RT @getongab: We encourage you to read this if you want to understand Gab’s vision. The folks attacking Gab are attacking our individual server’s rules about pornography. Not the Gab Social Protocol. https://t.co/HnmmOc6HEp
RT @jack: Recently we came across @mmasnick’s article “Protocols, Not Platforms” which captures a number of the challenges and solutions. But more importantly, it reminded us of a credible path forward: hire folks to develop a standard in the open. https://t.co/1kH7UcaNKO
This is an excellent article. I read it a couple days ago and was going to post it here if you hadn't.
Do you agree with the central premise, that moving towards a more decentralized social media landscape based on protocols rather than increasingly centralized platforms would be a step in the right direction?
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I am somewhat familiar with the concept of *.moderated groups. Apparently, some of them even used [automation](http://pages.swcp.com/~dmckeon/mod-faq.html#Q2.4) to speed up moderation.
But convenience wins every time.
Such changes don't work out if they are not organic as well as transparent to the user. And there were too many "rules" and too much emphasis on playing nice, a democratic process etc.
Decentralization means different groups will have different kinds of content and different kinds of posters and it's up to each server/node to decide which groups they want to carry or share and which posters are allowed to post.
That makes the most sense. Well, technically any usenet provider can implement that. Some of the text-based usenet providers might be suitable for that.
Peronally, I like the freedom current Usenet affords. But yeah, it would be nice to do something about the bad stuff.
The "Protocols, Not Platforms" debate is naive and misses the point. Here is why:
- Let's say someone builds a social network protocol (including messaging, photo sharing etc).
- Let's be generous and say this protocol becomes so successful it turns into a de facto standards.
- The market will rush to build the best client for the protocol. Facebook, Google, maybe an outsider will come up with the best client that has all the features and added goodies (magic emojis, special video effects, something new etc).
- People wanting to get on the networks will never google the protocol just like people who want to get an email client do not google "imap". They just google the most popular client such as gmail.
- Overtime, the most popular client will get a quasi-monopoly and will become incompatible with the rest of clients, no one will notice except for us nerds on HN.
- This already happened with xmpp (facebook messenger, google hangouts and others used to be on xmpp).
Now you might say, "but how about email"? Well, first of all, email is an oligopoly and it's practically impossible for individuals to set up their own servers and expect their emails to get delivered all of the time. So I wouldn't call email such a great success story. Another thing is that email is work oriented and so it makes sense to keep compatibility between businesses. Email also arrived very early and had time to spread slowly at the beginning of the internet among various small to big players, which explains why no company could take over it.
For all these reasons, I do not believe in a magical protocol that would save us from big tech. The protocol in itself would not be enough. A non-profit would need to be in charge of the most popular client such as Mozilla with Firefox, but even then this did not turned out as expected although Chromium is open source so yay.
I agree to use protocols, and not platforms (it would be better to do that rather than what a lot of stuff including Hacker News are doing). I wrote my own software for IRC and NNTP (both client-side and server-side), but you don't have to use mine and you can use your own or others too. Regardless of protocol services are still required, but you can use other services with the same protocol; you can set up your own server if you do not want to (or cannot) use theirs, for example. And, SMTP is good for email, compared with having to use a web browser. (And, there still are free Usenet servers (some require registration and some don't).)
Decentralized systems also will help. However, I think ActivityPub and so on are too complicated; NNTP and IRC is good. Also, sometimes some federation with others might not be wanted, or only partially, or whatever reason; sometimes the policy also might not match what someone else has. That is one reason I write a specification of Unusenet, which specifies a format for newsgroup hierarchies which are not part of Usenet (it is possible for the same server to feed both Usenet and Unusenet, though). Perhaps I think even should set up a NNTP for Hacker News, too. (I also invented a Netsubscribe protocol, which could be a simpler alternative to ActivityPub/Mastodon.)
What I'd like to see is a model where you a federated network of moderated groups. Something like Discord except more micro-blog than chat and where you can see popular posts of sister/brother servers, very popular posts on cousin servers and so-forth. Basically, a filter-tree keeping things reasonable and creating groups of folks with some relation to each other.
I've said this 1000 times, but garbage like Facebook or Twitter could be replaced overnight by a protocol. There is really zero reason it couldn't be built from existing distributed tooling, be secure and just as useful without lizard people getting in the way.
People who want to take control of their own lives, and curate the mix of knowledge / fact / falsity / opinion / propaganda / disinformation / useful-idiocy in their own heads can technically head in this direction today.
I think a key ingredient is translators that move content out of the platform-bubbles into the world you control. You can move material between RSS, email, blog channel easily, if you choose. Harder but doable is to crack the walled gardens of social media.
These can fuel development of better forms of expression than the primitive nonsense so often used today.
Many people have major barriers; not interested in taking control, not going to build anything myself, fear of leaving the mob, will accept advertising, want somebody to tell me what to do, too rushed...
That's fine, they will continue. Those who want can, and are, going down the other road.
The protocol is built as a distributed proof-of-stake network, where people can earn a crypto token by contributing good content, or by running nodes of the blockchain. Users and node operators can take ownership in, and govern the network based on how much of the crypto token they own (or have earned).
In order for a protocol to be successful, it must bridge that gap.
That's what we've already done, gotten 15Million monthly active users onto GUN's network ( https://github.com/amark/gun ), by focusing on value add - whether people are idealistic or don't care, they're still using it.
This is how protocols will grow. Stay true to your values, but ship value add.
Our open source non profit lab is helping dozens of companies and groups develop new, simpler, better protocols for all sorts of domains on top of tree notation. If you are interested and we can help you, feel free to reach out.
I've long felt that we need a "post office of the internet". Some type of communication platform that's truly neutral, doesn't attempt to censor or manipulate the activities of its users aside from enforcing the law, and isn't liable in any way for their behavior. Sure, you can send a bomb or a death threat or an illegal copy of a movie through the mail, but the post office isn't liable for the actions of its customers. Its only responsibility is to filter illegal content as best it can, and that's all.