Threads and Mastodon

I’ll shush on this soon, as I’m sure y’all either are already getting flooded with thinkpieces about this, or don’t care about the topic that much. But before I move on to other things, a nice article by Watts Martin: “You’re So Vain, You Probably Think This App Is About You: On Meta and Mastodon” The gist is that a lot of the hand-wringing about Threads (and more specifically, Meta) joining the Fediverse and mucking it up is probably overblown.

How can I say that so confidently? Because Threads is not a Mastodon instance. It is its own self-contained, centralized social network with plans to let its users follow Mastodon accounts and vice versa.


So, on one hand: a billion users who accept Instagram showing them ads, algorithm-jamming their timelines and hoovering up as much personally identifiable information about them as they can. On the other: two or three million users on an explicitly anti-corporate platform engineered to be highly resistant to leaking private data. I dare you to make a convincing business case for Facebook spending a single cent trying to capture a fraction of the second group, when it’s less than a percent the size of the first group.

Watts Martin

I’m inclined to agree… mostly. I think them even announcing plans to support ActivityPub was a red herring, a way to hedge their bets in case they didn’t get the immediate traction they were hoping for. (And as Watts points out in their piece, it looks good to regulators.) Since they did get the rapid adoption going, I wouldn’t be surprised if that feature quietly drops off their roadmap entirely. And honestly, that’s fine – I didn’t really expect them to keep it open for very long anyway, so if it never opens up in the first place, the end result is the same.

I do also agree with Watts that mastodon instance admins being reactionary and defederating Threads before it even opens is overkill – silencing them so they don’t end up flooding your Federated tab and killing your server is probably plenty.

The truly toxic idea, though, is that Mastodon instances should not only refuse to federate with Threads, but they should refuse to federate with other servers that do federate with Threads. In other words, users should be punished for decisions they have no control over and may not even be aware of, made by the administrators of servers they don’t belong to. I am dead serious when I call this toxic. The default position must, must, be that breaking your users’ social graphs is a last resort against clear and present danger. A server explicitly welcomes Nazis, child porn, TERFs, and serial harassers? Block that fucker. But it’s absurd to insist that federating with Meta’s general-interest server presents the same threat level.

Watts Martin