Federation favors large numbers of temporary non- or partially-intersecting identities, rather than a single static centralized one.

The desire for a single static centralized identity on the internet is largely one created by and for existing centralized social networking platforms & is pretty recent, so I don’t see it as much of a loss (although I’m also not a media personality, so I gain more & lose less from having my identity be fluid & disparate — YMMV).

If the OpenSocial platform continues to grow for much longer at this rate, I predict one of three outcomes:

  • Tech for running instances will get lighter & easier to manage, so that the ratio of users to instances will approach 1:1. We’ll get to the point where most users have personal instances running on their phones & using an instance run by somebody else is a little like using the computer at the public library.
  • Most users will have five or six different accounts on different, themed instances, and keep their interests somewhat segregated. (We already see places like witches.town, a.weirder.earth, rich.gop, and oulipo.social, where specific interest groups congregate & the local and federated feeds are much more useful; it may be that mastodon.social and other general-purpose instances will become a deviation from the norm.)
  • Some big company will jump on the bandwagon by hosting stock mastodon on expensive hardware, making proprietary changes, and heavily advertising it to less-savvy users who have no interest in federation. (Google plus replacement? After all, they nuked Orkut, Buzz, and Wave.) This would be the worst outcome, since the reasons people are interested in OpenSocial are essentially social and political, not technical, and having existing big players involved would run counter to those social and political rationales.

Written by

Resident hypertext crank. Author of Big and Small Computing: Trajectories for the Future of Software. http://www.lord-enki.net

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