, ,

Is the future of social networks decentralized?

Niklas Janssen

Decentralized social networks exist – Why aren’t more people using them?

A lot of efforts have been made to create a decentralized social network that will finally surpass the big players in the field. Possibly the most well-known representative is the decentralized Twitter clone Mastodon. Mastodon is an open source decentralized social network that is connected to other social networks as part of the so-called ‘Fediverse’. It was created in 2016 by German programmer Eugen Rochko [13]. The term Fediverse refers to a network of similar platforms that makes it possible to connect with users of all platforms without creating an account for each of those networks [12]. Mastodon is based upon a federated model of servers where each server owner pays for its own costs [10]. This way the network is not dependent on profits while still being able to moderate the contents that are shared inside the network. Other, less successful examples are the platforms Diaspora or Ello (https://diasporafoundation.org/ and https://ello.co/). So far, the big switch over to more sustainable social networks hasn’t happened yet. But the situation is getting better. The number of people that are using the more privacy conscious WhatsApp alternatives Telegram and Signal are constantly rising. After Elon Musk announced that he wants to buy Twitter, Mastodon gained tens of thousands of new users [3]. But it will either take a few more privacy scandals from big corporations or just a long time until people will eventually adapt to these alternative solutions.

Is the future of social networks decentralized?

“The web that many connected to years ago is not what new users will find today. What was once a rich selection of blogs and websites has been compressed under the powerful weight of a few dominant platforms. This concentration of power creates a new set of gatekeepers, allowing a handful of platforms to control which ideas and opinions are seen and shared.”

Tim Berners Lee [11]

Tim Berners Lee, the creator of the World Wide Web fittingly stated in an open letter that the internet is in a difficult place right now. Solutions must be found to reduce the power that a handful of corporations have over humanity. But decentralized solutions have not really arrived at the center of society yet. Creating a platform that will convince enough people to turn their backs on the big players like Facebook, Twitter and Co. might seem like a herculean task. But I’m convinced that the future of social networks lies in decentralization.

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5


Leave a Reply