Social Media Open Standard

by steve on July 11, 2021

Now in these days this is an unpopular idea in some quarters, but services like Twitter and Facebook do not have any kind of monopoly over “social media”. The people making decisions at these services have been using online discussion groups for a lot longer than the average person and they’ve seen how a lack of enforced community standards leaves a popular online group likely to devolve into a garbage fire warming no one but the hobos too inebriated to leave. So you have to decide what people are allowed to post and what they are not. Some users think their freedom of speech is being violated, but what they really want is freedom-from-consequences speech.

Yet, the major platforms do have an outsized coverage over the “social media landscape”. What a company like Facebook does have a monopoly over is … reading and posting Facebook posts. You can’t send or receive something on the Facebook service without Facebook software/service being involved. You may have noticed by now that you’ve never, ever seen a Facebook post appear in a Google search result.

You may notice that no one and nothing cares what sends or receives your email. Nothing requires you to be reading this on Bob’s Cool Internet Browser Thing.

Why is that? Because there’s an open standard that was created which allows all the parties to inter-operate. If there was something like that for the concept of Social Media, then your posts from/to SteveBook could “share” with MyBobster, or any other service you could imagine, likely in ways we haven’t thought up yet.

The basic standards (aka “rules”) that make all this internet stuff we use and trust today were built by academia, elite corporate research labs, military research and other institutions who just wanted to be able to share stuff and never, ever imagined they’d see dollar one out of it. When groups start caring enough that everything works together they form a standards body of the big players and they have a big, sometimes friendly fight over what everyone’s going to agree to work with, and then you’ve got something.

Had the people who built the standards you’re using to read this had cared about enabling any random person to share funny cat videos and/or conspiracy theories, all this would have been encoded at least a decade ago.

So what’s going to happen next? Someone’s going to come up with this. It’s silly to consider “breaking up” a company like Twitter, because this is a natural, inevitable evolution to the next thing.

In fact, it’s already happening. Cast your peepers here: https://www.theverge.com/2021/1/21/22242718/twitter-bluesky-decentralized-social-media-team-project-update

How it’s going to work out, or what it’s going to look like … I can’t say. What I can say is that I’ll bet all my DaveCoin that it will happen.

Most likely, you heard it here first.

Bonus reading: FidoNet. Hint: a valuable, notable and interesting service that fell apart because there was no way anyone could decide what person or company would own the keys to the network. Further fun for you here: http://www.bbsdocumentary.com

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