Deep down you always knew it. On the edge of your perception, you always heard the people who talked about the erosion of privacy, that there was no such thing as free cheese, that if you don’t pay — then you’re the product. Now you know that it’s true. Cambridge Analytica has sucked the data so kindly and diligently collected by Facebook and used that data to influence the US elections (and who knows what else).
The development of the next version of Mastodon coincided with the reveal of Vero, yet another commercial social network silo backed by millionaires with a shady past. Vero has struck a chord, at least until people caught on to its background, and it wasn’t just because of its unlimited marketing budget. It has struck a chord because it promised an alternative to Instagram, which started getting progressively worse for creators after being acquired by Facebook.
This article assumes you’ve read my previous two blog posts, here and here. Why not give them a quick read if you haven’t already?
To balance out the doom and gloom of an internet wholly under the thrall of corporate interests and fed through single channels devoid of competition, it’s worth being aware of just how pervasive and powerful an idea decentralization is in the 21st century.
The structure of things now are remnants of the way things have always been done: we trust in a singular authority to manage everything behind the scenes so that our experience on this side remains seamless.
Isn’t it a bit strange that the entire world has to wait on the CEO of Twitter to come around on what constitutes healthy discourse? I am not talking about it being too little, too late. Rather, my issue is with “instant, public, global messaging and conversation” being entirely dependent on one single privately held company’s whims. Perhaps they want to go in the right direction right now for once, but who’s to say how their opinion changes in the future?
The online space is dominated by a small handful of companies that command a disproportionate amount of power and influence over the entire online experience, not just social media. So much influence that several of these companies have fundamentally altered many aspects of life offline; often described with the floral language of the privileged as ‘disruptive,’ but more clearly understood in the common tongue as ‘destructive.’’
The five most valuable companies at the end of 2017 were, in order: Apple, Alphabet (the company that owns Google), Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook.
So you want to be part of the Mastodon network, and you want to truly own your data, independent of anyone else. Perhaps you want to curate a niche community for a specific interest, or maybe for your own family or close circle of friends. You went through the documentation and installed the software, or maybe you chose one of the available hosting options to avoid all the technical nonsense altogether.