Tying down Meta

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The world finally got to see Meta's new copycat beast: Threads. Some see it as the salvation from the apocalyptic climate that the bird app is going through, but the fair truth is that we're working with basically similar platforms. This is more obviously shown by the fact that some of the most currently prominent hate groups, such as Libs of TikTok, Gays Against Groomers and PragerU, have been platformed into this new service. While it's not being driven to the ground, let's be honest, it's not sunshine and rainbows either.

One of the few things Meta has pinky-promised is the intent to federate with ActivityPub servers, which has been received with lots of backlash from users and admins on smaller instances, myself included. The causes from this backlash are lack of trust in Meta due to their past actions, keeping conversations regarding federation attempts closed off, and how the Fediverse is a platform mostly used by minorities, leading to potential harassment in the instance that Threads federated with ActivityPub servers. This has lead to an agreement called the Anti-Meta Fedi Pact, which I have signed amongst others.

But I've just summarized the events from the past few weeks. What I want to focus on today is picturing a world where Meta can be a fair competitor amongst instances and not the monolith they clearly want to build.

A memoriam for some federated platforms

Before attempting to pitch this fix, let's look back at the past deaths from other federated platforms, mostly comprising of email and XMPP.

Email is a tamer example, since it's not an exclusive monopoly and the protocol has not been (completely) extinguished by the big players. However, it still annoys me to a certain level, since every major organization I've been a part of (that is, my current university and my high school), uses G Suite. Our two major players in the game are Google and Microsoft. According to the Web Technology Surveys, they control 18.2% and 13.4% of the market respectively. These may not seem like huge percentages until we compare them to, for example, my current personal email provider, Migadu, which does not even reach 0.1%. Essentially, when an individual or organization looks for a provider, they will always run towards the big players without thinking twice about the risks involved, which include, but are not limited to:

XMPP is a different story however, and is closer to what could've happened if Meta was welcomed with open arms by everyone in the Fediverse. When Google introduced Talk back in 2005, their implementation was just another XMPP (Jabber back then) server in the block. However, since a big player was the one providing the server and they had the capital to market it, users flocked to the flashy new service. Afterwards, Google “expanded” it with proprietary technologies (Orkut, Google+, Gmail, Google Voice...). Finally they sunsetted their service, moving existing users to a walled garden named Hangouts, leaving XMPP deserted. The protocol lives to this day as a niche platform, with many of us being forced into other closed messaging platforms such as WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat, Messenger and Discord in order to keep in touch with friends and family. When we talk about “Embrace, Extend, Extingish”, this is one of the most blatant examples. And while Microsoft got sued to the ground when they did this in the 90s by integrating Internet Explorer deeply within Windows in order to eat up Netscape's market share, Google have washed their hands clean from the crime scene.

What is our salvation for ActivityPub then?

Regulation! EU ministers have already been working at standardizing technologies such as USB-C on mobile devices and have forced players such as Apple to allow sideloading of apps in their operating systems. As of now we don't have a standard client API for ActivityPub servers, so a first step would be to not just depend on the Mastodon API for each server and instead work on making a “one-size-fits-all” client API. Afterwards, we should convince ministers that platforms federating with ActivityPub must implement this standard, and clients should present alternative providers as choices the user can pick without major constraints. Let's be fair however, the current onboarding process in the official Mastodon apps confuses users, so this process could be made more intuitive by developers.


Our true evils in the tech world are not the existence of these companies, but rather the control that they have. Capitalist preachers love to talk about the freedom of choice our current system give to users, but are absolutely blind to the monopolies that have been built in the past few years, and instead of limiting their grow to actually allow for innovation to thrive, they will yell about how government needs deregulation, which is the exact cause for our monopolistic (tech) world. There are paths out of this however, but we need to begin to build them soon. As for me, I'm planning to work on a private frontend for the platform. It seems like it's getting a lot of traction and it might be worth it to find a way to look at posts without giving Meta your precious data.