ActivityPub and the Fediverse in 2024

Colin Devroe:

In 1991, Geoffrey A. Moore described the challenges of introducing new technology products as Crossing the Chasm. The chasm is this very real gap between the earliest adopters and the early majority adopters of any new technology. By crossing the chasm, the momentum gained usually enables the technology to find market fit.

Most protocols, standards, products and services experience this gap in adoption. Even the internet followed the lifecycle described by Moore. I think it can be said that ActivityPub, though fairly well implemented in a variety of services for several years now, is about to cross that chasm in 2024.

I would like to see this happen — I am more optimistic than I may come across — but I am skeptical because Threads — the best chance for widespread adoption of ActivityPub — will make fediverse integration an option, not mandatory. That is probably the right call. It just means users will be required to dig around in their account settings to change a preference for something they may not understand, which I do not expect many people to do.

The other reason I am not holding my breath is that “ActivityPub” and “fediverse” are clunky and confusing names. They sound technical. I have long argued that “RSS” has a similar impediment. But my expectation of the role of naming in a product’s viability has softened in the past year because of the stunning success of products called “Substack” and “ChatGPT”.

David Pierce, the Verge:

I’m convinced we’ll be better off with a hundred different apps for Snapchat or Instagram or X instead of just one, a dozen companies competing to build the best moderation tools, and an app store filled with different ways for me to follow and be followed by other people on the internet. It doesn’t make sense that we have a dozen usernames, a dozen profiles, a dozen sets of fans and friends. All that stuff should belong to me, and I should be able to access it and interact with it anywhere and everywhere.

This sounds right to me. Any platform operator should have standards and expectations for what they will permit, but control over what users see should be separated from those centralized positions. It should be a marketing advantage for client software which can surface the best posts from anywhere and filter out the worst. There is no reason that kind of algorithmic sorting needs to have a large Californian business at its core.