Twitter Makes A Bet On Protocols Over Platforms

from the well-this-is-nice dept

It looks like Twitter is making a bet on protocols over platforms for its future.

Nearly five years ago, I first wrote about the idea of why protocols are a better approach than platforms for various internet platforms struggling with content moderation issues. In that first post discussing it, I talked about two companies that I thought might benefit most from such an approach: Twitter and Reddit. Over the intervening years, I've been thinking, talking, and writing on this subject quite a bit, including the big paper I released with the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, Protocols, Not Platforms: A Technological Approach to Free Speech. That details a variety of different ideas regarding how we might move to a world dominated by protocols, rather than just centralized, proprietary, siloed platforms.

In the paper I talk about whether or not it makes sense for a larger company to adopt a protocol approach and to move away from a platform-based world. I've been talking this over with a variety of folks in and out of the tech world for years, and kept getting told that there was no way any company would voluntarily move in such a direction. And, after watching Facebook's weird approach with Libra (which is already looking like a flop), it only seemed to confirm that many of these companies are simply too entrenched in the platform model.

And yet... just a little while ago, Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey has announced that Twitter is going to start experimenting with protocols as a different approach to how the company might architect its business (and, yes, he cites my paper in his announcement). This is not, by any means, them jumping off the high dive into the world of protocols, but more a toe in the water. Basically, Twitter is going to seed fund an outside team, called BlueSky, that will be charged with creating an open and decentralized protocol standard for social media which Twitter might eventually use for its own system.

There are a lot of challenges here -- and many reasons why this project could fail. There are a bunch of existing teams trying to build their own protocol approaches for this as well. But, I think it is notable that Twitter, specifically (the same company I first wrote about regarding this approach five years ago) has decided to take a serious look at moving in this direction. I appreciate that Twitter is not shying away from the challenges and potential pitfalls to this approach, but going in with eyes wide open, suggesting that this is an experiment worth exploring.

If you're worried about the dominance of certain social media platforms, or if you're concerned about privacy online, or if you're uncomfortable with leaving the decisions for how content moderation works in the hands of a few internet company bosses -- this is big news and something you should be paying attention to. It won't change the way the web works overnight. Indeed, it might never have that big of an impact. But it certainly has the potential to be one of the most significant directional shifts for the mainstream internet in decades. Keep watching.

Filed Under: distributed, jack dorsey, platforms, protocols, social media
Companies: bluesky, twitter


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  • icon
    Koby (profile), 11 Dec 2019 @ 7:22am

    Once upon a time

    I remember back when there were a whole bunch of instant messenger programs, ICQ, AOL-IM, and many more. Then someone came up with the brilliant idea to unify them by creating a client that would connect to each one, and distribute messages to anyone on any service. Clearly, Twitter's idea CAN be done, because it was already done.

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    • icon
      James Burkhardt (profile), 11 Dec 2019 @ 9:06am

      Re: Once upon a time

      Your example differs from the current discussion in a number of ways.

      AIM, ICQ, Yahoo IM Google IM, ect, in so much as they are protocols, represent a series of incompatible protocols. The all in one clients did a lot of back end lifting, and most if not all could only operate one protocol at a time. So If you were talking to someone on AIM, you used the AIM Protocol with your aol/aim account (Which you could not make from the all in one app), and you couldn't loop in a Google account on the AIM conversation. If you didn't have a Yahoo account, you couldn't send Yahoo IM messages.

      Moreover, they all relied on the central silo to work. So when Yahoo IM shutdown, The all in one app couldn't maintain functionality.

      What you describe, an all in one app that can push posts to multiple social media feeds and condolidate siloed social media content, exists at least in part. It does not serve the end goal of the discussion of protocols.

      The goal here is to create a protocol that does not rely on central silos. Think Bittorrent. The Torrent protocol does not rely on the Bittorrent software, or a central database hosted by Bittorrent. Any person (theoreticaly) can build a tracker, or build a new client, or share content with the network and there is no central gatekeeper or repository.

