It had to happen, decentralize.today takes on decentralized social networks!

In chapter 7 of the Privacy Cookbook, we talked about Twitter, Facebook and YouTube and what to do to be able to watch and read them safely and securely, without the 'Googley' or Zuckerbergy' interference.

So today, I want to go one more step and talk about federated and peer-to-peer protocols.

Traditional social networks like Twitter or Facebook are in the hands of corporations. All information you supply and all the data that comes with it, including meta data, IP address etc., are all held by a single company! Your data can and is sold or shared with 3rd parties and someone else can then make money off your property! Sure, there are a few people, the so-called influencers, for instance, who do make money with Instagram and YouTube, but the regular user usually does derived any benefit from involvement with these setups.

What are federated protocols?

Federated networks allow users to select a server with which to sign up. This then gives them access to the entire network, spread out across many different servers. This, in turn, provides users with a far greater selection of apps, policies and communities.

As an example: ActivityPub

This is a federated protocol that provides a set of inter-operable social network interactions through specific APIs. Any server that implements this is able to communicate with the remainder of the network.

Mastodon, built on ActivityPub, is a popular federated alternative to Twitter with around 2.2 million users worldwide.

Twitter vs Mastodon

Twitter is in business to make money. So the more engaging the tweets are, the more people will click. Rage tweeting something obnoxious is what Twitter likes even if it is not actually constructive to the conversation. Worse still, now that Twitter have engaged you with your multitude of followers, they've decided to remove the privacy feature and allow private information to be shared with advertisers.

A long, slippery slope which quickly descends into even more abusive practices from which there is no way back. Users are basically screwed as sharing that data is by default and cannot be turned off. At least, at this point, they are not sharing your name, email address and phone number yet – perhaps that is in store for the future...one step at a time! Only those in the EU and the UK have an opt out option due to their more citizen-friendly data privacy regulations.

Actually, Twitter knows a lot about you already. Those Twitter share or tweet buttons that you see on the sites you visit will be putting cookies in place to record your browsing history. This used to be held for 10 days but now they are bumping it up to 30 days with the new policy. So within that one month time frame they will really be able to paint a very nice picture of you. Moreover, if you visit another page which has the twitter share bottom on it that 30 days get renewed and you have a new 30 days circle on file, combined with your already collected data!

Now that you understand more about Twitter, what makes Mastodon different?

It's great to see on the platform that there is no arbitrary control over who gets to speak and who gets banned, plus of course being an ad-free environment, there is less distraction to users. Decentralization is the way to go, so no corporate manipulation is going on in the background. No entity or organization owns Mastodon and it is run by the community with participants all around the world hosting servers or 'instances'.

Whilst you can boost something that you like or don't like, you are not able to add positive or negative comments and this allows the recipient to form his or her own opinions. If you don't like the instance which you are in, feel free to leave and join a different one. Also, you don't have to 'follow' mindlessly but instead can join and become part of a community which shares interests in common. Then you can say what you want to say AND you have 500 characters! Best part, in case you want to switch from one instance to another, is that this can be done without losing your followers or your already posted toots!

decentralize.today is launching its own instance shortly, we are already testing the server setup and want to make sure you can reach it with a clear and memorable domain name ;) a it's on TOR!

Join us on Mastodon:

Decentralize.Today (@Decentralize_today@mastodon.social)
1.45K Toots, 167 Following, 604 Followers · The future won’t be centralized

Another federated protocol is PeerTube

And who better to describe it than they themselves:

PeerTube is a video hosting software project. It allows you to watch and share videos with others using your own server, be it a simple computer board at home or a blade in a datacenter. You don't need to host thousands of videos to make your instance interesting for daily use. In a federated fashion, it will talk with other servers of your choice to aggregate references to their videos without really hosting them locally.
PeerTube is close to other federated communities, traditionally more oriented towards purely social interaction in a Twitter-like fashion. We also interact with them thanks to ActivityPub, rendering videos commentable all over the fediverse! Plus, you can follow them thanks to ActivityStreams and RSS/Atom/Json-feed feeds.

Excerpt from the PeerTube website

And another federated protocol is the Matrix protocol

Matrix is basically an approach to chat and team chat, like Slack, but not controlled by a single company. So Matrix is not a social network, as such, but you can still connect to many people. It also has great features and widgets such as RSS and bridges to reach other chat systems.

The protocol currently has around 11 million users who use a variety of clients. Matrix has a more flexible identity solution than most decentralized protocols — users have a Matrix user id, but can also use 3rd party ids. A Matrix account links to ids such as email addresses, social accounts, and phone numbers. A globally federated cluster of trusted identity servers verify and replicate the mappings.

From the Matrix website

The matrix protocol has also just announced E2EE by default which is a great step forward. At this moment, Riot.im is probably the best client to use and as explained you can use widgets (like Jitsi for video calling) and bridges to expand your communication options making this a really versatile and robust decentralized alternative.

Stay safe!

The Privacy Advocate