Hope for a Post-Musk Net
A federated future and suggestions for citizens and institutions
Maybe we’ll look back and see that Elon Musk did us, the civilized citizens of the net, a favor by forcing us off our cozy if centralized, corporatized, and corrupted internet to find and build an alternative future grounded in the founding principles and dreams of this networked age. How’s that for looking on the bright side?
Well, optimist to a fault that I am, I see a better future. Come along…
Twitter will fail — for all the reasons Nilay Patel’s mic-drop foretells — ending up in the sewer where journalists claim it has been all along, in bankruptcy, in the hands of Saudi princes, or — who knows — in Yahoo!, where all good things have gone to die. I’m not leaving Twitter, I’m still on Facebook, and I’m enjoying TikTok’s honeymoon. But I am packing my go-bag to travel to an internet built on protocols over platforms. Here, I’ll explore some of the opportunities afforded by the likes of Bluesky, Scuttlebutt, the Fediverse, and Indieweb — not to mention good, old, reliable RSS. Nowhere better to start getting one’s head around this distributed vision than with Mike Masnick’s epic explainer, Protocols, Not Platforms: A Technological Approach to Free Speech.
To start with the present, I am on Mastodon and already enjoying it. Come on in; the water’s fine. For me, it is already reaching critical mass — not mass media, mind you; let us leave scale and its debasements behind — with folks I know from Twitter and new and interesting conversants, particularly academics and journalists. Don’t let unhelpful reporters dissuade you with their arm-waving about complexity; you are smarter than they think you are.
It’s really quite simple: Join any server, set up your profile (say who you are, please), and start looking for folks to follow: search for friends and follow whom they follow, or click on the local (your server) or federated (every server) timeline to see who’s strolling by the front porch, then follow hashtags to interesting conversations and people. A few tips from my vast experience of days: Go to the settings and switch to light mode (really, it makes a difference; it’s not just my dark-mode phobia) and enable the advanced web interface (it’s like Tweetdeck). Boost posts…