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Meta is working on a decentralized social app | Times Catalog

Meta is working on a decentralized social app

Meta, formerly known as Facebook, is developing a new text-based app called Threads to challenge Twitter’s dominance in the microblogging space. Threads is an Instagram companion app that allows users to share their thoughts, photos and videos with their followers.

But Threads differs from other social apps because it promises to support ActivityPub, a decentralized protocol that enables interoperability between different platforms. This means that users can see and interact with Threads content from other services supporting ActivityPub, such as WordPress and Mastodon, without signing up for Meta’s app or sharing their data with the company.

In this article, we will explore what Threads is, how it works, why Meta is pursuing decentralization and the benefits and challenges of this approach.

What is Threads?

Threads is a new Meta app launched on July 5, 2023. The app is designed to compete directly with Twitter, the popular microblogging platform with over 300 million monthly active users. Threads allow users to share text updates of up to 500 characters, photos, and videos with their followers. Users can also like, comment, and repost other users’ content and follow topics of interest.

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Threads is an Instagram companion app, meaning that users need an Instagram account to create a Threads account. Users can import their Instagram following list to Threads, and a verified user on Instagram is automatically verified on Threads when they create an account. Users can also link their Threads and Instagram profiles so that their Threads posts appear on their Instagram stories.

According to Meta, Threads is meant to provide a separate space for creators and public figures to share timely updates about their interests without being constrained by the algorithm or the feed of Instagram. Meta also says that Threads will offer more features for creators in the future, such as monetization tools and analytics.

How does ActivityPub work?

ActivityPub is a decentralized protocol that defines a standard way for different platforms and services to communicate. ActivityPub is based on the concept of actors and activities. An actor is any entity that can perform actions on the network, such as a user, a group, or a service. An activity is an actor’s action, such as posting, liking, commenting, or following.

ActivityPub uses a federated model, where different platforms and services can join the network and exchange activities. For example, a user on Mastodon, a decentralized social network that supports ActivityPub, can follow and interact with a user on Threads and vice versa. This way, users can access and participate in a wider range of content and communities across the network.

ActivityPub also uses a distributed model, where each actor controls their data and identity. For example, a user on WordPress, a blogging platform that supports ActivityPub, can host their blog on their own server or domain name and still be able to share their posts with other actors on the network. This way, users can avoid relying on centralized platforms or intermediaries that may collect or misuse their data.

Why is Meta pursuing decentralization?

Meta says that its decision to support ActivityPub on Threads is part of its vision to create a more open and connected internet, where users have more choice and control over their online experiences. Meta also says that decentralization can foster more innovation and diversity in the social media space by allowing different platforms and services to offer different features and values to users.

Several factors may also influence Meta’s move towards decentralization:

  • Regulatory pressure: Meta has faced increasing scrutiny and criticism from regulators and lawmakers worldwide over its market dominance, data privacy practices, content moderation policies, and societal impact. By supporting decentralization, Meta may try to appease some of its critics and avoid potential antitrust actions or fines.
  • User demand: Meta has also faced growing dissatisfaction and distrust from some users over handling various issues, such as misinformation, hate speech, censorship, security breaches, and algorithmic bias. By supporting decentralization, Meta may try to retain some of its users and attract new ones looking for more online transparency and autonomy.
  • Competitive advantage: Meta has also faced increasing competition from other social media platforms and services offering users different or better features or values. By supporting decentralization, Meta may be trying to gain an edge over its rivals and position itself as a leader in the social media space.

What are the benefits of decentralization?

Decentralization can offer several benefits for users and platforms:

  • More choice: Decentralization can give users more options to choose from when it comes to social media platforms and services. Users can select the ones that best suit their needs, preferences, and values and switch between them easily. Users can also access and participate in a wider range of content and communities across the network without being limited by the algorithm or the feed of a single platform.
  • More control: Decentralization can give users more control over their data and identity online. Users can decide where and how to store their data, who can access it, and what to do with it. Users can also manage their identity and reputation on the network without being dependent on a centralized authority or intermediary.
  • More privacy: Decentralization can give users more privacy and security online. Users can avoid sharing their data with third parties that may collect or misuse it. Using encryption or other methods, users can also protect their data from unauthorized access or tampering. Users can also communicate and interact with other users more privately and securely using end-to-end encryption or other protocols.
  • More innovation: Decentralization can foster more innovation and diversity in the social media space. Different platforms and services can experiment with different features and values and offer them to users. Users can also contribute to developing and improving their platforms and services by providing feedback, suggestions, or code. Users can also create their platforms and services using open-source software or tools.

What are the challenges of decentralization?

Decentralization can also pose several challenges for users and platforms:

  • More complexity: Decentralization can make the social media space more complex and confusing for users. Users may have to deal with multiple platforms and services, each with its interface, functionality, and rules. Users may also have to manage multiple accounts, identities, and data sources, each with security and privacy settings. Users may also have to learn new skills or tools to use the decentralized network effectively.
  • More responsibility: Decentralization can give users more responsibility for their online experiences. Users may have to take more care of their data and identity and protect them from loss, theft, or damage. Users may also have to take more accountability for their actions and interactions on the network and deal with their consequences. Users may also have to take more initiative to find and join the content and communities they are interested in and filter out the ones they are not.
  • More fragmentation: Decentralization can lead to more fragmentation and isolation in the social media space. Different platforms and services may not be compatible or interoperable with each other, creating silos or bubbles of content and communities. Users may be unable to reach or interact with other users on different platforms or services, creating gaps or barriers to communication and collaboration. Users may also be exposed to more misinformation, hate speech, or extremism on the network, creating risks or harm for themselves or others.

Meta is working on a decentralized social app.

Threads is a new app from Meta that aims to challenge Twitter’s dominance in the microblogging space. Threads is an Instagram companion app that allows users to share text updates, photos, and videos with their followers.

But what makes Threads different from other social apps is that it promises to support ActivityPub, a decentralized protocol that enables interoperability between different platforms. Users can see and interact with Threads content from other services supporting ActivityPub, such as WordPress and Mastodon, without signing up for Meta’s app or sharing their data with the company.

Meta says that its decision to support ActivityPub on Threads is part of its vision to create a more open and connected internet, where users have more choice and control over their online experiences. Meta also says that decentralization can foster more innovation and diversity in the social media space.

However, decentralization also comes with challenges for users and platforms, such as complexity, responsibility, and fragmentation. Users interested in trying out Threads should weigh the pros and cons of decentralization before joining Meta’s app or another platform that supports ActivityPub.

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