Twitter, what Elon Musk will do about the plans to decentralize it

Twitter, what Elon Musk will do about the plans to decentralize it


There are hundreds of ways Elon Musk could look to reshape Twitter after completing the acquisition of the social network on October 28th. Thanks to the publication of the entrepreneur's personal messages in September, one thing is certain: the future of the platform will be one of decentralization. In a message to Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, dating back to March, Musk explained that he wanted to transform the platform into "something new and decentralized", while in a conversation with his brother, Kimbal Musk, he hinted at the idea of ​​a social network " based on a blockchain ", only to realize that the company would have proved too complicated.

The entrepreneur could however decide to turn his attention to Bluesky, a project developed within Twitter that promises to create a "federated social network" based on an open standard that can be adopted by multiple platforms.

What is Bluesky

Since it was created under Dorsey's leadership in 2019, Bluesky tried to create a system that would allow users to see how the algorithms offer them content, check their personal data and use a single profile on different social apps. Dorsey proposed to Musk - whom he approached thanks to the common enthusiasm for cryptocurrencies - to use Bluesky earlier this year, suggesting turning Twitter into "an open source protocol", an idea Musk called "super Interesting ".

Everything Musk wants to pay on Twitter The new owner has lowered the “blue check” rate to 8 euros, after a question and answer with Stephen King. But other services could become paid So far Bluesky has received at least $ 13 million in funding from Twitter, and Dorsey continues to be involved in the project as a board member. The result of this investment was poor until a few weeks ago, when Bluesky presented an "improved and simplified" version of its platform, called Protocol At, along with technical documentation to explain to developers how to use the platform. A waiting list has also been prepared for the project application, which will act as a browser and will shortly begin the private beta test phase. Bluesky is currently independent of Twitter, but the decision whether or not to continue funding the initiative will now rest with Musk.

Jay Graber, CEO of Bluesky, declined to comment on the progress of the project and the implications of Musk's acquisition of Twitter, but hinting publicly that he is not worried about the future of the initiative: "I'm very curious to see where Elon will take Twitter - tweeted Graber - and I'm very happy that we are independent. We will continue to work on building public protocols capable of making social networks more resilient to sudden changes ". Meanwhile, in a thread published in April, shortly after Musk submitted his offer to buy Twitter, Bluesky said he would continue to receive funding from the company as long as the project focuses on carrying out a "public debate. open and decentralized ”.

The doubts about the realization

It is not clear, however, how a federated social network would work, should Musk decide to join the project. If the entrepreneur decides to stick to Dorsey's original vision, Twitter would be one of many social media services that would become "clients" of the Bluesky standard, although doubts remain as to what this will mean for the end user. Bluesky did not explain how the AT protocol will change the way platforms are able to monetize and moderate content, merely saying that it will bring greater interoperability and transparency on the recommendation algorithms.

Musk's main concern will be to be able to combine his philosophical inclination for decentralization with the need to transform Twitter into a profitable company. Although in the past the new head of Twitter has expressed the desire to open source the algorithm of the platform in the name of transparency, giving up control of the algorithm (the mechanism that allows you to keep people on the social network) would represent a completely step different, however disastrous from the point of view of advertising revenue.

Musk could use Bluesky's technology to at least partially realize his ambition to turn Twitter into "X, the total app", a sort of super application capable of merging social media, payment services and other features, similar to what WeChat does. While it does not use the blockchain, the AT protocol is capable of "integrating with cryptocurrencies," as Graber pointed out in the past, meaning that Bluesky could help realize the payments aspect of the project. But even in this case it is only a matter of hypothesis.

The advantages of decentralization

Despite the many questions from the point of view of practical application, Bluesky is not alone in thinking that Twitter would benefit from a more decentralized social media ecosystem, with less power in the hands of an economically motivated minority.

Evan Henshaw-Plath - the first employee of Odeo, the company that created Twitter - runs a "peer-to-peer social network" called Planetary, which has many points in common with Bluesky; both projects aim to increase the transparency of algorithms and ensure that users have control over their personal data.

Henshaw-Plath predicts that under the leadership of Musk Twitter will enter a phase of great experimentation from the point of view of projects related to the Web3 and cryptocurrencies, regardless of whether Bluesky ends up having a leading role or not: "I'm not sure it's good - comments Henshaw-Plath - but certainly that's where most of the big changes will happen. "

Henshaw-Plath adds that the acquisition could increase Bluesky's chances of getting further funding, as Twitter is no longer" bound by Wall Street, "and believes that under Musk Dorsey could return to Twitter in some capacity.

Once the AT protocol is operational, the goal is to ensure interaction between the Planetary and Bluesky networks, continues Henshaw- Plath, creating a sort of coalition driven by the common desire to shift the balance of power in favor of users.

This is also the ambition of Stani Kulechov, the creator of Lens Protocol, a similar project that relies on user self-hosting of profiles to achieve decentralization and is an alternative to Bluesky's cloud-based model. According to him, this approach "allows people to have control of their share capital" both in terms of content and audience, and ensures that profiles are "always in your custody and control".

The dangers in the short term

Now Musk must take Twitter's problems seriously The tycoon is about to close the deal to buy the social network. But between bots, employee cutbacks, Trump's return and total app projects, the time for tweeting is over.But on the one hand, efforts to minimize companies' control over how people communicate should be welcomed , there are short-term risks that need to be taken into account, emphasizes Brewster Kahle, the creator of the Internet Archive, the web's most famous "library," which recently entered the Internet Hall of Fame. "If decentralization gave more people local control over how they build their communities, that would be a good thing," says Kahle. The fear, however, is that the lack of clarity about the moderation mechanisms of this new model could lead to exactly the kind of "hellish chaos" that Musk claims he wants to avoid: "In the short term, decentralization could mean the absence of content moderation. or spam checks, giving a louder megaphone to a minority, "adds Kahle.

For this reason, Kahle argues that fine-tuning the technology in the right way is critical, but that the" bells of alarm linked to simplistic and absolutistic thinking "among those who try to innovate the social media sector could jeopardize the whole project.

It is up to Musk - a" fundamentalist of free speech ", as well as the richest man in the world - advancing the vision of a fairer, more private and less antagonistic experience on social media. If he does not decide to do so, Bluesky will have to leave the nest to seek support elsewhere.

This article originally appeared on UK.

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