How to fix social media

What we need is this one simple trick:

A site that scrapes, collates, and de-dups your friends' posts on every social media site, and then shows you the union of all of those posts as one feed.

This is the only way to break Facebook's back: to allow your friends' transition from one social network's data silo to another to be so gradual and effortless that you don't even notice it happening.

The thing that makes this difficult, of course, is not the coding, but the fact that if you succeed at it in any meaningful way, the sky will blacken with lawyers, and the data silos' spending on technical countermeasures will absolutely smother you.

It is hard, intentionally so, for people to quit a social network because that's where all their friends are and you can't get them all to move at once. But if it were possible for someone to move to a new service in such a way that neither they nor you lose that connection, then the barrier to switching would much lower. The services would have to compete on their merits rather than on your sunk cost.

But by facilitating this, not only would you be in violation of the terms of service of every site, you'd also be posing an existential threat to almost every aspect of their business model. They live for the lock-in. Touch that in a way that actually turns the Eye of Sauron upon you, and it won't go well.

Many of you are already bouncing up and down in your eagerness to go into the weeds with designs of how this could work at a technical level, but -- stop. It's a Small Matter of Programming, and that part doesn't matter at all. Unless you have a plan that solves "lawyers and countermeasures" problem, there's no point. You're looking for your keys where the light is good instead of where you dropped them.

So yeah, I said that step 2 is "and then a miracle occurs". This project is absolutely impossible. It will never happen, and social media cannot be fixed. Surprise!

But that step 2 miracle does have a name, and it is "antitrust legislation". It needs to be illegal for these companies to monopolize and lock in your data. It needs to be illegal for their TOS to prevent entry into the market of the kind of inventions that I'm talking about here. Interoperability and federation would need to be a legal mandate.

Anyway, good luck with that.

Previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously.

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58 Responses:

  1. JeffreyATW says:
    5

    I wonder what happened to FriendFeed? ...Oh.

    • EMC says:

      Cloned with further impovement: https://mokum.place

      Lost RSS import feature, tho.

      • JeffreyATW says:
        1

        Unless I'm missing something, Mokum is missing the single reason anyone ever used FriendFeed: being able to follow external social media accounts. Of course, if you read the post above, you'll understand that this is now impossible. So I'm not sure what you're getting at.

  2. Misty Jean says:
    5

    I had an idea for "step 3" involving the blockchain
    but then we'd have two problems.

  3. CSL3 says:
    2

    Hey, it's a better plan than what the Underpants Gnomes came up with - and not a moment too soon.

    Getting off social media was one of the best decisions I ever made, but it did cost me work and social contact. As such, I now observe it from a distance the same I way observe friends ignoring COVID protocols: like I'm watching the bodies of people I care about float down a river.

    • CSL3 says:
      4
      ALSO: with Twitter being acquired by a Trump-loving apartheid profiteer, I suddenly remembered that Attack of the Clones also an "Elon" - Elan Sleazbaggano, the drug-dealer who tries to sell "death sticks" to Obi-Wan.
      As described in his official entry on the Star Wars website:

      The aptly named Elan Sleazebaggano made his living selling death sticks to patrons of the Outlander Club and other hot spots in the underlevels of Coruscant.

      Always in search of credits, Sleazebaggano targeted both desperate addicts and unwise thrill-seekers.

      'Nuff said.
  4. tfb says:

    I'm not sure how we ever got as far as we did: how did the antitrust legislation that did get passed ever get passed?  It's obvious why it doesn't get passed now and never will: googlebook hands bribes to the legislators (often in the form of 'be nice to us and we will give you a very well-paid sinecure in a few years' so it's 'not actually a bribe'), but how did it ever get passed?  Politicians were just as corrupt, the trusts were just as powerful and as smart, surely?

    • CSL3 says:
      1

      Because back then, people had more power in the form of unions and the like. Plus, the wealthiest US citizens and businesses would pay up to 92% in taxes - which still made them richer than everyone else, but everyone else was backed up by well-funded social programmes coming from the 90+ per cent that came from taxing the richies.

      Since then, the power of organisations like unions has been all-but-wiped-away, richies had their taxes lowered, and the wealth gap increased exponentially. Some of it happened in big strokes (Nixon gave richies major tax breaks), some at a slow pace (Reagan made stripping unions of power a big thing), but we're now stuck with a right-wing establishment that cheats and fetishises richness, and a left (nay, centre) establishment that... just sits back and does nothing.

