Twitter is funding a small independent team of up to five open source architects, engineers, and designers to develop an open and decentralized standard for social media. The goal is for Twitter to ultimately be a client of this standard.
This isn’t going to happen overnight. It will take many years to develop a sound, scalable, and usable decentralized standard for social media that paves the path to solving the challenges listed above. Our commitment is to fund this work to that point and beyond.
We’re calling this team @bluesky. Our CTO [Parag Agrawal] will be running point to find a lead, who will then hire and direct the rest of the team. Please follow or DM @bluesky if you’re interested in learning more or joining!
If you’re worried about the dominance of certain social media platforms, or if you’re concerned about privacy online, or if you’re uncomfortable with leaving the decisions for how content moderation works in the hands of a few internet company bosses — this is big news and something you should be paying attention to. It won’t change the way the web works overnight. Indeed, it might never have that big of an impact. But it certainly has the potential to be one of the most significant directional shifts for the mainstream internet in decades. Keep watching.
After a closer reading of Jack’s tweets, though, I think my first interpretation wasn’t quite right. Twitter isn’t necessarily interested in decentralizing content or even identity on their platform. Why would they be? Their business is based around having all your tweets in one place.
This “burden on people” is the resources it would take for Twitter to actively combat hate and abuse on their platform. Facebook, for example, has hired thousands of moderators. If Twitter is hoping to outsource curation to shared protocols, it should be in addition to — not a replacement for — the type of effort that Facebook is undertaking. I’ve outlined a better approach in my posts on open gardens and 4 parts to fixing social networks, which don’t seem compatible with Twitter’s current business.
As is the Twitter way, Dorsey does not seem to have fully considered this proposal. On the relatively simple question of whether this would be based on existing standards or if Twitter would be inventing an entirely new spec, he said that it was to be determined. As Dorsey acknowledges in the thread, Twitter already has an open API; it could be updated. Why not use that? Mastodon is a decentralized social networking platform — why not adopt its features?
This is a spitball at this stage — barely more than a napkin sketch. There might be something to show for it, sometime, in some capacity, but there’s a lot of buzzwords in this announcement without any product. That suggests a high likelihood of vapourware to me.