Fallout from the Meta downtime

Yesterday Meta services took a big hit with issues plaguing Facebook, Instagram and Threads. The amount of people thinking they had been hacked, and the others who literally thought the internet were down shows how a dominant position in this market is really not good moving forward. That the dominant thought was that they had been hacked also shows how Meta has real issues with its platforms, their safety, security and track record. I think it is time that people should look to turn away from a now old fashioned centralised company as an issue crippled 3 of the largest platforms together. Unfortunately other social media platforms all took the time to roundly mock Meta and that is also not helpful as division does not help long term. However the fact that this issue impacted so many is also a real indication of how poor Meta is run sometimes.

So is there a social media network that won’t go down like this causing these kinds of issues? Well yes, kinda. ActivityPub the protocol underpinning Mastodon and other services is decentralised. This means that there can be (and is) multiple servers or instances, so if one of those goes down then the impact is minimal. However as people don’t always understand this concept, it can (still) be a hard sell. The number of Mastodon users is still very low at circa 5 million (for reference Facebook has more like 3 billion!) but Mastodon has zero adverts, zero algorithms and much better control over your privacy and how your content is viewed. Of course, to many, these complications just stop them even being interested, and coupled with it being harder to actually start on an ActivityPub adventure (you can choose different servers?) means take-up still remains low. The onboarding isn’t that great either on many ActivityPub based platforms yet. For me though, the biggest problem is, and probably always will be, that the reach and engagement on a platform that has no algorithms, doesn’t push content, and isn’t driven by having to make money, will always be harder to show the engagement and numbers of a platform that does. In general people these days want to make money from a side hustle or their social media, like Tik Tok, for example. With no mechanisms to push content and drive money making, many just disregard ActivityPub straight away as pointless. Being safe, secure and having control over your data and privacy falls by the wayside quickly when they join, say a Mastodon instance and all they see is tumbleweed. Searches turn up hundreds of hits and the users you know are in the hundreds tops rather than thousands or even millions on other platforms. Numbers are seen as being important, rather than quality of interactions. Until this idea is not the norm then ActivityPub has an uphill battle, just as any new competitor does. This is why Threads or Bluesky have advantages because they already have a better reputation.

So to finish up – where do I see things going? Well for one – unless Meta really cracks down and makes free accounts useless, which I can’t see them doing I can’t see their products ever losing their current grip on the market. They are too big to effectively fail. We also have the better the devil you know factor that many are also citing, fear of moving etc. Plus most people already have their friends/family/coworkers on Meta products, plus a whole host of celebrities many of whom have no idea of the alternatives, and to be fair why would they as the Meta products serve their needs way better despite the flaws. Until Meta products are so bad they are past being useful, then the status quo will continue

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