Twitter’s CEO, Jack Dorsey announced yesterday that the social media company will be funding a small team of researchers to develop an “open and decentralised standard for social media” of which Twitter will be a client.
The team of about 5 open source architects, engineers, and designers will be part of a project called Bluesky, which will work to address some of the current problems with the platform., and if successful, will change how it the platform works going forward.
According to Dorsey, one challenge for centralised platforms like Twitter is the value of social media. This is said to be shifting away from content hosting and removal to recommendation algorithms. Almost everything you see on the internet today was selected for you.
However, recommendation algorithms produce a lot of revenue for these companies, so if Twitter is looking towards a decentralised system and content based approach, it will be taking a cut in revenue.
Another issue drummed up by Dorsey is that modern social media incentives frequently lead to attention being focused on content and conversation that sparks controversy and outrage, rather than conversation which informs and promotes health.
But unlike with centralised systems, decentralised systems will make it easier for these social networks to enforce restrictions against hate speech and other abuse, without placing too much burden and cost on people. Also, Bluesky, if successful, will “force” Twitter to build open recommendation algorithms which will promote healthy conversation.
Already, there are social media platforms that operate on a decentralised framework, like Mastodon. And Dorsey says that Bluesky may build the standard on existing technology, or create from scratch.
Decentralised systems have continued to struggle against centralised platforms over the years, most especially in terms of adoption. Twitter’s CTO, who has been charged with hiring the leader for the project, highlighted that Bluesky will also face some of these – including the issue of quality to face off with centralised platforms.
Also, a decentralised system of which Twitter will be a client will see content moderation move away from Twitter’s reach making it harder to track.
Nevertheless, Twitter will press on with the project. Dorsey, however, noted that it could take years for it to materialise. Still, it will be interesting to see a company as big as Twitter push for one.
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