The interest here isn’t in using the proprietary Twitch source code to build competing services. Rather, this code offers a rare glimpse into the inner workings of one of the Anglosphere’s most significant social media platforms. A chance perform a concrete analysis of all the anti-patterns, surveillance mechanisms, and information controls which characterize modern platform capitalism. A chance to measure our paranoia against the state of the art of corporate social media.
It would be even cooler if we could dig through the code of Facebook, Google, or Twitter, but Twitch is close enough where we could extrapolate a lot of insights and better understand the state of the industry.
These past few years there has been a lot of discourse about “The Algorithm.” How all these major platforms, like Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, and YouTube curate what we see based on marketing profiles, demographic information, our comment, likes, dislikes, tracking cookies etc. How they shattering our shared epistemology. How they push particular narratives and ideologies, while demoting or censoring information which threatens the state. How they shadow-ban users and media. The ability to demystify “The Algorithm” and understand exactly what these companies are doing behind the scenes is incredibly valuable.
At the end of the day, you can’t solve socioeconomic and political problems with an app. The monopolization of social media is an inherently political problem, and ultimately the only solutions are political in nature. Centralized platforms like Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, and YouTube wield immense power over the way we communicate, and that power is not something that will be surrendered willingly. One might hope that market forces would spur competition, but the past couple decades of tech industry history has only indicated a tendency towards consolidation. Every “promising” upstart company like YouTube, WhatsApp, Twitch, GitHub etc. ultimately succumbs to the Google/Facebook/Microsoft/Amazon blob.
Fediverse platforms like Lemmy, Mastodon, Peertube, Matrix, etc. are great technology. They are the future of the Internet - or at least, they deserve to be. The problem is, the technical details of federation and the implications of software licensing tend to get lost on the vast majority of people who aren’t either software engineers or activists. Most people don’t seem to care about privacy as long as they can get their memes and talk to grandma. As a pathological Free Software nerd myself, I’d talk to friends and family about how awful Facebook is for years and they’d literally reply “if you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to fear.”
I’ve been praying for a long time for decentralized, Free Software social media to take off. I remember the snazzy videos and Kickstarter campaign that launched the Diaspora network ten years ago. I was crushed when it made virtually no inroads into the Facebook monopoly.
The trend as it appears to me is that alternative social media platforms tend to grow the quickest when the monopoly platforms produce exile communities. Mastodon grew to millions of users out of dissatisfaction about the way Twitter was being operated (and then Gab is another story). Platforms like Raddle, Voat, Tildes, Lemmy, Hexbear, and TD.win (ugh) have grown either due to the fact that they were expelled from Reddit, or were so sick of the direction Reddit was heading in they decided to strike it out on their own.
At the end of the day, software is just a tool. Federated social networking is among the most promising tools in the box because federation appears to be the only plausible mechanism to overcoming the network effect, but it is still just a tool. The adoption of federated social networking platforms will be driven primarily by social forces, and I think the best way for us to promote the use of federated social media is to facilitate this process whenever push comes to shove.
Additionally, there is a plan to implement a purge feature for particularly egregious posts, but as long as these communities are not allowed to spread their roots here, there shouldn’t be much of an issue. Seeing fascists and bigots getting whacked in the mod log doesn’t bother me much at all.
There’s nothing stopping them from setting up their own instances (like Gab did with Mastodon), but they will be ostracized from the fediverse.