Repost of something I put on Twitter, in response to a post about "Shuttering Google Reader Killed Blogging"

a repeat mistake: being excited about a decentralized system's success because a big player moves in, becoming reliant on it, not providing a better alternative, big player leaves, decentralized system dies from shock

see also xmpp and gtalk

hoping to do better...

"Providing a better alternative" also means more than just "make the UI nice and easy to use", though that's a critical step. What is required to become a participating node in the system? How hard is it to keep that software running?

And yes, before you point it out, I don't think ActivityPub is in a good place here. But I think we can do better (and if you look, you can tell how that's impacting my current research & development)


Yeah. More than once I've wondered what we'd do if Google did to activitypub what they did to email/xmpp, ie launch a service that uses activitypub, but eventually extends it and starts closing out the decentralized players more and more. It's embrace, extend, extinguish all over again.

Getting and using an activitypub account has to be as easy as possible for average people, without relying on surveillance industry players if we don't want to go the same way eventually.

The timing would be just right with Google+ closed down. They've already made competitive products to Apple (Android, Chromebook etc). They've shown a desire to create their own Facebook, trying more than once already. Combine that with the rise of activitypub and the pattern just talked about and it wouldn't surprise me if they were basically waiting to see if it can grow large and stable enough to experiment with turning activitypub into Gpub, or whatever they decide to call it.

@Blort @cwebber I'd like to think the community has become wise enough to the strategy y now to pre-emptively block any Google servers so they never become integrated enough to do damage when they inevitably leave with all their users

@stardot @Blort pre-emptively blocking the big players isn't what's going to save the fediverse from their wandering in and then out, IMO. If all your friends and family show up on the fediverse finally, but they're using the Big G, I think it'll be really tough for network effect reasons, to not connect. Most of the network ultimately will, especially because whole new parts of the network will spring up that do.

So what's the alternative?

@stardot @Blort The alternative is to build our technology so that "where your content is hosted" matters less. The instance shouldn't be where the community is, or too critical to your character's identity.

Whether its Google or, if either leaves, the content you care about should be able to survive, and the user accounts too. You can see a bit of this here: says some of the rest (there's more, but hard to fit here)

@cwebber @stardot @Blort technically this is awesome, but socially I think the fediverse derives its character (and some of its benefits) from the sense of community your home provides. I know that it's mostly UX but still, the fact that your admin runs the service creates the feeling of being in someone's home, you have to behave as they expect you to. Facebook groups will never be the same.

@qwazix @stardot @Blort I agree that there's some degree of that, and some degree of that can remain! Let's reframe it in a different setting.

Imagine if you had something like a distributed virtual world. Your main character can travel anywhere they've been given access to... but somewhere is their "home", and that "home" is on some server run by other people... but that's also physically manifest. People show up to your home neighborhood, and there are friends nearby. (cotd ...)

@qwazix @stardot @Blort Even still, having a home somewhere shouldn't mean you can't travel anywhere. And how much should your home define you? I've moved around a lot, and my home in each place has had a meaningful impact on my life. But I think it would be also a problem if people immediately defined me by my place of residence. And it would be worse if I couldn't choose to move and still be the same person.

But that doesn't mean I don't have a home with a community.

@FiXato Zot has lead the charge on nomadic identity stuff, including that term. Though I don't think it does it in the way I think is really best. The details of that aren't super important for this post though.

But as for "the ideal", within the next six months I hope to release some demos that better explain what that is. I could ramble on here but I've come to realize that when I just talk it sounds like a soup of "ocaps sealers rights amplification blah blah"

demos show it better

@cwebber @Blort if they show up on the fediverse but it's on a surveillance network, I'd rather we kept the walls up so the danger is clearly sign posted. It's no different than what we have today so it's no harm to the fediverse as we know it.

@stardot @Blort Who says Google isn't already surveiling public posts on the fediverse?

I'm more interested in making our systems less surveilable where possible.

@cwebber @Blort I'm not so concerned about my public content being vacuumed. It's when they draw in users on their servers with a compelling UI and unique benefits to joining their servers. Once they have a large enough share of the network they blow the bridges, make breaking changes to the protocol or make a hostile take over of development using their political clout to define the direction of the network adding whatever anti-features serve them best.

@stardot @Blort Sure, I absolutely agree that's a concern. EEE. Happens all the time and it sucks.

I don't know of good solutions completely, other than making it so that it's hard for them to lock in their users. Making the system resistant to lock-in can help... allowing for easy immigration between instances is more likely to help than putting up borders.

