Will Threads’ expanded Fediverse access plan ever take off and become a significant consideration for more users?
As you may be aware, as part of the development of Threads as an all new platform, Meta has also committed to making Threads interoperable with the Fediverse, which is a collection of independently hosted, interconnected servers, which decentralize the control of social interactions from any single player.
Mastodon is the best-known Fediverse platform, with many other, smaller apps and tools linking into the same process, with the guiding principle of the decentralized social approach being that rather than having users beholden to a few big companies, who then control all the data that they submit, and all the content that they see, the Fediverse will democratize social networking, enabling all users to take their data with them, and switch to other servers that better suit their personal needs, as they see fit.
At the same time, posting via Fediverse connection, powered by ActivityPub, will also enable users to share updates across different platforms and servers at once, which could expand your reach within a range of communities.
The common comparison here is email, in that you can send emails from, say, Gmail to Outlook, despite them being owned by different organizations. ActivityPub facilitates the same, but in a social media context, which could enable broader engagement, and freedom in such, to varying degree.
Though much like cryptocurrency, the main focus is on reducing the power of big corporations, and in combination, crypto and the decentralized platform approach make up what we know as “Web3”, which many still see as the next evolution of digital interactivity.
Each element of Web3 is still in its early phases, and is experiencing various challenges, as is to be expected. But maybe, one day, decentralization will play a bigger role in how we all connect, by enabling anyone to exert more control over their digital information and experience.
And given that it could be the future, Meta, logically, is looking to maintain an interest in its development.
Last week, in an interview with Wired, Meta project manager Rachel Lambert outlined the platform’s progress on this front, and its future Fediverse integration plans.
Lambert told Wired that general Threads users may be able to access new Fediverse features “in a couple of months”, following on from Threads initial tests with Fediverse integration in December.
As per Lambert:
“We have some milestones that we’re working towards, but I think we’re most invested in just making sure that the experience feels really good and that things are actually working.”
Hints of the coming integration are already present in the back-end code of the app, with app researcher Alessandro Paluzzi sharing this new “Fediverse sharing” option last week.
Eventually, that’ll enable more widespread sharing and control capacity.
Or at least in theory, that’s how it will work.
Already, many Fediverse admins have established a pact to block any attempt by Meta to connect into the space. Which goes against the whole principle of a more open web, but at the same, these admins view Meta, and other social media incumbents, as the cause of the Fediverse push in the first place, in that Meta’s past actions in controlling user data, using that for ad targeting (and anything else), and imposing its own moderation rules, have led to the call for a more open, less corporate-controlled approach.
Now, Meta’s looking to get in on that too, and you can see why they might want to oppose such, and essentially lock Meta, and other corporates, out of the process.
Meta’s been trying to find a common ground here, by meeting with Fediverse admins to address their concerns. But right now, opposition to Meta looms as just a big of a challenge as the technical refinements required to enable Fediverse connection from Threads in the first place.
And that’s before you even consider whether the majority of users even want these new options.
For the most part, social media users don’t update their settings, and don’t look into the technology that facilitates their connection in each app. Most people just want to download an app, fill in the required details, and get to using it as soon as possible, and as such, it’s not clear that Fediverse connection will appeal to the majority of users either way.
Over time, proponents believe that people will come to adopt these new, improved control options. But history tells us that most people simply won’t care, and are unlikely to utilize these new elements either way.
Which begs the question of why Meta is even bothering with the Fediverse at all, considering it already has such a dominant hold on the social media market.
My read here is that Meta’s mostly looking to keep tabs on the development of these new processes, while also ensuring that it has some stake in the game, if it does take-off. Though much like crypto, I suspect that, over time, most Fediverse admins will learn why centralized control is often more beneficial, and that going it alone, while it does provide more control, also means more challenges in maintaining these varied services.
Whether we like them or not, there’s a reason why most financial regulations and processes are in place, and as many crypto traders have found, the benefits of those do outweigh the negatives in many respects, even if that does mean more centralized control and oversight.
As the Fediverse grows, I suspect many will find the same, and I don’t personally see the Fediverse taking off as a large scale option for most social media users.
Maybe Meta plays a role in making it more of a thing, maybe it reduces its impetus somewhat. But either way, I’m not sure that all the effort to link Threads into the Fediverse is going to mean a lot for regular users in the long run.
But it is coming, and you will soon have more options to consider, which could actually introduce many, many more people to what the Fediverse has to offer.
Will they care? We’ll find out.