stephen.news

hypertext, words and more

fediverse

  • In 2019, Instagram and Facebook launched a standalone messaging app called Threads. It was originally designed to be a sort-of Snapchat group-messaging clone. This was all before Facebook’s big name change and pivot to Meta. Ergo, before Zuckerberg decided to invest in building out the Metaverse. Despite having millions in daily active users, Facebook decided to ultimately shut down Threads:

    The app today is ranked No. 214 in the Photo & Video category on the U.S. App Store — an indication of its continued failure to catch on with a broader audience. It’s also rated a middling 3.1 stars across 2,500 reviews as users complain about its usability, layout, missing features and glitches. To date, Threads has seen approximately 13.7 million global installs from across the App Store and Google Play, according to estimates from app intelligence firm Sensor Tower.

    This is what it looked like. Half-messenger app. Half-Snapchat clone:

    Once Threads disappeared, it was presumed to never return. I figured it was destined for the Silicon Valley graveyard of failed startups/projects (RIP Google Reader). But then, something wild happened. In October of 2022, Elon Musk decided to buy Twitter. This was meaningful because, ever since Twitter has been under Musk’s ownership, he’s basically nosedived the company into oblivion. This has left Twitter extremely vulnerable to competing social networking apps. There have been many cycles of users leaving for these Twitter-clones.

    Every decision he’s made has been a kiss of death: marketing, engineering, public relations, human resources, and so on. It’s been a nightmare for former employees, and a horror show contractors. To be blunt, Musk is devoid of compassion, and the first 90 days alone were not good for anyone. Ex-employees are currently in a arbitration lawsuit against Twitter and Musk and many having never received their severance. Lastly, the latest micro-managing efforts from Musk, have essentially broken Twitter.

    Instagram’s Threads app has been under development for some time now. At least the public has known about it since early March. Internally, it was understood to be called Project 92. It has an unmistakable design language. It’s very Instagram-esque

    From The Verge earlier this month:

    One of Meta’s top executives showed employees a preview of the company’s upcoming Twitter competitor during a companywide meeting today that was watched by The Verge.

    While Musk has been squandering cash and resources, Zuckerberg has been building. In what appears to be a stroke of serendipity, Meta & Instagram (aka the new Facebook) is launching the new Threads app this week amidst Twitter’s latest troubles.

    Threads’ (re)debut is happening just as users flock from Twitter (again) to competitors. But this time, it feels different. It feels more permanent this time around. A lot of users are very done with Twitter. Thousands of people are leaving Twitter behind for Mastodon in part because of Musk’s questionable rate-limiting nonsense. Both Threads and Mastodon are powered by an open-source protocol called ActivityPub. Which essentially makes them interoperable social networks. This interoperability, is not universally celebrated on the fediverse. Personally, I believe this will be good and healthy for the web. But that remains to be proven. This could all go sideways next week. According to reports, your Instagram handle will be your Threads username: @example@threads.net.

    This is a huge blow against Twitter. The headwinds are strong for Threads. Twitter has been on a losing streak, and chances are Musk will only make this worse. Instagram even put together a countdown on its site.

    It also was briefly on the Google Play Store earlier this week on July 1. It’s gone now, but will presumably be back on the Play Store later this week. Apple’s App Store on the other hand has it listed as a pre-order right now:

    What started as one kind of social network clone has become another kind of clone altogether! Who would have thunk. The drama, the suspense! It’s heating up, and I suspect this battle for the new “town square app” is just getting started. I’ll be sitting over here with the popcorn 🍿

  • Not much is really known about the Meta/Facebook product colloquially known as Threads (internally it’s known as Project92). What we do know is that it will presumably use ActivityPub and it will be a Twitter clone. That’s really all we know. The fact that Facebook is joining the Fediverse, concerns a lot of people. So much so in fact, that a few have vowed to defederate Facebook should they join. This movement is called the Anti-Meta Fedi Pact, and I should add it is antithetical to the mission of ActivityPub. Personally, I find it fascinating. For others, it’s validation:

    From Kev Quirk one of the admins of Fosstodon shared an official stance on the subject:

    Truth is, there isn’t that much info out there on how this thing will actually work, or what it will be capable of. Lots of people seem to be concerned about Facebook “getting their info”. Fact is, they can do that now if they really want to – it would be trivial for Facebook to stand something up that hoovers up all the public data that’s on the Fediverse, via API.

    And that’s the clincher here – it’s all public data. So the best advice I can give if you’re concerned about your data, is lock down your account and don’t post publicly.