      The protocol being discussed would facilitate non-centralized content (Tweets, photos, memes, gifs, video, polls, ect) distribution which could then be displayed by any compatible client or app, with each app providing its own formatting, filtering, curation and moderation. This is radically different than a consolidation approach.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 11 Dec 2019 @ 9:37am

        Re: Re: Once upon a time

        The actual "brilliant idea" for instant messaging was the Jabber protocol (a.k.a. XMPP). But the incumbent networks mostly didn't support it, or in the case of Google, gave half-assed support and then discontinued it.

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        • icon
          bluetemplar (profile), 11 Dec 2019 @ 12:25pm

          Re: Re: Re: Once upon a time

          More like Embrace-Extended-Extinguished :
          https://salibra.com/p/the-death-of-jabber-8ea395e82f5b

          A couple of years ago I gave my contacts the ultimatum that if they wanted to communicate with me, they would have to use open protocols :

          no more Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Skype, WhatsApp, (& Discord, though I made an exception recently) ;

          but instead XMPP, Jitsi Meet, IRC, e-mail, (also SMS & phone calls, Matrix / Mattermost soon).

          It has worked out so far...

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 12 Dec 2019 @ 4:13am

        Re: Re: Once upon a time

        A great and excellent example using torrent as a protocol outside the platform. I've been using it to help people understand for years.

        Unfortunately, I have also hit the same roadblocks many others have seen simply because either companies can't let go of their "proprietary" platform code or, more often than not, people just do not understand the difference between protocol and platform.

        When I mention "torrent", instantly the word "piracy" is up in conversation, and once this happens, it becomes far too difficult to explain how it works. People are focused on how it's used, and I believe this will be a problem which cannot be corrected until the gatekeepers are removed from the discussions.

        While we're working hard to break down these barriers, assholes like Creative Future are pushing the fear mongering to levels we've seen before: right before additional copyright reform was turned into law.

        The internet is the greatest technology of our era and every day, it's being ruined by greed and ignorance by corporate interest.

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        • icon
          bluetemplar (profile), 12 Dec 2019 @ 5:54am

          Re: Re: Re: Once upon a time

          Point to big companies like Activision-Blizzard using torrents ? Or would that be counterproductive ? (Are their torrents still distributed openly ?)

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  • identicon
    Jean, 11 Dec 2019 @ 8:37am

    The Elephant in the room

    Nothing on the Fediverse and ActivityPub? Mastodon, Pleroma, Peertube ?

    On the fediverse Eugen mentioned that Jack is very aware of Mastodon. Interesting to see how the man refused to even make a reference to an already existing solution... Makes the pledge for decentralization somewhat very hollow.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Dec 2019 @ 8:38am

    As I see it, distributed protocols exist, but there are two related problems holding up widespread adoption. The first is discovery, especially of interesting people to follow. The second is user management of their relationships in a distributed system. That is, it easy to both search a centralised system, and for that system to make recommendations. A distributed system ends up relying on the search engines for most searches. Maintenance of relationships becomes involved when links to servers are required in setting up relationships.

    A related problem, which affects finances, a distributed system is not advertiser friendly either for targeting or distributing adds. Companies can run their own instances to allow customers to communicate with them, but that is not a means of gaining new customers.

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    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 11 Dec 2019 @ 8:51am

      The first is discovery, especially of interesting people to follow.

      That makes the Twitter announcement appealing: If Twitter switches to an open-source protocol that other sites/programs can use, people already on Twitter can stay on Twitter and still connect with people outside of Twitter through the new protocol.

      A related problem, which affects finances[: A] distributed system is not advertiser friendly either for targeting or distributing [ads].

      I…I don’t see how that’s a problem. We don’t need, and shouldn’t want, advertising algorithms running our social media feeds. Twitter could easily offer paid accounts that offer more features than free accounts (e.g., higher character limits, the ability to post longer videos, an actual Edit Tweet function). So could any other social interaction network. Any business model reliant on advertising money to work right will live and die not at the hands the people who use the service, but at the hands of advertisers.

