In 2018, I wrote this post about how I felt we were a year or two away from beginning to shift back to a decentralized social web experience. At the time, the primary reason I cited was a severe degradation of the overall user experience on centralized social sites like Twitter and Facebook.
When trying to understand the difference between a centralized and decentralized social web experience, look at it this way:
Centralized: Twitter and Facebook. A lot of people, talking about everything. Control rests with the platform, not the content creator.
Decentralized: Blogs. Far fewer people, talking about just a few topics. Control rests with the content creator since it is their blog.
So in 2018 when I wrote the above post, the ‘control’ issue hadn’t yet raised it’s ugly head like I knew it would eventually. As we are now all aware, Twitter and Facebook have gone to great lengths to remove content it feels is objectionable on its platforms over the last few months. Some people feel what Twitter and Facebook has done in removing content is completely just and acceptable, others feel it is outright censorship that must be addressed. My view has always been that once a platform starts making judgement calls on what content is or is not acceptable for its community, then we have started down a very slippery slope. And the angle of that slope is completely dependent on the objectivity of the humans that moderate the content on their platforms.
But more than anything else, it has long worried me that platforms like Twitter and Facebook are acting like publishers and exerting increasing amounts of control over the content that can be published on its platforms. This concerns me not only as a content creator, but also as a consultant who works with companies on building and executing digital strategies. My advice is simple:
One of the top priorities for your content strategy in 2021 should be claiming more control over your content. Move resources back to channels you control (site, newsletter, blog) and away from big tech channels that you don’t. #contentcircus #contentmarketing
— Mack Collier (@MackCollier) January 26, 2021
I recently discovered that former Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger shares some of those concerns, and is working to address them, in his own way:
My first microblog! https://t.co/Hcr4lmKPEB
It's a social media feed run out of a WordPress blog. It doesn't have a special plugin; it's just a theme I adapted myself, in which I limit myself to 280 characters. But it kinda works!
— Larry Sanger (@lsanger) January 21, 2021
What Larry has done, in essence, is take back control of his tweets. He’s built a way on his blog to ‘tweet’ from his blog, then send the content to Twitter. So if Twitter decides to remove his content, that just removes it from Twitter, the content will still exist on his blog. Here’s an example of a ‘tweet’ he created on his blog, then sent to Twitter.
To be fair, this attempt is painfully crude. But it does work. What this could lead to eventually could be a scenario where content creators post short 140/280 character thoughts on their blogs, which are then sent to Twitter in the form of a tweet. Over time, a sort of ‘reader’ could be developed similar to the blog readers that pull in a blog’s RSS feed, so that we could subscribe to the ‘microblog’ feed from our favorite bloggers and viola…you could subscribe to the ‘tweets’ from your favorite content creators and bypass Twitter altogether!
The momentum toward a decentralized social web where the individual content creator has more control over their content is growing. And in an evil scientist sort of way, guess who is jumping in and trying to get in front of the decentralization parade? Twitter.
We’re now interviewing candidates who ideally will run a new non-profit Twitter Inc funds, yet doesn’t control.
The alternative is to fund an existing project (or do both). That’s the next decision. https://t.co/6k82TfN0WS
— jack (@jack) January 22, 2021
NEWS: Twitter has acquired the newsletter publishing platform Revue.
— The Hustle (@TheHustle) January 26, 2021
Twitter can sense that a lot of its users are upset with its recent censoring of content, and are moving to other content creation tools. So the company tries to get in front of that rush, and secure the tools and functionality that it feels users will move to, such as newsletters.
The tug-of-war over a decentralized vs centralized social web is also one of control vs convenience. Right now, the pendulum is swinging back toward control for content creators, especially businesses that create content. When you are building your content team, focus on hiring managers that have a proven track record of developing engagement and community around content. This will make the process of detaching from social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook far easier for your business.