      Oh, sure, Democrats will occasionally to respond to pure Republican evil by writing strongly-worded letters. Then Dems declare that doing so means it'll be impossible for Republicans to do more evil. And Republicans are like, "Actually..."

      • tfb says:
        1

        Except Standard Oil was broken up in 1911, which is earlier than when your table starts, but I guess, since the highest tax rate when it does start, in 1913, was 7%, it was probably about that in 1911.  Also, not sure about the state of welfare state in 1911 but I bet it wasn't good.  Dunno about unions.

        Don't get me wrong: taxing the rich is a very good thing, the welfare state is a very good thing ... it just completely fails to explain what somehow did happen in 1911 but is not happening now.

        • CSL3 says:
          1

          Yeah, but there was still a level of power in the hands of the "little people" and politicians because there were stronger laws to do just that - laws that were chipped away over time.

          I'd never say the power was balanced, but there safeguards in place that let people hit big companies where it hurt. Now, not so much.

          • jack lecou says:
            2

            But the laws had to come from somewhere. I think the answer you're looking for here is public attitudes, and to some extent, the stakes ordinary people had.

            Back in 1911 or so, I suspect it was a lot easier for most people to recognize that the kind of wealth and power represented by something like Standard Oil was unfair, undemocratic, even immoral. Just as a matter of common sense.

            A century of neo-liberal propaganda and brainwashing later, and if you try to say similarly common-sense things about Facebook or Amazon or whatever, you'll instantly get pushback from all and sundry about how "you're just jealous of their success", or "but how would anyone have jobs without giant monopolies", etc.

            Unions also had more power back then partly because they had *gone to war* to get it. Literally. People died fighting armies of armed union-busters. It's hard to imagine quite the same level of solidarity and dedication today, and I think absolute levels of comfort and hardship have something to do with that. People back then had nothing to lose. Now, our corporate overlords have mastered the carrot and the stick -- they keep people in a state of marginally tolerable fragility rather than abject poverty, so we always have something to lose.

            • Jason McHuff says:
              1

              Plus, there wasn't so many things to busy and distract people (though communication was relatively limited)

            • tfb says:
              4

              Back in 1911 or so, I suspect it was a lot easier for most people to recognize that the kind of wealth and power represented by something like Standard Oil was unfair, undemocratic, even immoral. Just as a matter of common sense.

              ... while not allowing women to vote was just fine, of course (19th amendment, 1920).  And children working in mines was also just fine (Keating-Owen child labour act, 1916).  And treating black people as less than human was also just fine, of course.  And, and, and.

              'Back in 1911' the US was not even slightly a democracy, was racist in the most explicit and awful way, had absolutely horrific workplace practices including very large scale child labour, and many, many other awful things.  This whole argument that somehow things were better in 1911 and that's why Standard Oil got broken up (using legislation passed 21 years earlier, in 1890, by the way) is just romantic junk which is completely failing to explain what happened and why.

              I don't know why antitrust legislation worked against Standard Oil and has not yet worked against Googlebook, but none of the claims  here explain it, at all.

              (One possible explanation is that it is working, but slowly: I don't know for how long Standard Oil was a monopoly, but Googlebook have been monopolies for well under two decades.  I don't think I believe this, but may be.)

              And finally: don't take this as me saying that everything is fine now.  I think democracy is likely dying or dead both in the US and UK and something which is fascism in all but name is coming.  I hope I'm wrong.

  5. Jason McHuff says:

    Social media sites should be owned by the users or at least employees, or be a non-profit. Having it be controlled by private companies is a conflict of interest. For instance, it means hostility towards interoperability.

    If we had a trustable government, I'd suggest that they be chartered/started by the government (but then divested to a user-picked board)

  6. Ian says:
    1

    I remain grateful to you for working out how to get RSS feeds out of the evil that is Facebook a few years ago, before they shut that down.

    If they weren't broken up after enabling the Rohingya genocide, what will it take?

    • phuzz says:

      I was going to say "get someone to bribe the politicians the other way", but then I thought, maybe if Elon Musk gets annoyed by Facebook, he might go after them?
      Would be fun to watch either way.