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    • icon
      Koby (profile), 11 Dec 2019 @ 9:00am

      Re:

      I forsee advertisers needing to target the message, instead of the recipient. Similar to how a football game on TV may be a good venue for advertising pickup trucks, but perhaps not womens' fashion products, advertisers will need to make similar judgements about those who broadcast messages on the internet, instead of attempting to track users and spy on their purchasing habits. Meanwhile, users might gain additional privacy, which would be viewed as a valuable feature, instead of a detriment.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 11 Dec 2019 @ 9:13am

        Re: Re:

        Studies have shown that targeted advertising doesn't really work any better than traditional advertising (which is what you describe above). Targeted advertising is also super expensive; There's a major premium attached to purchasing targets. And yet advertisers still use targeted advertising.

        While we'd all appreciate not being tracked, all you're really proposing is an end to targeted advertising and a return to traditional advertising. This is never going to happen as long as the platforms selling this advertising continue making all of their money from that.

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        • icon
          James Burkhardt (profile), 11 Dec 2019 @ 9:35am

          Re: Re: Re:

          But a lack of centralization doesn't prevent targeted advertising. It rather allows each client to determine what means it will use to fund development. This could, if sold right, retain value in targeted ads. Those users who remain on Targeted ad platforms are therefore open to tracking and targeted ads, compared to those who choose clients with Contextual advertising or donation or sale or membership funding methods. If targeted ads are not valuable without having all the users on one platform, that may be an issue. But Twitter is already expressing with this move that the liabilities of the scale of the centralized silo are so significant they are willing to sell fewer ads by potentially having a smaller user base. So if Targeted ads will inevitably lose value when the user base shrinks, Twitter has likely already made the calculation that reducing overhead by reducing legal liability and infrastructure costs will off set the advertising loss. And then the market can determine where the true value of ads lies.

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          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 11 Dec 2019 @ 9:57am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            A highly distributed system can involve tens of thousands of servers, each owned by a different person of company. That makes placing adverts that much more expensive because of the number of people to be negotiated with, along with supporting the number of Internet connections needed to serve adverts to all those servers. There is also the administrative costs of distributing the payments.

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            • icon
              James Burkhardt (profile), 11 Dec 2019 @ 10:02am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              You imagine that ad networks, which have existed for decades, do not continue to exist under this system?

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            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 11 Dec 2019 @ 10:08am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              A highly distributed system can involve tens of thousands of servers, each owned by a different person of company.

              It can, but why would we expect this to turn out much differently than email? That has several very large advertising-supported services used by the public; companies who run their own infrastructure or buy it as a service; and a very small number of individuals running servers themselves.

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              • icon
                deutrino (profile), 11 Dec 2019 @ 11:10am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                One way it may turn out different than email is if running the server portion of the platform is sufficiently easy & cheap for random individuals with inexpensive hardware & residential internet connections.

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                • identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, 11 Dec 2019 @ 1:07pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  Email servers aren't so complicated to run, if you ignore the whole problem of spam (coming into your server, and other sites blocking your server in fear of it). I expect the same spam problem to appear on any decentralized Twitter-like protocol that becomes popular.

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              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 11 Dec 2019 @ 11:16am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                There is also a traffic scaling difference. Email traffic scales with the number of users, while social media traffic scales by the number of people each user follows.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Dec 2019 @ 9:32am

      Re:

      As I see it, distributed protocols exist

      Two examples being OStatus and pump.io. When asking people to "develop [a] standard", it would be beneficial to say what the requirements are and why existing standards can't be used (or extended).

      Maintenance of relationships becomes involved when links to servers are required in setting up relationships. A related problem, which affects finances, a distributed system is not advertiser friendly either for targeting or distributing [ads].

      All of this works reasonably well with email.

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      • icon
        deutrino (profile), 11 Dec 2019 @ 10:59am

        Re: Re:

        I'm kind of surprised to see OStatus & pump.io get a nod before ActivityPub, given that OStatus is essentially dead and ActivityPub is an actual successor to pump.io... and powers the Fediverse, the biggest decentralized social network that I'm aware of in terms of active users. Mastodon is the best-known of the (many) Fediverse platforms.

