The Extra Dimension

The Extra Dimension features deep discussions on how technology intersects with society. 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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