The recent change of ownership of Twitter is making a small but growing number of people think about their future on social media, and on the internet in general.
You’ve all seen multiple web platforms growing to huge popularity and then dying off, often as a result of corporate changes rather than technological advances — MySpace and Tumblr both spring to mind — resulting in you losing touch with people who you had no other means of contact with.
The underlying problem has always been trusting your online presence in the
capable hands of a major corporation.
The recent Twitter turmoil has not seen me leave that platform, but I certainly have set up base on Mastodon at
https://mastodon.art/@lazcorp and tried to find as many Twitter mutuals there as possible, so that if Twitter does die a death then I haven’t lost contact with everyone. I’ll be using both platforms in parallel for the foreseeable future.
Mastodon reminds me of the pre-social media web in many ways - it feels a bit like the web felt to me in the late 1990s and early 2000s: slightly less corporate, slightly more open to discovering interesting things, and yes, slightly more clunky (and yes, I admit that does give me a certain feeling of nostalgia).
It’s the decentralised/federated concept behind Mastodon that gives me some hope that it will survive where previous social networks have failed: the fact that anyone can (so long as they have the necessary technical skills), for a small monthly payment, create and tun a Mastodon server that has the ability to connect to all the other Mastodon servers, in the same way that you can set up an email server that can communicate with all the other email servers in the world.
My profile is currently based over at mastodon.art because that’s a Mastodon server specialising in art, but I could theoretically set up a Mastodon server on my current web hosting space (or find a specialist Mastodon server host who’d do most of the installation and deployment work for me) and move my profile over to that, where I’d be the admin of the entire server.
This resilience-through-decentralisation appeals to me on many levels. It’s why I host my own website rather than using a platform, it’s why I recently revived my email newsletter, and it’s why this blog has an RSS feed.
For many years I’ve used Feedly to keep track of new articles/blog posts across several hundred websites, and I have an automated regular export of all the RSS Feed URLs of all those sites in OPML format (which, for the less technical, means that if Feedly dies then I can import all the sites I’m following into a different RSS Feed Reader and not lose all those connections).
Email and RSS are great decentralised technologies that can’t really be controlled by corporations because of their decentralised basis (although obviously I do appreciate that corporations/companies own the servers they run on etc). Adding Mastodon to that list gives me a reliable baseline infrastructure for my online presence, regardless of the rise and fall of any corporate-owned platforms that I might use.