        The Fediverse today has about ~4000 nodes and somewhere between 500K to 3M active users, in pretty much every country. It's big enough that some ends of the social graph are pretty well disconnected - ask users on nodes that primarily use Asian languages how often they rub shoulders with users on nodes using some version of the Latin alphabet, for example.

        In other words, there's already a functioning, scaled example of decentralized microblogging right now, but the people who built it have the concerns of advertisers dead last on their priority list, so that might be why it hasn't got more press. Marketing droids & old media can't figure out how to make money from it, and that's emphatically a feature - not a bug.

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        • icon
          Stephen T. Stone (profile), 11 Dec 2019 @ 11:46am

          Marketing droids & old media can't figure out how to make money from it, and that's emphatically a feature - not a bug.

          And the Fediverse in general looks down upon ads and badly behaving bot accounts. (Hell, some instances have certain “ad”/“promoted post” symbols as custom emoji so people can mock the idea of promoted posts in general.) The decentralized nature of the Fediverse keeps a lot of celebrities/“influencers” away, too.

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 11 Dec 2019 @ 1:04pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          I'm kind of surprised to see OStatus & pump.io get a nod before ActivityPub

          I just don't pay very much attention to "micro"blogging, and the Wikipedia page doesn't give much indication of which protocol is the latest and greatest. So, ActivityPub uses Activity Streams 2.0, a recent (2017) W3C recommendation.

          I have to wonder whether Twitter know there's already a protocol they could be using, and are pretending otherwise so they can look like supporters of open standards. Or maybe it was a poorly worded announcement and the group will just be looking to implement and extend existing standards as needed.

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          • icon
            Mike Masnick (profile), 11 Dec 2019 @ 2:52pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            I have to wonder whether Twitter know there's already a protocol they could be using, and are pretending otherwise so they can look like supporters of open standards. Or maybe it was a poorly worded announcement and the group will just be looking to implement and extend existing standards as needed.

            Did you read the announcement? Jack made it clear he's aware of others working in this space already, and this new project is going to be tasked with exploring existing options before determining if any of them might work for what they're hoping to accomplish. If so, the idea is to help boost existing efforts. If not, then they'll explore possible new solutions.

            So, not sure where you get the idea that they're unaware of existing projects or that the announcement was poorly worded. The announcement directly addressed that there are existing efforts ongoing.

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            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 11 Dec 2019 @ 4:36pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Did you read the announcement?

              Well, I thought I did. I didn't realize it was a sequence of Twitter messages and you hadn't quoted the whole thing. Usually you do the "if you can't read that" thing and include the message.

              The Twitter link only offers to forward me to "legacy Twitter", which doesn't work (error 403) and never has. If I ignore that link and disable stylesheets, the thread is visible after 10 pages of junk. IMHO, even in the best case, a sequence of short messages is not good for usability.

              The relevant message is #8: "For social media, we’d like this team to either find an existing decentralized standard they can help move forward, or failing that, create one from scratch. That’s the only direction we at Twitter, Inc. will provide."

              He goes on to say that there are "MANY challenges", but I see no hint of what those might be. Anyway, great news!

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    • icon
      James Burkhardt (profile), 11 Dec 2019 @ 9:42am

      Re:

      A related problem, which affects finances, a distributed system is not advertiser friendly either for targeting or distributing adds [sic]

      You percieve Twitter or some other entity as retaining some sort of advertising backbone to the protocol. Advertising could remain with the client, who can implement their own advertising and tracking policies. This could also provide spaces for new advertisers to break into social media ads, serving to at least temporarily open up the market.

