I wonder if Fediverse devs and power users realize there's about to be a massive infusion of capital into ActivityPub projects—and this capital will change everything.

Why would capital come *now*? Here's factors:

1. Crypto has hyped decentralization
2. Meta looks weak
3. Americans don't want TikTok to dominate
4. Europeans are hungry for home-grown alternatives to Meta/Twitter/TikTok

I can go on about why capital is coming to ActivityPub projects:

1. Governments don't like depending on foreign corporations to host their social media
2. Banks want social media that's customized to regulatory needs

Even more reasons why capital is coming ActivityPub:

1. Enterprise is suspicious of communications they don't own
2. Devs generally like FOSS and an open Internet
3. Meta/Twitter can't build everything

The biggest reason capital is coming to ActivityPub is simply this: momentum

If VCs perceive a certain tech has momentum, they'll throw money at it. Lots of it -- just to see what sticks.

@lashman Usually, it's for the worse. But this is also why people need to be cognizant about what's coming.

@atomicpoet yeah, i don't think we'll be lucky enough for this to be a Blender situation, sadly

@lashman If the old guard wants to preserve their identity, they need to organise instances into co-ops.

@atomicpoet @lashman I agree with the analysis and the worry.

On the other hand, I have faith in decentralized (and weird) nature of fedi.

Instances can be spun up easily, and people can defederate from problematic instances quickly: this means to me that even if a lot of money gets pumped into ActivityPub, for a long time there will remain a way for people to move across instances and find a home away from the "mainstreamed", VC-funded parts of it.

And it will be easier than :birdsite: → fedi migration.

@atomicpoet @lashman the really important thing is what attitudes are created in/by fedi.

If we keep making a strong point about decentralization, about interoperability, about FLOSS, etc., it will be difficult if not impossible to completely destroy it.

If people remember how hard it was to get out of walled gardens and into fedi in the first place, it will be hard to convince them that a new walled garden is all that great.

And finally, AGPL makes things real hard for anyone trying to lock fedi down.

@rysiek @atomicpoet @lashman from what I'm seeing in "my whereabouts" of the fediverse, ego trips and hidden commercial agendas can be quiet damaging. Even if they don't end up completely destroying it, a (potentially irrecoverable) fracture of the fediverse remains a possibility.

@oblomov @atomicpoet @lashman sure, that's why I mention user attitudes.

But also, a fracture already exists in fedi. Some instances refuse to federate with some other instances, due to... differences of opinion on what is acceptable content.

And you know what? That's fine. Because users can just set up alts and choose their own adventure.

@oblomov @atomicpoet @lashman the bigger problem I see, come to think of it, and the problem that almost killed independent e-mail services, is bots/spam.

If that gets *bad*, then people will gravitate towards instances that implement more rigid spamfiltering, that at the same time does not interfere (too much) with regular communication.

This is a *hard* problem, and larger instances, especially GAFAM-owned ones (thus, well-resourced), will be at an advantage here.

@rysiek @atomicpoet @lashman

One precedent of when this went bad was when Google ran XMPP services for a while.

Or Google and RSS.

When they defederared / shut down, many didn't migrate.

@Sandra @atomicpoet @lashman or Facebook's XMPP chat, too. Sure.

I didn't say there are no threats and everything is dandy.

But also, RSS is alive. XMPP is alive. Those who choose to use it, continue to do so.

@rysiek @atomicpoet @lashman

I forgot that all statements immediately devolve into trying to prove a point which is why I need to get better at explictily affirming the other person's POV a la

I just wanted to prove some concrete datapoints and precendents.

I thought your follow up post re federation culture was good.

@Sandra @atomicpoet @lashman oh, sorry. I do think you made a very strong point. This needs to be more present in our collective fedi hivemind, so that we can see dangers coming.

The real danger isn't Big Tech or something joining fedi. The real danger is after they do join fedi: will people gravitate towards the "better service" on their instances?

If they do, we're in the XMPP situation, where the embrace-extend-extinguish, while not fully successful, was quite bad.

@atomicpoet here's hoping it won't manage to ruin the entire thing. I'm honestly very curious what'd happen if a major corporation either outright took over a project or at least ran and promoted a major instance, and what the effects on the rest of the fediverse would be.

@jonas Well, the official EU instance is a harbinger for things to come.

@atomicpoet I'm honestly rather curious how that one will turn out. For now it's... nothing. Just a bunch of crossposters.

@jonas The instance's very existence is a statement about where they're putting resources.

