A Decentralised Social Network

Twitter, one of the most active social media platforms, has been working on a new, decentralised social network, (called Bluesky) for a couple of years now, and earlier this month, Jack Dorsey, Twitter CEO, told investors why he thought that this feature would be of crucial importance for the future of social media.

He said that “the most important thing to focus on in terms of decentralising social media is that it creates a much larger corpus of conversation.”

The co-founder of Twitter, which launched in 2006, suggested that lack of central “governance” allowed people to access a wider social conversation, with more content, and “ranking algorithms that suit people’s needs,” and that the company would be able to “surface more relevant content to users” driving more people to participate in social media. (Because clearly enough people don’t participate yet…)

The Bluesky Project

A new model for social media platforms conceived by the Twitter team in 2019, Bluesky is supposed to provide an alternative to traditional, centralised platforms like Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

Taking its inspiration from email, Bluesky aims to allow people to connect to each other regardless of what platforms they use, unlike existing channels that only allow users of the same platform to connect.

Different apps would be able to connect to the platform, and each company would have control only of its own app, “putting the power into the hands of the user” according to Dorsey, and although he says it will still take years to develop, he sees it as allowing other people to make their own social media sites, and people on them being able to connect to people on other social sites as well.

Content Moderation

The issue of content moderation, and particularly “Section 230,” (the US statute that shields platform providers from responsibility for content posted by users), has become a thorny one in recent years, and despite all claims and attempts, it is effectively an impossible one, at least until AI becomes reliable.

500 hours of video were uploaded to YouTube every minute in 2019, the last year for which data is available. 350 million photographs per day were uploaded to Facebook. And that’s before the global pandemic locked everybody into their homes in front of their devices.

Not enough hours exist for humans to keep up with that, and “intelligent algorithms” are not yet capable of the necessary distinctions.

Dorsey seems to think that decentralising social media will help alleviate that problem, but honestly, it will be even harder without “central governance.” (Although possibly what he means is that liability may be more difficult to determine.)

The Future of Social Media

However it is achieved, I do think that eventually there will be just one “Social Media.” Everybody will be on the same network, whether that is because only one network exists, or because they all interface seamlessly with one another, is not really important.

No doubt there will be smaller networks intertwined though this, for interest groups etc. but fundamentally, we will all interact and transact on the same network.

We’re still a long way off from that though I think.