      And as I noted deeper in this thread, Twitter has likely made the calculation that reduced costs in moderation, legal liability, and infrastructure, issues which exploded as twitter grew, would offset losses in ad revenue going forward.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Dec 2019 @ 9:10am

    A distributed platform is still a platform from the public's, and more importantly lawmakers', perspective. Even if Twitter does this they will still, for all intents and purposes, appear to be a unified, centralized platform. It won't matter that individuals can now decide whether certain material appears in their feed. That the material is available at all is the core problem most lawmakers have with these platforms today.

    Forcing the use of a special client to enable the use of a protocol between an end-user and the platform (and it's still a platform even if much of the work is distributed) would push some control into the hands of users but it doesn't change the desire of misguided congresspeople to prevent access to any material they find objectionable at the root. Just look to the porn industry for an obvious example. Porn is already filtered off of these platforms yet it is still readily available to any who want it.

    This really seems to me to be a solution in search of a problem. A potentially good one, no doubt, but not one that will do anything to address the government-origin issues facing these platforms today, however misguided and unconstitutional they may be.

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    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 11 Dec 2019 @ 9:24am

      Porn is already filtered off of these platforms

      Tell that to the porn, furry, and hentai parts of Twitter.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 11 Dec 2019 @ 9:48am

        Re:

        I may be giving Twitter's filters too much credit there but the point still stands. For lawmakers, it's not about letting users choose what they wish to view. It's about lawmakers choosing what viewers get to view.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 11 Dec 2019 @ 12:17pm

        Re:

        For how long? Most fled to Twitter from Tumblr after the adult purge. No place is safe from busybodies with too much time on their hand. Even now Twitter idiots keep calling for porn bans

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        • icon
          Stephen T. Stone (profile), 11 Dec 2019 @ 2:08pm

          No place is safe from busybodies with too much time on their hand.

          I wish them luck in shutting down every Fediverse instance that allows adult content. They’re gonna need it.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Dec 2019 @ 9:48am

      Re:

      A distributed platform is still a platform from the public's, and more importantly lawmakers', perspective.

      There is a significant difference from the legal perspective, and that is there is no single owner or central authority, but rather thousands, or tens of thousands of servers owned by different people and interconnected in a complex web.

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    • icon
      bluetemplar (profile), 11 Dec 2019 @ 12:53pm

      Re:

      "Distributed platform" is a contradiction in terms. Would judges go after the "e-mail platform" (Google because Gmail?) because some of its users have been sharing child porn or terrorist plots?

      But I kind of see your point, perception often doesn't care about reality - and I'm reminded how Matrix seems to have a difficulty to fully decentralize, most of its nodes still being linked to the "official" node first? (Or whatever it's called.)

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Dec 2019 @ 10:33am

    This is what USENET was built on. USENET was great for advertising for those who needed to build an audience, but once that audience was built those who had already monetized USENET wanted it destroyed as competition, so they'd flood it with noise, SPAM (including for their own censored alternatives that were "noise free), etc.

    The tradeoff on USENET was always true free speech in exchange for noise, SPAM, trolls, and hate speech. Obviously the public didn't value free speech, and wound up gravitating to those who censor. Publishing has been democratized, yet everyone still buys the authors who have "book deals." We want our gatekeepers no matter what we might say.

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    • icon
      James Burkhardt (profile), 11 Dec 2019 @ 10:57am

      Re:

      Publishing has been democratized, yet everyone still buys the authors who have "book deals."

      Yes and no. A "Book Deal" comes with significantly more than pure publishing services. Why customers buy more books from the major publishing houses has to do with other factors. A major publisher provides marketing and can get your book into stores across the country and print a sufficient stock to keep your book on shelves to keep word of mouth going. They also can provide an advance and provide assistance in booking signing events.

      One of the smaller publishers can still get you into much of the country and help you get signing events, even if they can't provide advances or the large marketing push.

      Self publishing provides a lot of financial benefits if the book catches on. But as Techdirt highlights, independent creatives need to build a fanbase, connect with those fans, and convert that connection into a reason to buy. And an independent will often have issues percieving the polish of their work. It is why self published works are seen as lower quality in Books and Video Games - these authors/developers have over-estimated the quality of their work - a state of affairs which can happen even to the experienced and/or talented regardless of the quality of the concept. For every "Celeste", there are a hundred "The Slaughtering Grounds" and a dozen mediocre games we never remember.

