Interconnected or isolated? The challenge of unifying social media platforms

In an era where users are increasingly seeking alternatives to Twitter, the digital landscape is marked by a profusion of social media platforms, leaving many with the dilemma of choosing the right one. Threads, BlueSky, Mastodon. Which one?

Back in the early 2000s, we navigated the digital realm with contacts scattered across multiple chat services like AIM, ICQ, MSN Messenger, and Yahoo Messenger. While the landscape was fragmented, confusion about choosing the right platform wasn’t a concern. Tools like Trillian and Adium came to the rescue by bridging the gap between these services.

This post on Threads captures it perfectly.

Screenshot showing how Trillian would list contacts from multiple services like AIM, ICQ, MSN Messenger, and Yahoo Messenger

Fast forward to today, and we find ourselves yearning for a service that can unite these disparate social media platforms. It’s perplexing that despite our technological advances, these platforms still struggle to communicate with one another.

Mastodon

In theory, Mastodon was built with the idea of connecting different platforms in mind. It employs the ActivityPub protocol for this purpose. However, the reality is that Mastodon remains the only predominant player using ActivityPub. A service that can only connect with itself.

Threads

Threads promises to use ActivityPub in the future. But who knows when they’ll actually do it. Moreover, when they do introduce it, it might be a customized version of ActivityPub, complicating the interconnectivity further.

BlueSky

BlueSky takes a different approach with its own protocol called AT Protocol (Authenticated Transfer), which adds to the confusion, as some refer to ActivityPub as the AP Protocol. We have two completely different protocols. One named AT, the other AP.

Perhaps BlueSky’s AT Protocol is better than ActivityPub. I’m encouraged by Dave Winer saying “protocol appears to be overly-well-thought-out” and “I don’t think there’s any hope of ActivityPub, it’s far too underspecified, and interop is likely to be product-based, not based on the protocol.”

Services that do connect

You know what service uses the same protocol? Email. You can email anyone. They get your message. They can email you back. Whether you are on gmail, yahoo, hotmail, company email. Whatever. Email can handle it. Beautiful. It’s a seamless, universal communication tool.

Another tech marvel that fosters cross-platform communication is RSS. If a website offers an RSS feed, users can receive updates on new posts. Some enthusiasts, like myself, follow thousands of RSS feeds in our readers, cherishing the simplicity and convenience it brings.

It’s regrettable that these social media platforms don’t adopt RSS feeds as a means of connectivity. It’s a straightforward solution, easily implementable. I’ve personally created numerous RSS feeds for various work projects, and I can attest to their effectiveness. However, these fragmented platforms seem more interested in erecting their own walls, keeping users within their ecosystems, rather than promoting open communication.

Which service do you use? Threads, BlueSky, Mastodon, or something else?

On each of these services I made a post. Feel free to comment on Threads, BlueSky, or Mastodon.

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Melissa Bauer
7 months ago

In the world of social interconnectedness, I feel more isolated than ever. Call it post-pandemic blues. I’m struggling with social interactions and the ever-worrisome news cycle makes it hard to find joy in doing things I used to love.

Melissa Bauer
7 months ago
Reply to  Matt Maldre

I find your posts to be extremely engaging, Matt. Although we’ve never met, I’ve been following you by way of Amy Krouse Rosenthal circa 2008 or thereabouts. I love the way you do deep dives on topics out of sheer curiosity. I’ve lived in over 14 homes over the course of my life so I’m not 100% sure of where I lived when I was 10 years old (now 53), but believe in 1980 I was living in Nottingham, New Hampshire. Talk about difficult-to-find tv listings, I’d imagine, but I might just try.

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