It has started:
I have been saying for a very long while now that ActivityPub as a protocol and within it Mastodon as the flagship app need to separate themselves from the fringe in order to gain more traction and usage.
Understand that ActivityPub itself is a protocol not unlike IMAP and HTTP under the W3C. Just like email doesn’t rely on any one server to transport mail traffic across the Internet, By using ActivityPub social media can enjoy the same freedom and transparency. I shouldn’t have to join every single social media and existence to get a complete picture of what everyone is up to… we actually had this about 20 something years ago when the then biggest part of the fledgling social media universe decided to use XMPP as a standard to federate their instant messenger networks. What that meant was my ICQ handle was able to contact all my friends on AOL instant messenger and MSN without having to do anything strange. Ironically it was Facebook that broke this paradigm when they took Facebook messenger behind closed doors in order to add all the functionality that it has now.
OK, but you know Meta ain’t doin’ this outta the kindness of their hearts, right? 😒
It should not be forgotten that the reason why this is probably happening is because of the very strict policies that the European Union has imposed on how companies operate on the open Internet. It’s far easier for Mattar, the company that owns Facebook to create this new net work and design it from the start with open standards and then slowly bring everything over to it, rather than having to bolt on the same functionality to Facebook or Instagram as it stands now. While it may be seen as a self-serving move on their behalf, I personally welcome it because it means suddenly it might be one less thing to have to join and maintain in order to still be a part of the social media landscape.
Imagine a world where people on TikTok can communicate with people on YouTube and people on twitch. It might sound kind of strange at first but the same is already happening here in the #fediverse with Mastodon , PeerTube, and WordPress.
(Obligatory “how it works” link here.)
This integration is happening methodically and with a lot of advice from all stakeholders it appears; Threads users are going to get a window into the fediverse soon; as I type this, some accounts are getting read-only access. Evan Prodromou, one of the founding architects of the very underpinnings of ActivityPub (@firstname.lastname@example.org and @email@example.com) has been able to talk to the team over at Meta in charge of this undertaking along with a host of others in the #indieweb realm. Believe me when I say, these discussions got into the weeds and no stone was left untouched according to most of the attendees. This is the part that makes me feel Meta is acting in good faith.
Will everyone be OK with federation though?
It’s very easy to say “I’m not going to federate with Threads” or “I don’t want to associate with those Mastodon loons” (posts I won’t link to here, but use the appropriate search technique and you will find them in short order). The point is being missed insofar as the networks being interoperable if nothing else for the sake of creating a new standard and influencing the wider internet to “de-silo” all this content is a good thing and needs to be encouraged, not shunned.
As of this writing, there are no official timelines on when any of this will go into effect for us, but I have my educated guesses that it will coincide with the opening of Threads.net to EU signups and the move to be a federated network should keep regulators over there from breaking out the ban hammer. That’s supposed to be in a few days so we’ll see.