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  • 43 Posts
Joined 11 months ago
Cake day: August 18th, 2023


  • I’m really happy for Eugen’s success, and am grateful for his essential contribution to widespread adoption of the ActivityPub protocol, even though I don’t agree with him on a lot of things.

    I think it was honest for him to acknowledge Google’s role in sidelining the XMPP protocol, and while I don’t want to quibble about the other mitigating factors, I do take issue with him comparing the trajectory of ActivityPub with SMTP with the visible adoption and mutually assured destruction of major corporations in maintaining email’s nominal interoperability.

    If people haven’t read it yet, they should check out (already Fedi-famous for his article on Enshittification) Cory Doctorow’s article Dead Letters – about how it is impossible for even a well-known public figure with access to the best server infrastructure and technical know-how to run a small private email server hosting completely legal content serving nothing resembling spam in the age of Gmail, Yahoo, and Microsoft Outlook. There are several ways that federating with Meta can kill this movement, and ActivityPub becoming the new email is one of them.

    Basically, if we allow Meta, BlueSky, and Twitter to federate, the very network effects Eugen mentions make it more valuable for them to federate with each other than any smaller server. Predictably they will underfund moderation staff who make errors or their faulty algorithms automatically de-federate smaller servers due to false-flagging spam. Small operators will have to work harder and harder until it is basically impossible for them to overcome the error or fix the problem and re-federate. Eventually small groups that aren’t directly sponsored by one of the giants will be weeded out, as their users migrate to more reliable services. Even if the disconnections and undelivered messages are not the fault of the sysops, they will be scapegoated, and eventually more and more will throw up their hands and leave the rigged game.

    While having a protocol you championed become the defacto web standard may feel like a great accomplishment, the Fediverse will never be a “Social Web” until the tools we use to communicate are incapable of being taken from us by corporations. Eugen’s vision of a social media ecosystem where any small developer can write a platform and have access to the entire ActivityPub network is at odds with his enthusiasm for the emailification of ActivityPub.

    There are social obstacles to building the “Social Web” and as good as the Activity Pub protocol is, the true technical solution is Solidarity.