The Extra Dimension

The Extra Dimension features deep discussions on how technology intersects with other parts of our lives. Welcome to the heart of the technological convergence.

Distributed Social Networks

Episode #21The Fringe #425

Almost all of the social networks that we use are centralized, meaning that one company owns everything. Ian, Brandon, and Brian explore what a social network would look like if it were distributed, meaning that there are many servers owned by different people that still communicate with each other.

Episode Summary

00:00:00 | Overview

00:04:37 | Pros

  • In theory, it helps bring control back to the users rather than a single corporate entity that owns the entire stack
  • Much harder for oppressive regimes to block access, since content could be coming from any server
  • Total service outages are much less likely, as content is spread among many servers
  • If a particular server goes offline, users on other servers won’t see content from users on that server until it comes back; they will still see content from users on all other servers though

00:07:41 | Cons

  • Potentially more confusing for the user
  • Some features are infeasible, like verified accounts (except with emoji hacks ✅ ✅ ✅ 💯💯💯👌)
  • Is adding new features harder, since each instance admin would have to update their server?
    • Establish a base protocol, and then extra optional features that can be implemented in order to get more users? Maybe something like IMAP for email?

00:14:30 | Since it’s like email, and email is ubiquitous, does that mean it is inevitable that we will have widespread adoption of distributed social networks?

  • Not really
  • Email is ubiquitous because it has been around for forever, and back when email was created everything was distributed; now the norm is centralized services
  • An email address is required to sign up for most other online accounts, and that won’t be the case for social networks

00:18:42 | GNU Social

00:23:24 | Mastodon

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