Decentralized Social Media Finds A Foothold

Companies may face too many options for brand messaging.

Social media companies are on a new gold rush. Nearly 20 years after the birth of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg launched Threads, a new micro-blogging app that aims to rival Elon Musk’s X, nee Twitter.

This might sound familiar, but this time it is different. The race to stay relevant in this hyper-connected era comes from within, from invisible changes to protocols, servers and computer coding, rather than from new logos and features.

The thinking is about turning social media into open, decentralized platforms where users can own and share content and contacts across platforms.

The idea is at least a decade old. Still, it has gained popularity among users who want complete control over their communities without the limits of content moderation and paid subscriptions, such as on Twitter and Facebook.

The change will affect individual users but could be transformative also for millions of companies around the globe that communicate, promote, and connect with customers on traditional platforms.

“I’m already seeing some companies engaging on Nostr, a decentralized social media network,” says Caitlin Long, founder and CEO of Custodia Bank, which specializes in digital assets.

The codeword for these federated social networking services is “the Fediverse.” It runs on open standards such as ActivityPub. Tech companies like Flipboard, Tumblr, Medium, WordPress and Mozilla have already adopted it. Mastodon, the leading decentralized alternative to Twitter, runs on ActivityPub.

Meta launched Threads with plans to support Mastodon in the future. Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey is rolling out his decentralized social Bluesky, powered by its own protocol.

For businesses, the advantage of entering the Fediverse would come from controlling their content and contacts and sharing communities across the platform of choice.

“Right now, companies are at the provider’s mercy, which decides what message can be posted and what to pay to spread a certain message,” says Samir Al-Battran, CEO and founder of Canada-based Fedica, a cross-platform social media management tool for marketing firms. “Instead, the Fediverse should be considered as email, where everyone has their servers but can communicate with other people via a messaging protocol that links them all together.

In terms of engagement and users, the size of the Fediverse is small compared to the entrenched platforms. Some apps may take off; others may not. “There have been waves; some small have become bigger. The arrival of Meta would be a big wave,” he adds. “Eventually, all social media will join it. I don’t see it as a threat to them. I think it will open the door for them.”