  7. cdavies says:
    1

    The "website" bit makes it a non-starter, but does it have to be a website? We had exactly the same problem with instant messengers, which was solved by multi-protocol clients. They were still subject to technical countermeasures, but having no actual infrastructure or easily identifiable people to sue reduced the legal hassles quite a lot.

    I guess one thing has changed since IM services largely died, that being app stores. While the Apple app store remains the only way to get software on to an iphone, there's no real difference between a website and an app. There are mutterings that the EU is going to force sideloading on them, and that's all well and good but it's probably still to steep a hurdle to adoption even if that happens.

    • jwz says:
      2

      Yes, remember way back in the past, there was that problem with multiple, incompatible messenger protocols with a separate app for each, and now you can use a single multi-protocol client to OH WAIT

    • Krunch says:

      > same problem with instant messengers, which was solved by multi-protocol clients

      Proprietary IM are still very much a thing and multi-client protocols are still a poor workaround and Wikipedia informs me their developers do get nastygrams: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WhatsApp#Third-party_clients
      Does any even work with WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger (as that seems to be what everybody around me uses) for any reasonable definition of "work"?

      • jwz says:
        7

        For those of you who don't remember the bygone era known as the year 2010, Facebook Messenger began its life with support for the open XMPP (Jabber) protocol.

        There were several years when I was able to use a single chat client, Adium, to talk to people using disparate instant messenger services (Google Chat, Livejournal, Facebook, Twitter DMs, IRC, AIM, as well as various other Jabber servers) because they all federated via XMPP. It just worked. All that's gone now. Every single one of those companies dropped that support because the financial benefits of lock-in outweighed the political benefits of paying lip service to interoperability.

        We're lucky that it's not currently necessary to use separate apps for SMS, MMS, iMessage, and whatever Android does. Hey, maybe even a different set for AT&T and Sprint.

        Instant messenger systems are not really the same thing as social networks, but their similarities and history provide a very clear demonstration of the outright contempt that the respective companies have for interoperability.

        • JW says:

          Adium was a gem.
          IMO, the closest thing out there is Mastodon/ActivityPub.
          However, only 1 of my 1500+ followers on Twitter has signed up so far.
          I will keep it going because I will "always" be able to host it somewhere.
          Pretty sure Twitter is going into nightmare town.
          ActivityPub has the old-timey feel, too.
          Something to keep me off the streets.

        • ailepet says:

          We're lucky that it's not currently necessary to use separate apps for SMS, MMS, iMessage, and whatever Android does.

          But it is. RCS (the thing <strike>Android</strike> Google Messages does) is not compatible with the iOS default message app. Since I've left Zuckerland, and XMPP clients on iOS seem to barely work at all (which answers the comment by Krunch below, re:"don't really understand why Matrix seems more successful than XMPP"), I'm basically unable to send or recieve videos with my friends on iOS; MMS compression will make those end up as a bunch of indecipherable pixels. Conversations on Android is nice though, although in need of a rewrite to be on par with the popular guys.
        • cmt says:
          1

          Also, spam. Because it was federated, every doofus could push their garbage to about everyone (been there, seen that), which gave the big players real incentive to leave the federation ("now that we've locked out the stinking masses, chat away with all your friends on OUR platform"). And the protocol was a shitshow: XML because that was the language-du-jour (oh the bloat) and the protocol was never complete. Yeah, pure text worked, but almost everything else were - sometimes multiple, conflicting - extensions. Mobile clients (not able to have a persistant TCP conenction) - wasn't quite there, PITA. Moving your chat between devices (like people did with e.g. Skype): PITA (and no way if you used OTR, as you didn't want some hobby admin to "archive" your private messages). I've shut down my XMPP stuff years ago, and I doubt anybody even noticed. XMPP was an improvement over IRC, but given the... simplicity of the IRC spec that's not saying that XMPP was good enough.

      • Alex says:
        1

        I've been using Beeper for a while and it really works, which continues to amaze me.

        • jwz says:

          Huh.

          I'll bet they are in violation of literally every TOS of those services. I wonder if they believe they have some legal dodge, or if they are just planning to shut down once a real lawsuit comes in.

          In particular they say that they support Signal, but it is, by design, impossible to legally federate with Ponzi-platform Signal.

          • cdavies says:

            In this case, the dubious legal dodge is that the software contains none of the code to talk to any of the services. It's a fancy Matrix client. What you're paying for is technically a cheap VPS that hosts the actual software, basically none of which is written by them, so in theory it's you that's violating the TOS, not them.

  8. LaughingBubba says:

    Basically you would need to enact laws that treat SMs like a carrier or a utility and have punitive remedies for an SM the prevents switching. Then the SM would also have act as an exchange of SM posts like a Telco.

  9. Ix says:
    1

    Maybe the issue could be addressed the other way around: convince enough friends to publish in <your open, nice, rainbow-coloured, not-evil SM of choice> and provide a low barrier solution for them to crosspost in their <evil, android/blooddiamondheir-lead walled-garden SM of doom>.
    That way, there is no ground for a murder of (or by) lawyers and you gradually siphon users out the corporates' claws...

    Then again - technical solutions <mumble> social issues <mumble mumble> capitalism <mumble mumble mumble>.

    • CSL3 says:
      1

      That what Ello did. Where are they now?

      • Ix says:

        I don't know Ello (which seems to still exist, but not distributing content afaics) but I just had a look at this 'beeper' thing @Alex posted above (which is for chats).
        I would neither trust them to a) not leak my data and b) stick around for that long... so I'd like to clarify: I meant something that locally pipes the content to multiple channels. So you post stuff to your account and have bridges posting the same content to chosen other services, using your credentials. Most probably this requires a working API as neither iOS nor Android will grant you access to other apps.... I am no app-programmer, I have no idea.

        Will you see others' content? I guess that is where the murder would kick in, so no.
        Will it solve the problem of the narcisisst shit-hole popular SM is today? I doubt it - that's a social issue, not a tech issue.
        Will it solve the issue of monopols? Technically it could, practically the 'federated' solutions are all more or less centralised, as few jump through hoops to maintain an instance.

  10. Adolf Osborne says:
    1

    I assume your new commenting system retains email notifications for replies, and I'm sure that you'll tell me if I'm doing it wrong, but:

    I've never made ties on Facebook that didn't already exist in real life, and I've never participated much at all (only once every couple of years) in any public discourse on Facebook.

    And by participation, I mean: 

    With pointedly rare exceptions (like when I have to publicly shame a Facebook group that is offering modified free-to-anyone binary Marlin 3D printer firmware images without the source or even a diff from the main tree, contrary to both the spirit and the letter of the GPL), I don't make new conversation with unknown people on Facebook.

    And outside of instances like that:  I'm not sure why anyone does do so unless they want to get laid.

    I do use it to PM some people that I actually-know sometimes.  And for that function (an enhanced contact list with messaging), I think that the Facebook works fine.   It has been useful as a tool in that way.

    But I don't follow their feeds or get wrapped up in the spiderwebs that surround them, for that is the path of madness.

    (I do converse a fair bit on Reddit, where I am pseudonymous and I have made two or three real friends there after 7 years of hanging out there that I've actually hung out with and can tolerate IRL.

    And realtime-oriented chat platforms like Slack and Discord do remind me a lot of what EFnet IRC and local BBSs used to be, and I've held onto a few seemingly-bonafide friends from each of those platforms:  I still have close friends from the BBS days, even.

    But I have zero interest in seeing them from the perspective of their Facebook feed so I just... never look.)

    [Disclaimer:  I'm not trying to promote 1.5 nightclubs and a pizza place.  YMMV.  My goals and difficulties are probably not at all what your own goals and difficulties are.]

    tl;dr.  What problem?

    • JeR says:
      1

      Since we're all enjoying remembering "stuff that used to work", I'll just hijack this comment to mention Usenet and how it was killed by web forums. Bonus: web forums got killed by synergistic services that rewarded users if they "forgot" to log out: the most powerful application of cookies/sessions brought about the (initially web-based) social media juggernauts we now all suffer, endure, or moarn for the loss of many long-time friends to the lock-ins it caused.

      • jwz says:
        2

        People can and will argue for days about What Killed Usenet (plus the inevitable peanut gallery of It's Not Dead Yet! -- Sure, Grandma, let's get you to bed) but those Nasty Nasty Web Forums are... not it. Usenet's injuries and comorbidities were numerous and mainly self-inflicted.

