Like a lemming, I jumped on the Threads bandwagon the very first day the platform was launched, and I enjoyed a few hours of hard nostalgia – not just for the early days of the Twitter platform itself, but for the time in my life when Twitter was new.
So you could say I was pretty alarmed – and more than a little self-recriminatory – when I stumbled into a Facebook post by This Anastasiya, who gave several very good reasons why you should NOT create a Threads account.
So sad, too bad, I’ve already got one now, and deleting it would also delete the Instagram account I have been building as a scrapbook of my travels and life for almost twelve years. So uhh, zero chance I’m ever going to do THAT willingly.
In my defense, there were literally twelve and a half million people who jumped on the Threads bandwagon before I did, but still, I should know better by now than to click ‘agree to the terms of service’ before actually looking into them.
It was about four in the morning when I came across her post, and I scanned it with half a bleary eyeball and resolved to give the matter a closer look when I had the requisite brain cells.
Unsurprisingly, by the time I came back to the post today, it was mysteriously ‘unavailable’.
Many people who believe in an open internet have invested years of their labor into building something called ActivityPub – a free, decentralized, open source protocol for social networking.
In other words, each user of ActivityPub stores their own data and there is no centralized authority who can decide what you’re allowed to say or read, and nobody’s collecting your data to sell or share (i.e. keeping track of what you’re writing, clicking on, reading, or following).
ActivityPub is code that can be used to build social networking platforms.
Think of it like the foundation upon which you can build a house in many different designs. You’ve probably heard of Tumblr, Mastadon, and Medium – but there are platforms currently in development that are fueled by ActivityPub which will offer a fresh take on Youtube, Instagram, and more. This is the simplest and best explanation I have found on how the ActivityPub protocol works.
ActivityPub based platforms are connected to something called the Fediverse – a federation of independent but connected servers that talk to each other. In the same way that everyone in New York is also in the United States, but not everyone in the United States is in New York, you can use an ActivityPub based platform to connect to the Fediverse, but not everything connected to the Fediverse is built using the ActivityPub protocol. Other protocols include Matrix, Diaspora & OStatus.
So … why is the Fediverse important?
Because it allows you build up a network of connections – the people you are exchanging written words, photos, and videos with – in a way that is ‘platform agnostic’.
In other words, if you don’t like how things are going on one social network, you can bail on that platform and take your content and community elsewhere.
That means there’s no one social platform that is monopolizing your access to digital community, simply because you’re invested and it’s a hassle to move. And since platforms don’t have you locked in, they’re less likely to engage in the unsavory practices that will drive people away.
This is where Threads comes along to upset the apple cart.
You might think that launching Threads was just a clever way to stick it to Elmo, or perhaps it was a power play to capitalize on Twitter’s inevitable demise. Both of those things may, in part, be true, but it’s looking like that’s not the driving motivation behind the new platform’s launch.
Sure, Facebook theoretically allows you to export your data, but… export it and do what with it? There’s really no other way to use it for social networking purposes.
In practical terms, if you want to stay connected to the community you’ve built, with Facebook you’re pot committed. And that’s exactly what Meta wants. They want it to be such a hassle for you to move off their platforms and over to another social network that realistically and functionally speaking, you just can’t quit them.
The Fediverse has, for several years, been the exclusive domain of the geekosphere…
But not for long.
We are about to see a wave of new social networking platforms emerging that connect to the Fediverse, at just the time when Facebook has become the app where your parents tag you in embarrassing photos from your childhood and leave awkward comments on your public posts.
In other words, Facebook is not where the cool kids hang out anymore – Instagram is where it’s been, TikTok’s where it’s at now, and soon the cool kids will be riding the wave of new social platforms on the Fediverse.
And that spells doom for Meta’s business model.
So what has Meta done about it? They’ve grabbed the open source code from ActivityPub, and used it to build Threads, which does the exact thing everyone volunteering their time and labor to build ActivityPub was working against!
When anyone creates a Threads account, they are agreeing to the Terms of Service which stipulate that you DON’T control your data, you DON’T own your content, and you CAN’T take your network with you if you go.
Threads came creeping out here, grabbing up millions of non-tech-savvy users before they even understand what the Fediverse is all about, trying to get them locked into another platform where Meta can retain control.
As an added stick-in-the-eyeball, they’ve built it using ActivityPub technology. Rude.
Hey, the code is open source, so technically that’s legal, but as anyone with a fourth grade code of ethics knows, not everything that’s legal is morally right.
If you, like me, jumped on the Threads bandwagon already, what are you going to do about it?
I truly hope someone will leave me a comment correcting me if I am wrong about this – but as far as I can tell, it’s not a doom & gloom disaster if you’ve created a Threads account.
Sure it’s connected to your Instagram, and sure you can’t delete it, but it’s not like Zuck is sending someone to your doorstep with a crowbar if you just … don’t use it.
So that’s my recommendation, in a nutshell –
If you haven’t done so already, DON’T create a Threads account, and if you HAVE already started using it, just … stop.
And maybe jump over to Tumblr and explore the new old hotness.