    All that being said, here’s what we plan to do if this thing ever sees the light of day:

    • As a team, we will review what the service is capable of and what advantages/disadvantages such a service will bring to the Fediverse
    • We will then make a determination on whether we will defederate that service
    • We will NOT jump on the bandwagon, or partake in the rumour mill that seems to be plaguing the Fediverse at the moment

    […]

    However, we don’t know what this thing is yet. Hell, we don’t even know if this thing will actually exist yet. So let’s just wait and see.

    What if this thing ends up being a service that can allow you to communicate with your friends who still use Facebook, via the Fedi, in a privacy respecting manor. That would be pretty cool, I think; especially when you consider that one of the main concerns with new users on the Fedi is that they can’t find their friends.

    It’s refreshing to hear a competent and cautiously optimistic take in the face of all the swirling rumors. There’s no reason to sound the alarm bells before we know anything definitive yet.

  • For as long as I’ve known the web, I have known the little textarea element. It’s a simple element. In all likelihood, it’s just about as ubiquitous as the input tag on websites. It’s a captivating little thing. Before the modern inventions of React or complex JavaScript libraries, all it ever really contained was text.

    I suppose that’s the case to this today. But, it has long evolved into a springboard for authoring webpages. Modern publication inventions such as tweets, blogs, posts, blocks and countless others all stem from the textarea (sprinkle in some JavaScript magic, some drop zones and you have yourself a little “composer” where you can add images, video and more).

    Looking over the W3C spec for the textarea and looking back on SMS character limits (they were varied to say the least), it doesn’t take much imagination to see why Twitter came about in the first place. It seemed that short-form blogging was always destined to become a thing. Twitter’s success can largely be attributed to the fact that there’s really a lack of competition in the short-form blogging space.

    Tumblr and WordPress have always occupied the space between short and long-form blogging, sure. But, the spiritual successor to status messages (aka away messages)? Twitter has owned that (and marketed themselves as such) ever since it became a mainstream social network.

    While Twitter’s previous management has a long and well-documented history of running this company into the ground, Musk maintains no exception either. He’s nosediving and it’s headed for a calamitous user exodus. With no Trust & Safety board and a hostile CEO at the helm, banning tweets to Mastodon, banning journalists, then re-instating some of them — he’s clearly on a tyrannical, pathetic war path toward creating a platform that benefits Elon, elites and promotes a right-wing stochastic terrorist echo chamber.

    Needless to say, I’m getting the heck out of dodge. Like many others before me, I am kissing my neat little Twitter handle goodbye. Meanwhile, I was enthralled and delighted by Matt Mullenweg’s Decoder interview. There’s a brief point where he discusses what it means to be a good steward of Tumblr and how it has humbled him. Between Automattic’s Tumblr, the fediverse and this blog (which is also powered by WordPress an Automattic invention), I’m absolutely delighted to leave Twitter behind. Not to mention, the kind folks at Tumblr are considering adding ActivityPub support to their network which would effectively make Tumblr that largest Mastodon instance on the fediverse.

    You may be asking, “but, wait — how will I find my friends on Mastodon?!” Well, I have some good news! First off, don’t deactivate your Twitter. Follow these steps to get started with Mastodon

    1. First, join an instance. Doesn’t matter where you join! You can move freely about the fediverse. Think of each instance like an email handle.
    2. Next, add your Mastodon handle to your Twitter profile (this will make it easier for folks to find you in the fediverse).
    3. Finally, go here and sign in with your Twitter creds to find your friends who have also moved to the fediverse: movetodon.org

    With your help Twitter can be given a proper burial. It should go down as one of the worst acquisitions in business history and become the cautionary tale that it deserves. The textarea and microblogging on the other hand is never going away. In fact, I would argue that the slow death of Twitter reveals what we all want deep down — each of us want to own a little piece of web. One step closer to a de-commodified web utopia.

    Update: Elon banned links to Instagram, Mastodon and other social platforms and then reversed that decision. Then ran a poll on wether or not to step down, which ended with 58% in favor of him stepping down. Despite claiming he would abide by the results, there’s been no indication he would do so. Even more concerning, it appears he’s spellbound by the idea of restricting poll voting on Twitter to Blue subscribers. Welcome to hell, Elon.


    If you are so inclined, you can find me in several places on the web now!

    I’m on Tumblr where I may shitpost, share photos, re-blog cool things and whatnot: tumblr.com/petrey

    Elsewhere, on the fediverse I have several handles. However, I’m mostly here with my fellow hackers and unix computer club community: tilde.zone/@petrey

    Follow me wherever you’d like, but wherever you go, this blog remains ✨