Techdirt Podcast Episode 241: Protocols Versus Platforms, Part One

from the open-v-closed dept

Today on the podcast, we've got the first part of a panel discussion organized by Lincoln Network on a subject we've been talking more and more about around here: a return to an internet based on open protocols instead of closed platforms. The panel, which took place last week, is moderated by Marshall Kosloff and features Mike Masnick, Cory Doctorow, Ashley Tyson and Mai Sutton. In next week's episode we'll have the second half along with the Q&A at the end, but this week you can dive in to the first part of this wide-ranging discussion about protocols versus platforms.

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Filed Under: platforms, protocols


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Mar 2020 @ 8:22pm

    As this discussion continues, and as you write articles on this, I'm curious to see if you have solutions to multiple issues that would with an Internet returning to protocols:

    1. Video platforms like YouTube and Twitch, and how they can possibly be usurped by video protocols. What does a video protocol look like? How are creators on the various video protocols compensated and expected to grow their audience? How will video hosting work on protocols and what happens if a protocol goes under; will people have to reupload stuff from their computers, or will there be the ability for video content creators and streamers to have their entire videographies/archive come along with them to a new instance/etc.?

    2. I follow a lot of artists on Twitter. Part of the way that they gain a following, commission work, and otherwise earn a living is thanks to the way that their work can easily be shared and discovered by everyone on centralized platforms. How does a switch to protocols affect their ability to reach new audiences and potential commissioners? Will artists have to do more work to get themselves noticed?

    3. Speaking of compensation: The protocol approach you describe where people get compensated via exchangeable cryptocurrencies also requires a cryptocurrency or set of cryptocurrencies that aren't treated as a joke by the general population, and also won't go belly-up like what seems to be happening to Libra, which has also helped to make cryptocurrencies look like a joke.

    4. How will these protocols scale across smartphones? Will people be able to download a single app and be able to access various services built on top of protocols?

    5. How will the average "Non-niche" user be asked to navigate the world of social media protocols? One issue I see is that there will be services that come along and say “Hey, we know this protocol thing is all complicated and tough to understand. If you let us have your data so we can sell it and target ads at you, we can help you keep track of your friends across all these different instances and stuff." We could end up with companies continuing sucking up data, selling it, and targeting ads at people, but this time as part of this system of protocols.

    So much of this talk of protocols and decentralization means (to me at least) that more work will be foisted upon end users and content creators to continuously curate and monitor their experiences and be ready to move themselves to another instance/service/protocol if the one they use up and fails. Making people's online experience into more work is definitely not going to earn decentralization and protocols any fans.

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

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 4 Mar 2020 @ 5:57am

      1. After Mastodon proved federated/decentralized social media could work, several similar projects for other social media(-esque) outlets cropped up in succession. For the YouTube side of things, there’s PeerTube.

      2. If Masto is any indication: Yes, they will have to do a lot more work. But when haven’t independent artists ever had to do more work than usual?

      3. I got nothin’.

      4. So long as the protocol allows it? Yes. Tusky, a Mastodon app for Android, allows me to access my Mastodon account, which allows me to interact with the Fediverse at large just as I could if I were using my account’s web interface. And Tusky allows for multiple accounts, which means people with accounts on different Masto servers can load them into Tusky and switch between them at will.

      5. Mastodon has mostly avoided this trap by rejecting ads, corporate sponsorships, and the like — and by having a friendly(-ish) userbase that is more than happy to help teach new users how things work on the Fediverse.

      Also:

      So much of this talk of protocols and decentralization means (to me at least) that more work will be foisted upon end users and content creators to continuously curate and monitor their experiences and be ready to move themselves to another instance/service/protocol if the one they use up and fails.

      This already happens, albeit on a much broader scale and a much longer timeframe, with existing social interaction networks. When Tumblr announced its porn purge weeks in advance, lots of users bailed on the service and went elsewhere (artists went primarily to Twitter). It happened with MySpace, LiveJournal, and all the other similar services that were around before the current crop of leaders when those older services became irrelevant/outdated/“uncool”.

      At least with Mastodon, moving to a new account on a different instance isn’t all that hard to do. (I think you can even back up the entirety of your account and transfer it now; when I moved instances, alls I could do was transfer my watchlist and my followers list.) It even takes care of (some of) the trouble of telling people where to find you after you move by allowing you to set a redirect notice on your old account. It ain’t perfect, but it’s not as if MySpace let you automagically move your followers list to Twitter, so…

      ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Mar 2020 @ 10:05am

      Re:

      How will the average "Non-niche" user be asked to navigate the world of social media protocols?

      The same way they navigate email or anything else, probably. Via some competing apps that make things relatively easy.

      Speaking of compensation: The protocol approach you describe where people get compensated via exchangeable cryptocurrencies also requires a cryptocurrency or set of cryptocurrencies that aren't treated as a joke by the general population

      The reputation may be less important than accessibility. Right now, people have to sign up for an exchange, maybe send over some government ID data they'd rather keep private. If it was something more like putting a gift card into their computer and clicking a button, people might be willing to use it. It only needs to be relatively stable and trustworthy, such that people can convert to and from "real" money before it goes belly-up. People take these risks with low-value gift cards.

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


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