The Decentralization of Social Media Platforms

MASTODON

which was developed in 2016 to be a friendlier, more positive & ad-free version of Twitter. Mimicking the Twitter interface allows for ease of transition, but there are several key differences in this platform experience. Mastodon is a decentralized platform, meaning that all content is distributed across independent servers known as “instances”. Each instance has its own terms of service, code of conduct & moderation policies while working seamlessly together with other servers as a federating network.

  • Mastodon also ditches the 280-character restriction giving you up to 500 as well as several options for privacy & content monitoring.
  • This platform is 100% ad-free
  • They have anti-bullying monitors/admins to effectively provide a safer social media experience.
  • There are two home feeds: Local Timeline & Federated Timeline. Local is a stream of publicly posted “toots” whereas the Federated Timeline is a bit more complex involving connection to content off of the platform. For example: you can send an Outlook email to someone with a Gmail account even though you’re not using the same platform — and Mastodon is developed to operate in the same capacity.
  • Mastodon definitely sparked a decentralized effort among social networks & will surely play an interesting part of the future of the internet.

GAB

This platform launched in 2017 & is targeted towards the far right population in America who have been banned from other platforms due to content & conduct concerns. It “champions free speech, individual liberty and the free flow of information online” according to their website and is currently an ad-free environment. As of April 13th, the website has 3.7MM global monthly visitors according to the website’s 2020 SEC filings.

  • Content & users are geared towards the far right/Republican audience in the U.S.
  • The platform also offers an open-source, free-speech-focused web browser called Dissenter.
  • The Apple App store & Google Play have removed Gab from their respective platforms due to “objectionable content & hate speech,” which will obviously negatively affect their growth goals.
  • Paypal & Visa have blacklisted the founder & the site due to several criminal actions & unfavorable/hateful content.
  • Other content aggregators like Mastodon have blocked content from Gab in an effort to isolate them & discourage growth. Mastodon released a statement in protest, denouncing Gab as trying to “monetize and platform racist content while hiding behind the banner of free speech.

PARLER

The newest platform in the mix is described as an ad-free place where you can “speak freely & express yourself openly without fear of being deplatformed for your views” according to their website. Their pillars are based around both freedom of speech, but also data security and privacy. User sign ups spiked in mid-2020 after Twitter dropped political advertising & began to implement regulations on Trump’s inaccurate content on the platform.

  • They require individual account verification to keep out bots/fake accounts & encourage civil discourse & platform integrity.
  • Current usage: 4MM active users, 10MM total.
  • Parler’s growth nearly doubled since its development. It was downloaded nearly 1MM times the week following Election Day, and was becoming the most popular free app on both Apple’s App Store & Google Play.
  • Most recently, Parler lost its place on both the Apple App & Google Play stores for not doing enough to protect the flow of accurate information and prevent hateful content from being produced on their platform. Quickly following, Amazon pulled the plug on the social network by abolishing their cloud web hosting services because the platform did not have an effective process to monitor content in conjunction with the Amazon Web Services policies, terms & conditions.
  • Now Parler is in the middle of a suit brought against Amazon claiming the act was motivated by political animus and is meant to reduce competition for brands like Twitter. They are claiming breach of contract and antitrust violations.

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