorin Matei, Ph.D., is associate dean for research and graduate education in the College of Liberal Arts and professor of communication at Purdue University, where he studies the relationship between information technology, group behavior, and social structures. social in a variety of contexts. He is a senior fellow at the Krach Institute for Technology Diplomacy at Purdue.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *