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.
I wonder what happened to FriendFeed? ...Oh.
Cloned with further impovement: https://mokum.place
Lost RSS import feature, tho.
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.
I had an idea for "step 3" involving the blockchain
but then we'd have two problems.
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.
As described in his official entry on the Star Wars website:
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?
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..."
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.
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.
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.
Plus, there wasn't so many things to busy and distract people (though communication was relatively limited)
'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.
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)
Some have argued for a Public Broadcasting model for social media, but I'd like to remind everyone that the Koch Brothers sponsor 'Nova' now, so...
Oh, and I forgot, HBO owns Sesame Street.
HBO does not own Sesame Street
Give it time.
You could cap the amount of money one person can donate, or limit board election votes to 1 per donor.
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?
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.
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.
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
> 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"?
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.
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.
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.
I've been using Beeper for a while and it really works, which continues to amaze me.
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.
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.
Maybe I should look at that Matrix thing after all: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matrix_(protocol)#Bridges
I don't really understand why it seems more successful than XMPP and it still doesn't resolve the underlying problem but better than nothing I guess.
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.
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>.
That what Ello did. Where are they now?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
For one, Usenet had very little defense against spam and trolls. You probably missed the Golden Era of spamless email too. It was divine.
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."
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:
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.
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
Before that they had to go through a man to get their letters stamped and sent out.
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.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SEkwScpE2kQ&t=163s for those who don't want to watch the whole clip.
If there is a point hidden within this wall of text, I have completely failed to perceive it.
I think you said "it's cool man, something else will happen someday." Plus one insightful.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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!
We are going to prevent this new network just evolving into Facebook again.
Is Facebook the social media equivalent of crabs, then? It figures.
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:
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:
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?
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
If friends were friends, then names are not required because we already know them.
identity is for something other than freedom, so to have a new game of freedom is an associative drama only the public can play best, while the control only knows the fixed address.
Code is like Cockney slang, it is an orientation to place and trust.