        • shaoyu says:

          Usenet's injuries and comorbidities were numerous and mainly self-inflicted

          I was born after the golden days of UseNet.
          Care to elaborate on how they were self-inflicted?
          I am interested in the details, because according to wikipedia, UseNet sounds like the forgotten panacea.
          • thielges says:
            4

            For one, Usenet had very little defense against spam and trolls.   You probably missed the Golden Era of spamless email too.  It was divine.  

    • jwz says:
      8

      Oh good, one of those "I don't even own a TV" replies.

      Look, it's nice that you don't use social media, don't care about it, and don't understand why anyone else does. That's very nice. Very good for you. Pat yourself on the back. Have a cookie. Go with God.

      Your opinion is not particularly relevant to a conversation whose baseline assumption is, "Many people do enjoy social media, and yet, it has Problems."

  11. Karellen says:

    Antitrust and Adversarial Interoperability has been something Cory Doctorow has been writing about for a couple of years on his current blog. A reasonable starting point (although probably with more setting the scene than you need) with a good set of links is:

    https://pluralistic.net/2022/02/05/time-for-some-game-theory/

  12. andyjpb says:
    1

    If solving the technical problem is looking for your keys where the light is good then competing with social media is like skating to the where the puck used to be.

    There have been monopolies on the cutting edge of socio-technology before.

    Social:

    Just yesterday I learnt that the man who invented the post box eventually regretted it because it led to women having agency over who they sent their letters to

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SEkwScpE2kQ

    Before that they had to go through a man to get their letters stamped and sent out.

    Technical:

    The PC revolution. The less said about this here the better.

    The previous monopolies weren't displaced by competing with the monopoly and being better. You have to be *orders of magnitude better* to displace an incumbent because of the energy required to switch (see also, Plan9 vs Unix).

    The previous monopolies were displaced by the innovators dilemma and the incumbent not being able to keep up with the next big thing. i.e. giving users something they couldn't get anywhere else and then building out.

    Of course, social networks have a particular stranglehold because of the entertwinement of social, technical and network aspects. It makes them seem unbeatable.

    ...but the past monopolies also all seemed unbeatable at the time.

    The key is "discovering" the next big thing.

    There's also competition and barriers there. The general purpose computer, for so long, was the platform for each "next big thing" (OS, Internet, Search, Video, etc), the bastion of hope for the small player due to its openness and that it gave the user the power of choice.

    ...but now that platform is waning compared to mobile platforms which are not open in the same way. There are gatekeepers there who also take their cut of the next big thing.

    Legislation might help. ...but that too can be ugly; see Ma Bell et al.

    So there is hope. Something will come along that supplants social media.

    And there's precedent that it will be soon.

    The gap between the PC and Google was ~20 years.

    The gap between Search and Facebook was only ~10.

    Social media has had a hold for ~15 years now but the platforms themselves have shifted far faster than before and those shifts have been connected with demographics (no one talks to their friends on their parent's social network).

    So I am confident that there is opportunity and possibility.

    ...just don't ask me what. If I knew that, I'd already be doing it!

    There's something Zen about it tho' for sure.
    The only way to win is not to play.
    The only way to compete is to do something else on your own terms. (Oh... and somehow be successful!)

    Food for thought tho': The companies that won didn't win on technical merit and they weren't the best in their class. They were just run by the most Machiavellian CEOs.

  13. Nick11 says:

    EU regulators are leading the way with Digital Markets Act.

    “Interoperability as a Tool for Competition Regulation”
    https://openforumeurope.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Ian_Brown_Interoperability_for_competition_regulation.pdf analyses the notion of interoperability as such and in the light of the recent suggestion from the European Commission to use it as an ex ante mechanism for increasing competition within its Digital Markets Act.

    The US is also making some effort: The New ACCESS Act Is a Good Start. Here’s How to Make Sure It Delivers.
    https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2021/06/new-access-act-good-start-heres-how-make-sure-it-delivers

    • Gordon says:

      We already forced standardized API access onto all the banks (it's called open banking if you want to google). Maybe we should do the same to all the social media and messaging apps.

  14. Matthew says:
    Hi, it sounds like you are Concerned about Social Media!  In that case I would like to present an opportunity for you to invest your time and effort in something that will frustrate you, make your website worse, and benefit no-one.  I will describe this below the following separator.

    herpderpherpherpherpherpderpderpderpherpherpherpderpderpderpherpherpherpherpderpderp

    There's a need out there for a network of billions on which you can express yourself and see the reactions of both your friends and the people you respect, without investing significant technical effort.  Any replacement needs a story for how:

    1. It will break through the network effects that keep everyone chained to Facebook
    2. We are going to prevent this new network just evolving into Facebook again.
    It's hard, because clearly nothing that's been tried so far worked.  That's how we can be confident that "blogs" is not the answer.