      Its not that I want Random house to serve as a gatekeeper, but that Random House will have some level of competence guaranteed, if by reputation if nothing else.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 11 Dec 2019 @ 11:53am

        Re: Re:

        A major publisher provides marketing and can get your book into stores across the country and print a sufficient stock to keep your book on shelves to keep word of mouth going.

        None of which should matter on a decentralized internet where anyone can publish their own e-books, which they were doing for years until Kindle decided it was cool rather than "self-publishing." Internet marketing used to be SPAM until Google and social media put up their toll booths.

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        • icon
          James Burkhardt (profile), 11 Dec 2019 @ 12:52pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Marketing is most definitely a factor in the visability of any ebook regardless of publisher or sales platform. I've gotten a few independently published ebooks in the last few years, and I never would have gone to get them if it weren't for a recommendation or ad putting that book in my sights.

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          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 11 Dec 2019 @ 1:11pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Publishers also provide editing. Those who have read a lot of self-published work will understand why. (Authors who are serious about self-publishing can, and should, hire an editor.)

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          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 11 Dec 2019 @ 1:14pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Marketing is most definitely a factor in the visability of any ebook regardless of publisher or sales platform. I've gotten a few independently published ebooks in the last few years, and I never would have gone to get them if it weren't for a recommendation or ad putting that book in my sights.

            In that case the book becomes a vehicle for marketing income. Once upon a time, a book was marketed automatically by a system that has not been replaced. "Best of" lists are no longer accurate because the best work from 2016 might not even become a hit until 2021, or 2051. Different world now.

            The other problem is that there are just too many books. It becomes more profitable to use the books for publicity, or to market a more expensive service (like a therapist writing a self-help book to gain clients). It's also more profitable to write perishable articles that are not worth pirating due to the short shelf-life.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Dec 2019 @ 11:25am

      Re:

      Be wary of reporting biases. The publishers keep careful count of every book sold, while keeping count of anything published under creative commons is not possible, because anybody can make copies available. Also, free books may individually have small audiences, and therefore not be noticed, but there are lot of them available, and 5 downloads here and ten over there... soon outnumber publisher sales.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Dec 2019 @ 11:56am

    *Self publishing provides a lot of financial benefits if the book catches on. But as Techdirt highlights, independent creatives need to build a fanbase, connect with those fans, and convert that connection into a reason to buy. And an independent will often have issues percieving the polish of their work. It is why self published works are seen as lower quality in Books and Video Games - these authors/developers have over-estimated the quality of their work - a state of affairs which can happen even to the experienced and/or talented regardless of the quality of the concept. For every "Celeste", there are a hundred "The Slaughtering Grounds" and a dozen mediocre games we never remember.

    Its not that I want Random house to serve as a gatekeeper, but that Random House will have some level of competence guaranteed, if by reputation if nothing else.*

    Which defeats the entire purpose of a decentralized internet, and shows that the big corporations' control over the market is more about distribution than copyright maximalism. Even worse is that the public's insistence on perpetuating this bias leads to independent works being ignored until plagiarized by the big houses. The indies stop feeding the beast, and quality disintegrates because people buy based on "reputation" rather than attempt to think for themselves. Even in a world without copyright this wouldn't change much. The same people would wind up with the money.

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    • icon
      bluetemplar (profile), 11 Dec 2019 @ 12:45pm

      Re:

      I'm not sure that one can call games like Celeste - that would be wiped out if they were kicked off Steam for some reason - as "independent" (Actually Celeste might survive on consoles - but what if it had never been allowed on Steam in the first place ?). Platforms like Steam are basically the new publishers.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 11 Dec 2019 @ 1:10pm

        Re: Re:

        Platforms like Steam are basically the new publishers.

