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Steve Lord

is working on making this an open source massively multiplayer fediverse content system.

The Internet is a ghetto

In which I lament the sorry state of the world and propose to be the change I want to see within it

The Internet as we know it isn't really the same as it was some time ago. Originally, the Internet was designed as decentralized network capable of surviving a nuclear assault by the Soviet Union. The modern Internet is dominated by the World Wide Web, a collection of protocols and markup designed to facilitate free and open sharing with everyone, everywhere.

To say the Internet and World Wide Web are revolutionary technologies would be an understatement. These two technologies provide access to information unthinkable even a couple of decades ago. These technologies have upended the world's economies and made the globe feel a smaller place.

However, the Internet you and I experience today is not the Internet Berners-Lee (inventor of the World Wide Web) hoped for. In fact, like me, Berner-Lee is increasingly worried that the Web is being weaponized against us.

Not long after the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke, I quit Facebook. Having returned to Facebook in 2011 after a break, I found it increasingly difficult to stay happy, looking at all of the things, good and bad that were going on. I quit FB and never looked back, while others told me how it was essential for staying in touch with friends and distant family.

I'm still on Twitter, and I've found a new home on Mastodon. Twitter is harder for me to leave personally, but I often find it a bigger source of stress than joy. Mastodon is a mostly happy place. In fact nearly all of the bad interactions I've experienced have either been with very bitter people who are easily blocked, or are a result of Twitter stuff leaking over. In Mastodon, people refer to twitter as "Birdsite".

Fundamentally, the majority of social networks are designed to hook you in and keep engaging, which means interacting. Your timeline is messed around with to show you things you're most likely to react to, and of course anger provokes the most easily measurable reaction. They're like dopamine slot machines, paying outrage when 3 pieces of fruit line up on the screen. With Facebook, Twitter and co, they're designed to always bear fruit. This has stark psychological ramifications, and is seriously changing the way people interact in real life.

At the other end of the scale, sites like Medium exist to strip writers of their agency, monetise their work (which was offered up for free, natch) and push viewers into paying for content. This is the antithesis of an open web.

Mastodon is fundamentally different to commercial social networks in that it's a decentralized open source social network. It doesn't care about your engagement, it doesn't care if you use it. To be honest, many of it's users would rather you didn't. Mastodon is part of what's called the fediverse, a sprawl of services hosted across the Internet by people in their spare time, linked together through a method of sharing called ActivityPub.

ActivityPub has some fascinating ideas, but isn't without it's flaws. Still, there's a lot that can be done with it that isn't. And that's where I'm hoping to come in.

I believe that there's a spot in the social marketplace, a marketplace of ideas for a place where people who can't self-host can write together with like-minded people. A place where content isn't handed over to a company to monetise in exchange for exposure. A place where you can follow what's happening on the fediverse and interact directly with the author.

And that's what I'm doing here. This site is just a test, and I just needed a post to play with (hence the rambling). The live one will come.

With luck and a Free and Open Internet, this'll be up before Christmas.