    Surely the best solution to the last problem is to use a federated protocol.  So that those of us with enough technical skills to, oh let's pick an example at random, set up a WordPress site, can provide a counterweight and refuge when the major sites turn to evil, while still allowing the Great Untutored out there to congregate on shared sites and interact with us.

    So then, there's a bunch of open federated social network protocols out there, but the standout most supported and mature is ActivityPub.

    But then we have the second question, how to break through network effects?  And unfortunately there's no solid answer to that.  But our best hope is if the remaining handful of independent content creators out there, especially the ones who are Concerned about Social Media, agree to share their content over this ActivityPub thing, thus providing at least some incentive for at least some of us less creative types to actually use it.  And perhaps, what with one scandal and another, eventually enough momentum could build up to finally break the spell.

    Did you know that there's a WordPress plugin to add ActivityPub support to your blog?  Bet you didn't know that!  Now you do know that!  Does it work?!  I don't know!  Probably not!  Herp derp!

    Of course the downside is that it's an invitation for the trolls of the world to descend on your hitherto chaste and unsullied blog.  (Do you know WHO ELSE uses Mastodon?)  You'd have to block them.  But if you insist on keeping your blog behind a one-way mirror, you won't be doing anything to satisfy the need that keeps so many people slinking back to Facebook and Twitter.

    As for antitrust legislation, if Cory Doctorow is to be believed, we just came this close.  But:

    I’ve watched many nontechnical European officials wrestle with the very idea of interoperable social media. They literally couldn’t imagine it.

    So they did IM instead, because they do use phones.  There's still a chance that the EU (basically the world's only remaining functional government) may come back to social media in the second round.  But for that it's necessary to show the process actually working in the real world.  So again we come back to a few brave souls willing to do their screaming into a void for a few years.

    Myself, I just deleted my Twitter account, that I had been using to replace my long-deleted Facebook account.  And now all I have is my long-neglected Friendica instance.  So pffft who needs those popular jocks!  Key-swapping party at my place!

    • Elusis says:
      1

      We are going to prevent this new network just evolving into Facebook again.

      Is Facebook the social media equivalent of crabs, then?  It figures.

  15. Kyzer says:
    4
    You say a site, but like with Adium/Pidgin/Gaim, I think you mean a client (or an "app"). Technically there's a big difference, the theory being that a site would be hosting or proxying your $OTHER_CORP data, and that makes $OTHER_CORP jealous and sue-happy, while a client is merely you using your own quaint little way of looking at your $OTHER_CORP data, no third parties involved.

    But as we've seen with Adium, $OTHER_CORP gets angry anyway. Even just using a different client to look at your data makes them upset, so they try their best, technically and legally, to ensure you only visit with their client, where their analytics and their ads are present and they are in complete control.

    It's very annoying. Something that outraged me many years ago was when I was trying to access gmail and calendar on a googleless phone. Email worked as normal, but the only way to access my data from Google's mostly CalDAV-compliant endpoint was to provide some fucking token that you only get if first register with Google's developer program and they deem it acceptable that your software may read the precious calendar entries. You fucking what mate?

    You can see Thunderbird's token here; they plead with you not to reveal their ROT-1 encoded string:

    // Before you spend time trying to find out what this means, please note that
    // doing so and using the information WILL cause Google to revoke Lightning's
    // privileges,  which means not one Lightning user will be able to connect to
    // Google Calendar via CalDAV. This will cause unhappy users all around which
    // means that the Lightning developers will have to spend more time with user
    // support, which means less time for features, releases and bugfixes.  For a
    // paid developer this would actually mean financial harm.
    //
    // Do you really want all of this to be your fault?
    They have to hope that nice mister Google doesn't just revoke it and kill their entire user-base in one fell swoop. Oh no, Thunderbird, you weren't sufficiently compliant with our developer program. How's that for interoperability? Every other calender on the planet just needs normal credentials and can be accessed by any software you like.