        All of whom would not exist without a public ruled by argument ad populum. A meritocracy relies on those with hiring/spending/voting power making rational decisions. In that world, people would think for themselves and reviews would be accurate. Somehow I don't think we're there yet but maybe one day we will be. In a world ruled by sociopaths who won't admit failure or relinquish power for the greater good, it will not be an easy Point B to reach.

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        • icon
          Samuel Abram (profile), 11 Dec 2019 @ 1:39pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          This is why I support GOG and itch whenever possible, and only buy or redeem on Steam when there is no other choice. The tactics of Epic Games with their exclusivity agreements and how it actually led to GOG scaling back their price-matching program led me to support GOG more because I realized that GOG and itch would be hurt the most from Epic's practices, whereas Valve would be fine. And since I see a value in DRM-free gaming, I should vote with my wallet, and, as I said before, only use steam if I have to (and for my back catalog of when I used it exclusively).

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    bluetemplar (profile), 11 Dec 2019 @ 11:59am

    Holy crap, and recently, I have been "spamming" Hacker News with links to your article !

    (I've also recently posted in the comments of your summer article.)

    Coincidence ? Anyway, I'm glad either way that more people are seriously considering it !

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Dec 2019 @ 12:37pm

    The NEED for censorship among many is very strong, and USENET proved it multiple times, when breakout groups would migrate to websites, or existing groups with websites would silence discussions on their sites that couldn't be censored on USENET, so they had to resort to brute-force attempts (usually noise and SPAM) to achieve their goal.

    I don't see how this would change with a new generation of "protocols."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Dec 2019 @ 1:19pm

      Re:

      so they had to resort to brute-force attempts (usually noise and SPAM) to achieve their goal.

      Why do some people assume that they have a right to get their message across, despite people telling them they do not want to hear their message? That is not an exercise of freedom of speech, but rather forcing ones message onto others by any means up to and including violence.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 11 Dec 2019 @ 2:25pm

        Re: Re:

        It's the total absence of censorship which defines USENET as the only true bastion of internet free speech, the one place where a single censor can't decide what is good for others to read.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 11 Dec 2019 @ 2:45pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Maybe, but as you noted the people you are trying to force to read your message migrate to somewhere where they can shut you out. USENET worked well at first because it inhabitants were techies, and then the Internet allowed everybody in, and most people went to somewhere where they was way less noise, spam and proselyting idiots.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 11 Dec 2019 @ 3:34pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            the problem with censoring "trolls" or "idiots" is everyone abuses the power to enforce those labels. USENET lets people decide for themselves, while a "moderated" forum has censorship biases that make a truly open discussion impossible.

            This is why I don't see protocols changing anything. USENET was an NNTP protocol that the public didn't want.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    michael, 11 Dec 2019 @ 12:43pm

    I don't buy it

    If Twitter had any interest at all in what they claim here, they'd start by having a decent API, like they did years ago and killed off. Some of us remember when Tweetdeck was the best thing on earth, social media-wise.

    Twitter killed that off, too.

    This article claims that this is a big deal. But it's really just a baby step in anticipation of the government forcing openness at some point in the future.

    There's nothing at all to see here.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      bluetemplar (profile), 11 Dec 2019 @ 12:59pm

      Re: I don't buy it

      Yeah, I was really pissed when Twitter basically killed Flattr 1.0 by removing their API access.
      But Flattr managed to bounce back with a much better 2.0 !

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Dec 2019 @ 1:15pm

    I hear money rules politics, but I have an idea!

    How about we create a website where ANYONE can upload campaign videos for free, and the public can judge them all on equal footing, at no cost!

    Why hasn't this been done?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Dec 2019 @ 1:26pm

      Re:

      Because that would be a site that did not actually have to store the videos, because only people uploading political videos would use it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 11 Dec 2019 @ 2:08pm

        Re: Re:

        YouTube does this already, but politicians still buy ads.

