Daily Archives: 2023-06-10

The case for the decentralization of online forums

Source: Hacker News

Article note: The _case_ for decentralization is easy, and a huge portion of cultural and technical internet people agree. The _implementation_ is incredibly hard on both technical and social grounds. Old-school single-topic forums with a benefactor (which HN sort of is) are subject to the distortions and whims of the owner. Commercial ones are subject to distortion by the forces trying to turn it into a profit vehicle (and typically their advertisers). Any system that accepts money from users has to deal with payment processors and the moralizing BS from the political wings they impose (and uh... this is the thing that cryptocurrency was _supposed_ to handle but as soon as it became primarily a vehicle for speculation and scams, it stopped being suitable for that purpose. Shut up cryptobros, it didn't work, and it's largely your own fault). But federated platforms still have a (likely smaller) funding problem, have a way harder moderation problem ("People on that other instance have different culture and ideas than on ours! Unacceptable!" is already causing minor chaos with Mastodon), and will inherently end up exposing some of the structure to users which ...people have/had a hard enough time with things like G+'s circles or posting into appropriate subreddits, knowing about sites/servers is a shockingly big ask (even though everyone is acclimated to email and websites). As tech folk we all naturally think the ideal is that every person or small group runs their own instance that interacts with others via a protocol, but even given that someone builds a system cheap and easy to host, that's _way_ beyond the vast _vast_ preponderance of likely users. RSS is one-way and way easier to do, and there are lots of nice canned hosted options... and it's still a weak ecosystem that only a small fraction of us cling to post-google-reader.
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