@atomicpoet How should one arrive at that realization?
If there are signs on the wall, please direct me to that wall. :)

@daniel VCs have been working on decentralized social tech for awhile. Hell, I was on one such project for two years (our approach was much different from AP). It's ActivityPub that's broken though, though, and that's solved a fundamental problem in terms of where capital is going. We've now moved beyond the R&D stage for "how to decentralize and get mass adoption". ActivityPub has problems, but most devs can live with those problems because of momentum.

@atomicpoet AP is just one protocol. The fediverse could work with many of them, so I just buy some popcorn… you cannot force people to be your customers, if they don’t like.

@loweel That's true, but the question is always about momentum. From a VC point of view, the success of ActivityPub provides validation for decentralized social media, while also lowering perceived risk.

@atomicpoet Surely if it's so bad you can resist it by just refusing to sell?

@atomicpoet Is that a good thing? We’ll need to be *very* mindful of hostile takeovers and people trying to circumvent the word and spirit of copyleft now.

In such an environment, a new client that does not use AGPL as license without a CLA might actually be harmful in the long run.

@ArneBab Companies have already made billions if not trillions while abiding by GPL and similar licenses. Example: Linux

The question isn't whether or not there should be capital—because there is. It's how do we organize to make that capital sustainable to all stakeholders.

Personally, I feel if users are depending on instance admins, that already creates a hierarchy.

One way around this problem is through co-ops like But we'll see what happens with that.

@atomicpoet @ArneBab

So here's my plan:

1. Create a bunch of fediverse startups.

2. Obtain billions in venture funding.

3. Hire the entire current fediverse as "consultants".

4. When the money runs out, claim we were too visionary.

@atomicpoet what I can't tell is the conclusion here. Where does this lead? The VCs will (almost certainly) lose interest. Whether there's enough momentum to actually get us anywhere and the EU won't kill their instance remains to be seen. Even in the "worst case" where there is a persistent mass influx into the fediverse and it sort of gets absorbed into the mainstream, I wonder if "our corner" of it could still manage to retain its culture as it is today, and how much intentional isolation that would involve. It does seem like at least the means to do that exist, and I can tell you for certain there are plenty of people who'd at least be interested in considering it.

@louisrcouture If you're the kind of person who likes things exactly as they are now, then it's for the worse.

But it could be for the better depending on where your goals align.

@atomicpoet oh I definitely want more people to join, but I do not want centralization, or surveillance capitalism

@louisrcouture Centralization isn't the selling point for ActivityPub, and if you're looking to centralize, it's unlikely you can compete with the likes of Facebook anyway. Not to say people won't try, but they'll probably fail.

@atomicpoet yeah but like, I don't want a corporation to tell me what to see

@louisrcouture Then you better be protective about the general idea of decentralization and PAY whoever hosts your stuff as an incentive to keep it that way.

And ultimately, that also means more capital flowing into the Fediverse.

@atomicpoet Well I did apply for nlnet (I think that's what it was) when the UK was still technically within the EU, but soon to depart. But alas I was unable to hitch onto the gravy train.

If there is an infusion of capital I doubt it will be private. It's difficult to see how they would make ROI in conventional terms. The late McAffee tried with Hiveway, and pretty much got run out of town. But government capital perhaps could happen, beyond what the EU is already doing.


What will change it more than capital? Users.

When you invite normies, your network becomes a place for normies to talk about normie things.

@mayonesa When it comes to users on the Fediverse, I'm pro-normie. Everyone should use decentralized social media.

@atomicpoet I imagine the idea will be similar to what happened in the 2000s: use open web to gain an audience; create interface that makes it easier for audience to connect; build walls around it. As long as there are enough people who won't get siphoned into future facebook, the fediverse should be fine

@atomicpoet I suspect that the fediverse will end up a lot like how email is now. There will be big commercial instances for the general public, company-specific instances for internal use and marketing, and then the hardcore crowd will still be able to set up their own but the average user probably won't.

@DamnCatOnMyDesk @atomicpoet I think the important difference is that e-mail is work/mission-critical in many more ways than social media is.

This means that while " blocks mail from your personal e-mail server" is a serious problem, " doesn't federate with your personal instance" is much less of a serious problem.

Also, fedi is way more... social (duh) than e-mail. Local timelines are a thing, and an important reason for users to choose a given instance.

@DamnCatOnMyDesk @atomicpoet this is another good reason to emphasize local communities running smaller instances, and to focus on local timelines.

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