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Twitter is advertising for “a small independent team of up to five open source architects, engineers, and designers to develop an open and decentralized standard for social media” with the goal of becoming “a client of that standard.”
It’s a pretty seismic move, albeit one that’s short on details and binding promises. Twitter was originally designed to be part of a federated network, but over the years, the company has tightened controls over its APIs and other elements in such a way as to make it progressively harder to create federated or third-party tools to interact with Twitter users. Sometimes, this was undertaken in the name of privacy or security (and indeed, there were some privacy and security gains through those moves) and sometimes it was just presented as a fait accompli, and either way, it’s transformed Twitter into another centralized platform — albeit one that is more generous about linking and embedding that its primary rival, the walled gardens of Facebook and its subsidiaries, whose goal is to enclose and snuff out the open internet.
Twitter CEO @Jack explains:
First, we’re facing entirely new challenges centralized solutions are struggling to meet. For instance, centralized enforcement of global policy to address abuse and misleading information is unlikely to scale over the long-term without placing far too much burden on people.
Second, the value of social media is shifting away from content hosting and removal, and towards recommendation algorithms directing one’s attention. Unfortunately, these algorithms are typically proprietary, and one can’t choose or build alternatives. Yet.
Third, existing social media incentives frequently lead to attention being focused on content and conversation that sparks controversy and outrage, rather than conversation which informs and promotes health.
Finally, new technologies have emerged to make a decentralized approach more viable. Blockchain points to a series of decentralized solutions for open and durable hosting, governance, and even monetization. Much work to be done, but the fundamentals are there.
Twitter Makes A Bet On Protocols Over Platforms [Mike Masnick/Techdirt]