Mad, Beautiful Ideas
The Future Is Federated, But Not Like This

The migration on many users to Mastadon has done two very interesting things. It has reminded many of those of us who came online in the 90s (or earlier via BBSes) of what smaller communities driven by organic connection. And it's shown a lot of people a glimpse at what the Internet used to be.

And I'm certainly not saying all of what the Internet was, was good. Though, in most respects, the Internet is simply more of what it was. That includes the edge lord awfulness, but it also includes the connections, and the opportunities for people to explore the things they're passionate about. As the Internet has grown in scale, that's come with both the good and the bad, and as most of us have started spending more time on the Internet, that good and bad tends to bleed more and more into the rest of the world.

Of course, as part of that bleed through, the bad has become much more visible, and the external effects of the bad have become much, much worse.

I've believed for years now, at least since 2016, probably sooner, that large, every-use platforms like Twitter and Facebook, have proven to be an overall net-bad for Society. Which is not to say that they did not have value. Many of us found each other on these platforms. I've seen people create incredible opportunities for themselves and others on these platforms. However, just as these platforms have created wonderful opportunities, they have also created gateways for people to get drawn onto horrible paths, and because these Platforms have been focused on casting as broad a net as possible for every topic, they have become impossible to moderate in any meaningful way, especially where things fall into apparent edge cases.

Take the Genocide of the Rohingya in Myanmar. Facebook was simply unprepared to perform moderation tasks in Burmese, and as a result let huge quantities of Hate Speech proliferate on their platform. Of course, even if they had hired the moderators, they may have chosen to take no action, seemingly willing to sacrifice a minority population to keep access to the market.

Consider that Twitter let Donald Trump violate their policies for years, only taking action once his words had clearly incited a violent mob to attack Congress, and erect a gallows on the steps of the US State House. Simply because they were trying to avoid the appearance of anti-Conservative bias, despite the fact that reality and decency are both clearly biased against the power structures of modern conservative movements.

Different communities simply have different standards. And while, on the extreme this manifests in the Nazi Bar Problem, things don't even need to get that extreme for the idea of a single, federated universe of servers to make sense. The Mastadon instance that I am on limited federation with the largest, by far, Mastadon instance on the Fediverse due to concerns about lax moderation. The Admin's justification for this was reasonable, and while I have not had any negative experiences that made me feel it was warranted, I am also of a demographic that is at limited risk of those experiences. However, that decision has significantly negatively impacted my experience of the Fediverse. I see many replies to people for whom I have to dig to find what they're replying to. Hashtag search is basically non-existent for that instance for me. A huge amount of context and content is buried because of a difference of opinion in Moderation styles.

Which is, ultimately, one of the big strengths of the Fediverse. You choose the standards that you want by the instances you sign up for, and the interaction between moderators of various instances. Today, the Fediverse remains 'default open' for new instances, and while I hope that it remains so, I expect it won't.

My expectation is that as the Fediverse continues to grow and evolve, it will instead become not a single Fediverse, but a collection of galaxies of instances with limited interaction between one another, depending on moderation. Certainly, one of these Galaxies will be the biggest, and a lot of people will likely have accounts across different Galaxies.

Mastadon is ultimately trying to replicate Twitter as a Broadcast platform. I think it's going to continue to grow for a while, because it's what people are used to and it's still small enough to feel like Twitter used to. But I ultimately don't think that Broadcast-focused Social Media is where we're likely to land in the long term. I certainly hope not.