        Voters could punish politicians who spend but they don't.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Chris ODonnell (profile), 11 Dec 2019 @ 2:58pm

    @Jack aas been on Mastodon for a month

    @Jack apparently started a Mastodon account about a month ago, per the founder of Mastodon.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Dec 2019 @ 3:10pm

    What I want to know, as this project progresses and potentially comes to fruition, is this: How much work would be shoved to the end users to do? Because all I can see with a decentralized bunch of protocols is having to spend a not-insignificant amount of time sifting through different clients, filter lists, and what-not, then further curating my feed by going through other clients and filter lists to look for people that I want to follow and link everything up. And then it turns out the thing I was using goes to shit because the people who made it decided to stop maintaining and moderating it because it was too time-consuming and costly, and I have to do the same thing over again...

    How does "Protocols not Platforms" make using social media better for the average end-user and not more akin to a part-time job? Cause I'm not seeing it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 11 Dec 2019 @ 3:57pm

      Re:

      How much work would be shoved to the end users to do? Because all I can see with a decentralized bunch of protocols is having to spend a not-insignificant amount of time sifting through different clients, filter lists, and what-not, then further curating my feed by going through other clients and filter lists to look for people that I want to follow and link everything up. And then it turns out the thing I was using goes to shit because the people who made it decided to stop maintaining and moderating it because it was too time-consuming and costly, and I have to do the same thing over again...

      Sounds like an opportunity for someone to create a nice, easy, user-friendly plug and play implementation that doesn't require all that.

      After all, that's basically what Gmail was for email.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 11 Dec 2019 @ 6:55pm

        Re: Re:

        When encryption and backdoors come up, you rightfully lambast the people who think that people can just "Nerd harder" to make it work.

        When it comes to solving the issues around getting your average person onboard with the wide world of protocols, making it actually convenient and not a burden of time, and ensuring that decentralization has the same (or better) profit incentives compared to what we have now, the essay that you wrote just comes up with the excuse that some people someday will just nerd hard enough to come up with a solution.

        The last 10 years of “Move Fast & Break Things” has led me to believe that end-users are going to mostly be left to their own devices to figure out what to do. If any “nice, easy, user-friendly plug-in” that solves all the problems that protocols create gets made, it’s going to be a commodified Silicon Valley VC-funded service that sucks up your data and winds up behaving just like the big platforms that we ostensibly want to switch to using protocols to get away from.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          bluetemplar (profile), 12 Dec 2019 @ 6:03am

          Re: Re: Re:

          A counter-example :

          A decade ago it seemed impossible to make a peer-to-peer video streaming service that would work well, many devs having broken their teeth on this problem.

          Then Popcorn Time "happened" and showed everyone wrong !
          And these days we have even more viable options like Flixxo, PeerTube, and others...

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Andrew M (profile), 12 Dec 2019 @ 6:11am

    RSS on Knight Foundation site

    One protocol that is has been suborned by private platforms is RSS. It is extremely useful for building an acceptable personalized reading list & (I see now) has great support here at TechDirt.

    But I read this article at the Knight Foundation's site. I thought it was great & read a bunch of other articles the site & was interested in seeing new articles, so I subscribed in my news reader: "Error: no RSS feed". That's odd, I though I saw the RSS icon in the footer. Yes it is there, but there's no auto-discovery on the page. So I'll just use the RSS link in the footer. Empty! https://knightcolumbia.org/rss

    Sigh. This is why open protocols have a hard time.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Arjun Moorthy (profile), 12 Dec 2019 @ 11:47am

    A live content recommendation system that's transparent

    Jack Dorsey references the testimony of Stephen Wolfram, founder of Wolfram Alpha, given to the US Senate where he outlined a solution for the problem of algorithmic transparency.

    My startup, The Factual, coincidentally implemented something similar to what Wolfram has in mind with technology that automatically rates the credibility of news in a transparent manner. Details here: https://blog.thefactual.com/delivering-on-stephen-wolframs-vision-for-addressing-algorithmic-transpa rency.

    This isn't an open-source protocol so not exactly what Jack and Mark Masnick but our solution is live and used by thousands every day via our daily newsletter that curates the most credible news on the most widely reported news topics. May help advance the thinking on this topic.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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