Clever Laziness

On ActivityPub

Juan Villela

ActivityPub seems to be all the rage nowadays. For the uninitiated, think of it as the mail carrier of the social web. It’s all about letting different platforms chat with each other. Imagine tweeting to your Twitter followers straight from your Facebook account without needing a Twitter account. That’s the kind of interoperability we’re talking about. Now, I’m excited about ActivityPub. I see its potential to shake up the social web, which has long been a playground dominated by a few big kids—Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. These platforms have monopolized the social web, with users locked into their ecosystems. ActivityPub, with its promise of cross-platform interaction, could be the key to breaking these chains.

But then there’s Threads, Meta’s new app. Threads is Meta’s answer to Twitter, and it’s been making some noise. Meta has announced plans to make Threads interoperable with other social networks that support ActivityPub. This means you could interact with Threads content from Mastodon, without signing up for Threads. Sounds good, right?

Well, here’s where I pump the brakes a bit. Meta’s history with data privacy is, well, terrible. And while the idea of a significant player embracing the open web sounds amazing, I can’t help but wonder about the implications for data privacy. Will Threads be another data-hungry beast or will Meta surprise us all with a new approach? For those of us already on the Fediverse, these unknowns concern us a lot. Over on GitHub, you’ll find a heated conversation around post migrations. Privacy is at the forefront.

Many paint a picture of a more diverse and vibrant social web, where smaller, more specialized platforms could thrive. It’s a vision I’m on board with, one that could democratize the social web, breaking down the walled gardens we’ve all grown to hate. But, as with any major shift, there are challenges. The biggest of these is moderation. In a decentralized network, who’s in charge? Who decides what content is acceptable and what crosses the line? It’s a complex issue, one that will need careful thought and innovative solutions. And while players like Meta have been at this for a while, their track record doesn’t fill me with optimism.

But Evan Prodromou, the creator of ActivityPub, is optimistic. He sees the protocol as a tool to empower users, giving them the freedom to choose their platform without sacrificing what they stand for. It’s a noble goal that could fundamentally reshape our online interactions. And as we stand on the brink of this new era, it’s important to remember that technology is only as good as the people who use it. ActivityPub has the potential to revolutionize the social web, but it will need the collective effort of developers, users, and regulators to realize its full potential.

In the end, ActivityPub and Threads aren’t just about breaking down barriers between platforms. They’re about reimagining what the social web could be—a truly interconnected network, free from the constraints of platform-specific silos. It’s a bold vision and one that could very well be the future of the social web. But as always, the devil is in the details. And while I’m excited about the potential of ActivityPub, I’ll be watching Threads with a cautious eye. The social web is on the cusp of a major transformation, and it’s a story worth watching.

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