Here are some very important quotes from the head of Instagram on their roll-out of ActivytPub support and how they plan to interact with the Fediverse: which he commits to being a “fast follow” feature to add now that they have launched, where he commits to decentralization to be a long term feature, and where he discusses how content moderation at IG Threads will work with Federation server content moderation:
And I do think that decentralization — but more specifically or more broadly, more open systems are where the industry is getting pulled and is going to grow over time. And for us, a new app offers us an opportunity to meaningfully participate in that space in the way it would be very difficult for us to support an incredibly large app like Instagram over. And so to lean into where the industry is going, to learn, it’s been very humbling speaking to a bunch of people in the community who look at us, unsurprisingly, with a lot of skepticism. But I do think it’s going to be fundamentally good. And I do think it’s going to translate into not philosophical, but meaningful things for creators over the long run. Like, you should be able to take your audience, if you build up an audience on Threads — and if you decide to leave Threads, take your audience with you. And theoretically, over time, we should be able to support use cases like that that really empower creators and, I think, lean into what creators are going to demand and expect over time.
There definitely are trade-offs. You’re giving up some control. But there are benefits. I do think, over time, it’s going to be a more compelling value proposition that other apps aren’t going to offer. And I think that should attract more creative talent over the long run. Obviously, I don’t think a large percentage of creators are interested in this, specifically decentralized technology, today. But more and more are. And they’re definitely interested in things like owning their audience.
We also get some benefits. If there are other apps that are really large that use the same protocol, you’ll be able to follow content from those servers in our app. And so it is a give and take. But yeah, you are giving up some control. It’s not absolute control. So for instance, you can build other things into the app that the ActivityPub protocol does not support. And they’ll just be limited to the app. So you don’t have to limit the things you build to things that the protocol has already designed for. But obviously, you won’t benefit from any of the decentralized opportunities if you do that.
Kevin Roose: So do you think that the decentralization piece of this actually will result in a better user experience? Or is it just kind of like a bone to maybe throw the company’s critics people who say, I don’t want to use another app owned by Meta, I’m wary of what they’re going to do with my data, or I’m worried about some of the privacy considerations there? Is the decentralization piece actually going to move the needle for adoption on Threads?
Mosseri: I don’t think it’s going to move the adoption in the short term. But I do think it’s going to move the adoption in the long term. I sure hope so because it’s a ton of work. And if it doesn’t, then it certainly was time poorly spent. Supporting a decentralized protocol with all the different things that we do — reporting flows, classifying things, ranking content — is actually a ton of work. It’s one of the reasons why it’s taken much longer than I wanted to get this thing out the door. And we’re still not actually supporting ActivityPub protocol at launch. Hopefully, we’re fast-following with that. So yeah, I believe it will move the needle over the long run….And to me, this is in the column of things that are, I think, going to be meaningful over the next two years, or three years, or four years. I don’t think it’s going to meaningfully change what usage of the app looks like over the next two or three months.
Kevin Roose: If eventually Threads is interoperable with Mastodon or something else that’s built on ActivityPub, maybe people are putting stuff there that you would never permit under the Instagram community guidelines. So I guess my two questions there — one is just, how is content moderated on Threads in general? Does it fall under Instagram’s guidelines? And then how is that going to evolve once you start plugging this thing into other apps?
Mosseri: So the community guidelines are the same for Threads as they are for Instagram. There’s an immense amount of benefit there because we can bring the systems that we’ve already built and extend them to a new app. And that allows us to keep a lot of people much safer much more easily than having to spin up a whole bunch of new policies and implementations and enforcement.
It will also apply to content that you can pull in from other servers. But it’s important to note that the ActivityPub protocol leaves space for this. They are very clear, if you talk to the community, that different servers should have different policies and different guidelines. And they should be allowed to enforce those. And so yes, you can pull content from another server into your app. But then you can also decide not to show it or to block it in your app. If it violates your policies without blocking that content on the server from which it originated.