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Read the Foam-Mouthed Rant by Mastodon Admins Demanding Continued Irrelevancy and Blocking Meta's Threads in the Fediverse

Mastodon FailureAre you a Twitter refugee?  Perhaps the toxicity of the platform coupled with the obnoxious evil of its new owner has finally pushed you to delete the blue bird icon from your phone.  Or maybe you just don’t have a use for a social media platform that constricts how often you can use it.  Or…well, there are lots of reasons.

The folks at Mastodon are hoping that you will instead come over to their platform, but for the average non-technie user, it’s a lot more work.  You don’t just sign up for Mastodon – you have to pick a server.  Instead of one universal platform, it’s a “fediverse” of different server, and some don’t get along with others.  One admin can block another, and you might find yourself moving servers, and already they’ve made it more complicated than most users are willing to put up with just to see what LeBron is up to.  And of course you won’t find that out on Mastodon anyway since few celebrities are there.

Enter Threads, at Musk’s Invitation

Meta’s new Twitter-killer, Threads, has now arrived.

The interesting question is why it didn’t arrive earlier.  Musk has a laughable narrative that the reason is that he hadn’t fired most of Twitter’s engineers yet so all their valuable secrets couldn’t be used by the competition.  I’m Laughing My Alt Account Off.

There’s no technical barrier to recreating Twitter.  I’m not saying it’s a php script and a weekend, but someone like Meta could easily have done it anytime they wished and just did.  If they can make Facebook, they can make a Twitter clone, especially given that Facebook is 5x the size of Twitter and has 20x the features.

So why now?  Because Musk invited them to!  Twitter had this powerful market position where everyone knew what it was and everyone was on it.  Disrupting that would be very difficult.  But now that Musk has blown up his toy, people are fleeing and there’s tons of media coverage about people getting off Twitter, presenting a genuine competitor is child’s play for Meta.

Which is why there’s been 70 million signups and 95 million posts in 2 days.

2 days!

All that was needed was

  • A familiar Twitter-like interface, and
  • A giant tech company with the resources to support the network

That’s it.

People Weren’t Into Mastpdon.  Again.

If Mastodon was ever going to shine, it missed its moment.

In fact, its second moment.

The first was post-Cambridge Analytica scandal when there was a wave of “big tech is evil” pitchforks-and-torches mobs.  A few people moved oto Mastodon, but for the vast (five nines) number of FB users, Facebook was where their friends and contacts were, so moving off was difficult.  Yeah, some teens are on SnapChat, but for billion-scale uers, that’s still Facebook.  (There are messaging-oriented apps like WhatsApp that have more users but that’s a different category).  For comparison, Facebook is 10x the userbase of SnapChat.

Once Musk bought Twitter and promptly wrecked both the brand and the service, there was another wave of people looking for a new home.  Until a single market segment (SnapChat = youth), Twitter had everybody from journalists to sports stars to emergency management to developers to activists.  It had the biggst “cross section of humanity” after Facebook.

For the last 9 months, people were looking.

And they gave Mastodon a good look.  If Mastodon had been the Twitter-killer, it would have blown up.

It didn’t.

There was some growth, sure – even explosive growth.  It had 300K users in October 2022 and an estimated 2.5 million in December 2022.  It has since dropped by a million.  Ouch.

And while the admins of various servers worked diligently to scale up, there’s no central funding body paying for server, network, and other upgrades.  Plus the work of handling DMCAs, complying with whatever regulations the EU dreamed up this week, etc.  Running a social network is a full-time job and most Mastodon admins don’t have full-time time for it.

Mastodon Wants to Remain Small Because Facebook is Worse Than Hitler

One of the interesting aspects of Threads is that it implements ActivityPub, the protocol that powers Mastodon’s Fediverse.  So Threads can pull content from Mastodon and vice-versa.  Content should be able to flow seamlessly between Threads and Mastodon.

This could raise the profile of Mastodon even more than all the recent press.  It could go mainstream.

But Mastodon admins don’t want that.

In a foam-mouthed rant on a pink page with raining hearts (you can’t make this up), a clique of Mastodon admins has pledged to block Threads integration.  Why?

To quote:

  1. they won’t moderate effectively, there is precedent with facebook being a toxic cesspit of hate
  2. they have a long track record of pure evil and we have no reason to give them the benefit of the doubt
  3. to protect the existing communities of marginalized people on the fediverse, many of whom rely on it to survive

They further accuse Meta of committing genocide, lynchings, failing to signal for a left turn, and all manner of other crimes.

Then they ask for a donation.

I’m certainly not going to defend Meta’s track record, but a lot of these are complaints about people on the network rather than the network itself.  And some of it is nonsense.

1. they won’t moderate effectively, there is precedent with facebook being a toxic cesspit of hate

This is pretty rich coming from a platform where anyone can setup a Mastodon server devoted to white supremacy.  Try creating a Klu Klux Klan group on Facebook and see how long that lasts.  Heck, as a member of the Hogan’s Heroes group, I have to constantly self-censor because even if one of the characters is impersonating Hitler for satiric effect and referring to him as “old bubblehead,” using the H-word can still get you in FB jail.

I run into a lot more people who are angry about censorship on FB than people who complain there isn’t enough.

2. they have a long track record of pure evil and we have no reason to give them the benefit of the doubt

The “evil” in FB is their use of analytics and spying, but Mastodon is mad about “genocide”.  You’d think Zuck and the boys have a 1pm Tuesday meeting to discuss ethnic cleansing initiatives.  The “genocide” accusation (about Mynamar) was a case of Facebook reacting too slowly and certainly not a case where Facebook execs sat around and plotted murder.

3. to protect the existing communities of marginalized people on the fediverse, many of whom rely on it to survive

LOL…I mean, how can you not laugh at the suggestion someone needs a social network to survive.  As far as marginalized people, FB has nearly 3 billion users.  No matter how obscure your ethnicity, views, orientation, identity, or philosophy, there’s a group on FB devoted to it.

Have these people ever actually used Facebook?

Mastodon Will Continue to Slump

There was a wave of people who joined Mastodon last year when they were looking for something – anything – to replace Twitter.  But the platform’s complexities didn’t impress most who tried.  And by “most” I mean “nearly all” based on the numbers.

Integrating with Threads could have provided a path forward to greater mass exposure for Mastodon.  Not a temporary mass-panic boost but sustained visibility.

Instead, Mastodon admins have been exposed for what they really are: a group of people who want to revel in obscurity and rejection of the mainstream.

Mastodon was envisioned as “a user-friendly microblogging product that would not belong to any central authority, but remain practical for everyday use.”  It’s failed in that mission, and seems delighted.




1 Comment

  1. Ash:

    I recommend reading this actually good article which (unlike the pink page) has some good arguments against federating with threads:

    Also whoever is dependent on social media enough to claim it’s important for their life should go touch some grass.

    July 8, 2023 @ 4:11 pm | Reply

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