Let's Talk About Threads

July 12, 2023

Hey Internet.

Wow, I haven't posted a blog since November of last year. Guess I've just been busy. Anyhow, unless you've been living under a rock, you've probably heard about Threads, Meta's attempt at a Twitter competitor. It's been generating a lot of noise, particularly on the fediverse.

In case you haven't been paying attention, I'll do my best to catch you up. Apparently, Meta plans on making Threads ActivityPub compatible so that it can communicate with other federated services like Mastodon... sort of. Currently, they do not support federation at all, and rumour has it that when they do, they will initially only federate with certain other instances.

Meta, being Meta, is incapable of transparency. They have apparently reached out to a number of larger Mastodon instances to discuss the launch of their new product. Those who accepted this invitation were reportedly required to sign NDAs forbidding them from discussing it publicly. As a result, there's a lot we just don't know about what their plans are. One of the instance admins they reached out to was Fosstodon's Kev Quirk. This was his response.

I agree with Kev. Meta has a terrible track record of repeatedly abusing their vast store of collected personal information for the sole purpose of making as much money as possible. This is a big part of the reason that I, and many others, have migrated to the fediverse and abandoned these proprietary platforms. As such, I will not be federating with them, and I am by no means alone in this position. Yes, I understand that this will cut me off from a lot of new users. I'm okay with that. They are more than welcome here; Meta is not.

"But what about net neutrality?"

Okay, I want to address this question, because it comes as close to a valid argument as any I've seen. I believe that net neutrality is important, but it's important to look at the reason why it's important. Net neutrality is designed to prevent a public utility like an ISP from creating a tiered internet by prioritizing traffic from one source over another. I am not running an ISP. I am not even operating a public serivce. My server is only open to family and friends.

Most people only have a handful of ISPs to choose from. If they start making decisions about what content gets shown and what doesn't it can effectively entirely cut certain people off from certain parts of the internet. By contrast, at the time of writing this my Friendica node is aware of 10,469 different fediverse servers (up by five from from when I last checked this a few hours ago). Also, the vast majority of these servers are volunteer-run, and are funded entirely by donations, and directly out of the pockets of their respective operators, not by paid subscriptions (or government subsidies). This is why there are no ads (unless companies like Meta get a foothold of the space).

The bottom line is that Meta is looking out for their own best interests, not those of their users. It's what they do. If they're looking to the fediverse, you can bet it's to gather more user data for their advertising machine. They have used this data to deliberately manipulate people by performing psychological experiments on them without their consent. I for one refuse to willingly cooperate with a company like that. Yes, there are other ways they can extract informatoin from me. I just refuse to be a willing participant in that process. It's the principle of the thing.

At the end of the day, I run a small server in the giant sea that is the fediverse. What I individually choose to do about it will have very little impact on the overall situation. Still, this is a hill I'm willing to die on.

Have a good one.