Threads and ActivityPub: first reaction

July 8, 2023

Since Meta controls basically all social media activity in the West, ActivityPub support feels more like a marketing gimmick rather than embracing an open network. It serves as an escape hatch for:

Distracting Regulators: Meta can claim it offers portability. They're just an "alternative" to the network (a.k.a Fediverse).

Giving false sense of control to Power Users: Eventually (so they say) you'll be able to migrate your content and followers (data) from Threads to any service that supports ActivityPub.

But this is just an illusion. So far, the current Threads Power User looks more like a regular Instagram influencer. These users thrive on closed Platforms. They're looking for distribution instead of data ownership or portability. Tech savvy Power Users with compatible audiences are already on Mastodon, and believe it or not, a lot of them stayed on Twitter.

That being said, I think this is a net positive moment. Meta embracing ActivityPub can make it go mainstream, like for real this time. And that's good, 'cause it'll give other platforms the boost they need to start adding support for the protocol too.

Threads has set a new standard for user expectations for Mastodon and the broader Fediverse. Granted, when you're building a closed app on a network you govern (Instagram), it's simpler to make quick progress compared to building over a protocol. But what we've seen this week is a demonstration of how a super smooth user experience can really boost a network and reinvigorate a brand.

Once the hype settles, we'll see the real impact. I don't see this as a threat to Mastodon or Fediverse, rather it's a defining moment for ActivityPub.

- Miguel

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