The Social Internet today is a mess. Users are tracked across the internet and manipulated for more engagement to drive advertising revenue. However, big social media sites are faltering.
There is a better future coming. Much better in fact.
ActivityPub is a protocol that allows for sharing and social connection across the internet in a connected network of different systems. People talk about Mastodon (mostly) and other “federated” social networks. Underneath it all is ActivityPub.
Your Email uses the SMTP protocol to exchange messages. Similarly, federated social networks use ActivityPub. Your Website uses HTTP/HTTPS to deliver your website pages to people who come to your site, and federated social networks use ActivityPub to deliver what you post to your followers and also to bring to you the posts of the people you follow. These analogies break down if you look closely at the technical detail, but the important thing to know is that these standards allow all these systems to interoperate over the internet.
ActivityPub’s interoperability allows people to make different software to deliver different experiences to users and their communities. It also means that you might have your own, something that’s just you.
The big players are getting into the act. Meta’s Instagram has promised ActivityPub support in Threads, Tumblr is adding support, and WordPress has support already.
There are, and will continue to be, many different takes on social networks and the software that powers them, but they will all connect in a federated system using ActivityPub.
My prediction is that many organizations and communities, and even individuals, will run their own ActivityPub-based social network. Most people will belong to more than one – each for the different community experience they provide. Your professional association, your workplace, and your local birding club will all have their own, tailored and administered differently for each community. Having one of your own will be as simple as having your own email address.
I am exploring these new social media systems and how they are used to create community and build connections between people. Follow along here.
If you are on Mastodon, you can find me on indieweb.social: @firstname.lastname@example.org
I’m also on Micro.blog, at darius.micro.blog