    Google have recently extended this shitfuckery to mail as well, under the auspices of "protecting" you from "legacy" authentication methods. Here's what the author of Pegasus Mail had to say:

    More troublingly, it shows the increasing levels of control and power exercised by large, usually American corporations over the Internet, and the almost complete disregard they have for its historical openness and inclusiveness. OAUTH2 is a major step on the way to an Internet where the only players are large corporations, serving their own interests in the name of profit and power.

    And of course what use is a client if you can't get it to its users?

    Google has removed @k9mail_app from the Play Store for a “policy violation” again. They say they need to be given “app credentials” before they’ll republish it. It’s…an open source email client.

    It is sad, but I'm pleased to see that email is still hanging in there, being the lowest common denominator, a federated messaging system that the various tech giants haven't completely centralised.

    One of the great innovations of the web browser was adopting Software Agent theory; the browser is your user agent, and it will act in your favour. It's not going to render web pages how their designer wanted, it's going to render them how you want, including reading them out loud, including autofilling password fields, including letting you copy and paste text, including letting you save images, audio, video and screenshots, including not showing the adverts, including reflowing the entire document into one column of prose using a legible font at a readable size and contrast. This angers the lock-in demons so much that they make their own apps to ensure they get 100% control over you.

    It does make me sad for the future. The problem with the cry of "we need laws against this!" (and I agree, we do) is that, even in the nicest of nice democracies, laws benefitting the public don't happen without the public at least demanding them. Outside of privacy activists and the Fediverse, who the fuck is calling for this? How can we get anyone to give a damn?

  16. Dim says:
    5

    Since you haven't had the Lazy Cynic answer yet: you'll never solve social media because the problem with social media isn't the silos / walled gardens, ghastly though they are. The problem is people; social media is awful because people are awful; the silos are merely the algae on the eutrophic pond. (I appear to have veered into Lazy Misanthrope, oh well).

    The antitrust legislation might help, but you'd also need data protection legislation (GDPR is a start) with the teeth to force the silos to give up their data in a timely and useful manner. And that still doesn't solve the people problem.

    • Craig says:
      3

      The problem is people; social media is awful because people are awful;

      The problem is not people in so far as sometimes people will be awful, but not always.  The problem is the algorithms that amplify the awfulness such that it appears that people are always awful.   
  17. Ned says:

    legal problems are not as big as you think if you do not register the company in the US, consider where a lot of illegal websites are located and registered, but in this case the FBI does not actually give a flying fuck about you.

  18. prefetch says:

    The opposite approach could have the desired effect as well: extreme crossposting. Single screen interface: a message composer, a 'Go' button that posts it to every single platform, a 'Create accounts' button that signs you up to any platform you're not on and 'View', which opens a random app to read content. Doesn't matter which one - the content's the same on all of them. Posting is done using the approved interface (+ automation), so no T&Cs breaches. The composer takes care of lowest-common-denominator requirements (e.g. 280 characters).

    Sticking points: platform-specific addictions/features, mass take-up (one compelling argument: "Hey, remember that time you developed PTSD when $platform went down for an hour? Well, use this, and it'll never happen again."), automation countermeasures, legacy data.

    Or, if you're feeling adventurous, go all Mr. Robot on them and take 'em down, even if it's just a protracted DDOS long enough to make users go elsewhere (like this open platform that everyone's suddenly talking about...). Current political climate is near perfect for OS APT interest, and the tech landscape is a veritable cornucopia of vectors. Final outcome would be, at the least, a net benefit - all those CVEs got fixed in record time! All those botnets got deactivated!

    • jwz says:

      There are many services that allow bulk crossposting. Nobody uses them except businesses, and they don't give you any of the actual social part of social media: the interactions and replies. So, it has been tried, and it doesn't work.

      Also, crossposting is against the TOS of many of the services. Try to crosspost to Instagram. Ask me how I know.

  19. Dr. Fancypants says:

    Facebook was a great place to keep track of people who I like well enough and I'd like to have a vague sense of what they're doing, but who are never going to be a part of my day-to-day life for a variety of reasons (different stages in life, remote geographies, etc.). I took the step of quitting Facebook and deleting all my data back in 2020, and it absolutely sucked to lose access to that broader network of acquaintances. But the costs of staying felt greater than the costs of leaving; I'm still pissed that Facebook allowed their site to become such a crapshow that every visit to it felt like an assault on my mental health.

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