@cwebber @Blort sometimes a bit of protectionism is a good thing. The fediverse is fine as it is, we don't need them to join the party. When they joined XMPP, RSS, SMTP, they were terrible guests. We need to learn from those hard lessons and simply not invite them. Those evil corps will never make it easy for users to leave, we need an attractive proposition that makes it worth the effort to spend time here too.

@stardot @Blort If you read my top post on this thread, you'll see there's already a large amount of agreement there.

But I don't think that the solution becomes walling them off. Not because we really want them here, but because I think it won't actually protect us in any way.

@cwebber @Blort could we come away from that scenario unscathed? No. I also doubt we can engineer our way out of the problem. ATEOTD the "us" are b&l digital vegans who didn't come here to connect with our irl community. I opted out when I deleted FB so I don't have that to lose, but we could lose users who are allowed to forget, and simplify back to their just FB+fedi account. A wall raises the cost of that choice, something XMPP&SMTP rarely tried.

@stardot @cwebber @Blort we also need laws that forces online identity hosts to provide users a structured archive of their data that is easy to access and migrate at any time, with a generous buffer period before closing the service. In my opinion.

@stragu @cwebber @Blort in an ideal world but inevitably such a law would hurt small server admins more than any major corporation and limit the growth of the distributed web by putting legal obligations onto potential server admins looking to provide a public service already at their own expense. We should accept responsibility for backing up our own data, but perhaps there's room for delegating that to a 3rd party who provide those assurances

@cwebber The Google crawler (and all the other "search engines") have been indexing the web timelines all the time, by design. Content is being fetched regardless of robots.txt and headers. All it takes to turn the result of that into "surveillance" is some targeted metadata parsing. They don't need to participate in the Fediverse to that end.

On the other hand, public web content is currently the only workaround for incomplete federation, so it's hard to get along without.

@stardot @Blort

@stardot There is precisely ZERO assurance that there aren't multiple parties archiving Fediverse activity. Proving there are none is all but inpossible.

Yes, there's been loud outcry in a few cases intent has been explicitly voicd. But anyone who thinks that this is a surveillance-free zone ... has a lot of growing up to do.

Public is public, and non-public is likely little better.

@cwebber @Blort

@dredmorbius @cwebber @Blort unless it's e2e encrypted on foss I don't assume complete privacy. I mentioned on another post vacuuming public content isn't my concern, the debate is whether embrace/extend/extinguish can be effectively contained by blocking bad actors joining the fediverse. If G/FB etc successfully fooled fediverse users into joining platforms they control they'll be subject to surveillance that goes far beyond archiving all your posts.

@stardot Re; privacy, glad we agree, many people unfortunately don't get, or don't want to get, this.

On EEE my fears parallel @cwebber's I'm not as saanguine as them about the solution, though. Msss-relational systems such as communications platforms and networks tend strongly to centralise.

My theory is that it is irreducible cost functions (such that larger == more expensive) or mutually incompatible communities which are required to avoid exessively high levels of scaling and concentration, not mere (theoretical) mobility.


The alternative that will work, but is hard to do, is real-world organizations that support their own members needs and also support their own technologies and vice-versa.

They may mostly be local. Like, the participants will know each other in real life.

They will want what works for them, and will not be seduced by big players, because the big players will only work for them when they make informed choices to allow that for tactical purposes.

A bit more to come.

@stardot @Blort

@cwebber @stardot @Blort

I know two examples where this has happened (real-world orgs supporting their own tech and vice-versa):

@bhaugen @stardot @Blort I agree with choosing not to work with the big players and ignoring them in favor of local, cooperative interactions. I actually think that's a different thing than trying to put up border walls.

@cwebber @bhaugen @stardot @Blort maybe this is just a daft point from a non-technical user, but i have often wondered why fedi/activity pub goes the open/public route (more twitter-like) rather than the fb closed model. is it easier, for ferder-able, or just what some devs were into? as in, google have oft been hella pissed at fb coz its closed. wdn't it make sense for a decent/community network space to be walled-garden in a way? (i hate walled-gardens, but maybe a kinda anti-one?) this wd also seem to match the fact that fedi etc are much more abt communities than they are abt broadcasting (power). or do ppl rly use fedi things for communicating with non-users?

@mousebot @bhaugen @stardot @Blort the activitypub spec isn't public-oriented, it's built around direct delivery though it does support public, but the way it's rolled out has been primarily by twitter-style applications so that's colored public impressions of what the protocol is

(can't say more than that, completely unrelated to any of this shitty stuff is happening over here right now and I'm putting out fires)

@cwebber @mousebot @stardot @Blort

ActivityPub can totally be used for more private groups, like the Hometown fork.
And I and several other people use single-person pubs as well as participating in group pubs.

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