Furthest Right

Rise of the Freeverse

Some of us have lived multiple lives in many places and different roles, giving sort of a tour of the collapse going on around us. This has advantages but shows how the sausage is made, which leads to an unnerving nihilism and distrust of human motivations.

Take Big Tech. A bunch of guys who sacrificed their teens and early twenties to get good at punching code suddenly find themselves with unlimited credit cards. Everyone tells them they are geniuses. They start to act like geniuses, and figure there is a bit of license here.

At some point, the pathology of the peasant king emerges. They are good at what they do, but infuriated that this does not extend to everything else, so they project a world: what they know can be applied to other disciplines as well, they rationalize.

This leads to all sorts of abuses. Bill Gates wrote great software and saw business opportunities in the early desktop market, but was out of his depth after that. The Google guys have not succeeded at anything for a few decades. Warren Buffett is a personal disaster.

Some of them however keep pushing. Mark Zuckerberg just blew a few dozens of billions on his failed Second Life clone, Meta. He saw that there was an opportunity in not just cloning Twitter, but dominating the “Fediverse” of ActivityPub servers like Mastodon and Soapbox, and so we get Threads.

Like any other node on the Fediverse, Threads will “federate” or publish its messages via ActivityPub to a network of servers that will mirror them. This has provoked outrage in Mastodon-land, where many nodes are already swearing they will not accept traffic from Threads.

In the grand tradition of being not so much contrarian as post-ironist, we might see an alternate scenario: when the hundred million users of Threads hit the Fediverse, they are going to swallow up its two million users like the suburbs surrounding a farm.

Sure, the farm is bigger, but the suburbs are not only more numerous but have more money coming through. Advertisers will pay to advertise to a big chunk of the active users because in the post-Google years, advertising is largely about Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

Under the SEO model, network effects rule the internet because whoever has the most users becomes highly ranked by search engines. Spam your link enough and the search engines, bots, and AIs will repeat it everywhere and people will assume you are one of the New Big Things.

When Threads hits the Fediverse, normal Fediverse traffic will become small and most people will recognize Threads as the Fediverse, with a few non-conformists off on the side. This will marginalize most sites but it will smash one group thoroughly.

People who want “walled gardens” — basically, offensive content removed and users “accountable” if someone gets triggered — have set up their own Mastodon instances for years and immediately kick-started the censorship with lengthy rambling codes of conduct and rulesets.

When Threads appears with its far greater censorship, these users are simply going to jump ship. The big Mastodon instances of today will cease to exist when their user traffic drops below a certain point. Why post on a tiny site, when you can post on a big one and have wider reach?

Network effects rule the Google internet because of PageRank. Whatever is popular goes up in the search engines, so people pursue the popular. They want to be where everyone else is so that they can reach everyone else and promote their vlogs, podcasts, products, and personalities.

Enter the freeverse. When Threads enters the picture, the Fediverse is going to divide into a “walled garden” section and a “free” section. The free section will be (mostly) anti-censorship; the walled garden will have Twitter- and Facebook-style rules about vaccines, genetic data, and insults.

The Freeverse will become the place where people go to get outside of the created reality of government, popular culture, and commercial interests. It will be the place with the fewest rules, the least censorship, and the most ability to connect with outsiders to this dying civilization.

Although the appearance of Threads is undoubtedly destructive in the short term, in the long term it creates an attractor for normies and allows the remnants of the original internet to carry on in a world outside of public surveillance, which means radicalization of all sorts will continue.

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