The More The Merrier

Posted by Matt Birchler
— 2 min read

John Gruber: Not That Kind of ‘Open’

The whole point of ActivityPub as an open protocol is to turn Twitter/Instagram-like social networking into something more akin to email: truly open. If Facebook were on the cusp of launching a Gmail-like email service, would you preemptively declare that your email server would block them? To me that’s what this “Anti-Meta Fedi Pact” is arguing for.

Without getting too into the weeds, it’s my opinion that the point of open standards is that anyone can use them, and they make software made by different companies work better together. As Gruber mentions, I love that email’s underlying standards mean I can message anyone in the world no matter what email app I choose, and I also love that the RSS standard lets me read over 100 websites in a unified interface. Not to get too grandiose, but I have to call out HTML, which lets me open one browser and read the entire internet.

ActivityPub is an open standard, and it enables some cool features, including the ability to follow people who are using numerous different front ends all in one place. For example, I use a Mastodon account to log into Ivory and that lets me follow people using Mastodon, Pixelfed,, and more services. I don’t need to switch apps to see my friends, they just show up in the same feed, and that’s powered by ActivityPub.

We don’t know all the details of this Threads app yet, but it sounds like it will fully integrate with ActivityPub, which will mean I, as a Mastodon user using Ivory, will be able to follow and reply to people using the Threads app. I would expect them to be able to follow me as well. It’s unclear how migrating to or away from Threads will work (if at all), and we don’t know how Meta is going to monetize this app; one can assume ads, but how exactly, we’ll see.

I get that people have concerns about Meta, and I do too, but the reasons I’ve seen people give as to why they want to preemptively block Meta from interacting at all with this open standard have been unconvincing to me.

If you don’t want to see Threads content in your feed, you can choose not to follow anyone using the service. If you want to block it entirely, Mastodon lets you easily block an entire instance from never appearing in your feed again. If you’re worried about advertising posts getting into Mastodon, maybe, but also I’d like to ask how Meta would force you, someone who doesn’t use their service, from seeing ads.

The worst case scenario I’ve heard from people I’ve talked to about this is that Meta will get some good will from integrating to ActivityPub and then they’ll fork it and go off and do their own thing, breaking the ability for those of us using Mastodon to follow Threads users. That certainly sounds annoying, but it’s also exactly the situation we’re in today. If this is the darkest timeline, then honestly it doesn’t seem that bad.

I love Mastodon, but it’s just me following my nerdy friends. Threads is sure to be more mainstream and will bring many more people into the fold. If I can follow more people while retaining my ability to use the best apps out there (Ivory, Mona, etc) then that sounds like a pretty good deal to me. Bring on Threads, and bring on more companies embracing ActivityPub.