Twitter is eating itself. However you look at it, it’s barely a skeleton of its former self. So I’m told, I left it months ago.

New products in the social media space are taking a completely different approach and it is highlighting an important shift in the whole social media landscape – away from centralisation, prioprietary tech and hoarding user-generated content, and more towards a decentralised way of sharing that more closely fits the way the internet was designed for.

In 2008 a new decentralised social media sharing protocol (standard) called OStatus was born, part of a product called This protocol allowed anyone to create their own server and share content from it, and bring content from other OStatus servers into their server. The “Fediverse” (“federated universe”) was born!

The completely open and accessible nature of the Fediverse made it popular amongst marginalised peoples and provided a particularly useful tool for politically to circumvent blocks on centralised services such as WhatsApp and Twitter.

One of the better known products built on OStatus is called Mastodon. Initially, it only really found cult popularity amongst niche interest groups. In 2018 Mastodon switched from OStatus to a completely new protocol, governed and cared for by the World Wide Web Consortium, who also set the standards that keep your browser working.

Mastodon v1.6 swapped out OStatus to ActivityPub, joining a range of decentralised alternatives to centralised online properties. These include:

Centralised ServiceFediverse Service
Video SharingYouTube
Photo / Picture SharingInstagram
Social FeedFacebook




In 2022 after Elon Musk took over Twitter, Mastodon saw an influx of “bird site” refugees. Given the decentralised nature of the Fediverse, each had to find a server to join which would then allow them to connect to the wider Fediverse. Many of these servers have a specialism, I joined as it had a large number of folks interested in cybersecurity, a passion of mine.

This is certainly one of the bugbears about the Fediverse – it’s greatest feature of being decentralised is also a bug, there is no single on-ramp or single web address you can type in to get to it.

But once you’re in there’s a “Federated feed” which lets you see and interact with all the other servers that your server allows connections to – this is also worth knowing as it means that your view of the Fediverse is filtered. One of the problems we have with social media is echo chambers, and this may result in similar problems as the Fediverse grows in popularity.

But will it grow in popularity? Is it a fad? Where is the “killer app” to drive its adoption?

Nice Threads!

Last week, Instagram – a Meta company – announced their latest product: Threads.

Threads is a text-based social network which works a lot like Twitter but has a few changes. Posts can be up to 500 characters long and you can post videos up to 5 minutes long.

My first exposure to social short-form video was with Vine, a service that launched in 2013 allowing people to share 6-second looping videos. I loved it and it made perfect sense, especially for Twitter who had bought the service prior to launch, and had shown the power of short-form sharing in a world of ever-shorter attention spans.

Later, Instagram started to support 15 second (!!) video uploads which quickly killed Vine, then Tiktok happened and the rest is history.

Threads is, notably, called an Instagram product and not a Meta or Facebook branded product. It has several built-in moats (competitive advantages) that it is leaning on heavily – firstly you immediately have access to your instagram following, this overcomes a significant challenge new social media product face: network effects. Network effects lead us to use collaboration and sharing services that our friends and coworkers use, for obvious reasons. A new entrant has a hard job overcoming these network effects – unless it already has 2 billion users as Instagram reportedly boasts.

Adam Mosseri, the Head of Instagram since 2018, has provided an open and seemingly very genuine summary of Threads on the Hard Fork podcast.

Visibility controls, content moderation, filters and a focus on building “a friendly social media network” is a refreshing change from the extreme polarisation and reduced moderation that has bogged Twitter down since Elon took over.

But this is just another centralised social media further entrenching Meta as the sole social media property, right? Right?

In the announcement, Instagram mention something very interesting:

Wait, what?

We’re committed to giving you more control over your audience on Threads – our plan is to work with ActivityPub to provide you the option to stop using Threads and transfer your content to another service. Our vision is that people using compatible apps will be able to follow and interact with people on Threads without having a Threads account, and vice versa, ushering in a new era of diverse and interconnected networks.

Instagram, on the launch of Threads

This is quite interesting, as Instagram is essentially opening up the Instagram user-base to the Fediverse.

ActivityPub supports a range of objects which you can pull from another server. One of those is Profile, which could potentially allow a massive egress of instagram profile data from Meta’s previously-walled garden.

Adam Mosseri was clear that the company is deeply aware of privacy concerns and says the app will not be available in the EU until they can be sure they can sustainably adhere to privacy regulations.

There is a lot going on in that phrasing as Facebook is currently embroiled in a legal battle with the EU over Marketplace abuse:

Meta knows that there are hundreds of millions of people in continental Europe who are already getting FOMO (fear of missing out) about Threads. The EU needs to walk a fine line between protecting personal data and allowing popular services into the bloc and if Brussels prevents citizens from reaching the carrot that Instagram are dangling, then there will be trouble.

ActivityPub and the Fediverse

Despite sounding like a really bad Marvel rip-off, ActivityPub and the Fediverse might in fact be the next big platform shift for the internet. Threads may be the killer app they’ve been waiting for.

Imagine a LinkedIn style service not centralised, but completely open: owned and hosted, maintained and curated by the companies and employees themselves as a network of “nodes” (hosted websites) each with their own branding and additional features relevant to their industry – but all talking the same language behind the scenes to allow seamless sharing.

Imagine specialised fitness tracking services with particular features for cyclists and runners and martial artists but which also allow you to share your activity to the other services.

The protocol is extremely flexible and easily extended, which gives it all the hallmarks of infrastructure. These are the rails upon which new industries, products and markets will be created.

So now you know. And, in the words of Andreessen, it’s time to build.