A decentralized Twitter

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There’s been a lot of talk lately about the problems with Twitter. Is a decentralized alternative the way to go? And what does that look like? Mastodon is an example of a decentralized approach by running on multiple servers. But is that enough? What about making content available outside of its platform?

Utilizing the indie web

Having worked as a web designer, I’ve setup a bunch of websites with various hosting companies and on various types of servers. The process has gotten easier throughout the years, but it’s still not as simple as signing up for a Twitter account.

But there are newer types of static asset based hosts that don’t require advanced backend setup. And they have API’s to interact with.

Along with this, there are standard web technologies made for sharing content: RSS and email. What do static hosts and these technologies have in common? They can be used to publish content from an external source.

Putting them together

This means that an interface can be designed that looks similar to Twitter and other social platforms, but that publishes using these technologies for a social network that essentially models web standards. A user can sign up for a hosting account and connect their credentials to the interface that can then be used in the background to publish content on their own server, and shared as RSS or via email.

Their timeline of content is a collection of RSS feeds that they follow that come from the web. Their posts are output to an RSS feed that comes from their host where their content lives, including a public profile page where people can follow them based on their chosen preference.

Content can be posted as short form or long form, always shown in a timeline view (with longer form content getting a summary view). Each post gets its own page for reading longer form posts, and for sharing and commenting on any post. When sending out email, posts made can be selected and sent together as a digest.

Costs and incentives

What are the costs involved? Most static site hosts are free to start, with certain bandwidth limits that are more than enough for a standard account. The same goes for email sending. And the overhead cost for the interface is minimal since it doesn’t host any of the content itself, so it can also be free.

What would be the incentive to use this platform for someone that doesn’t care what happens behind the scenes? The goal is to make the interface simple enough that they don’t have to think about it. But as they think about how their content goes out to people, they see the potential in a wider reach as their followers can choose how they want to get their content. They don’t even have to be signed up for the platform to get updates.

I’ve been working towards turning this concept into a web app. If this sounds like something you’d be interested in potentially using, let me know, any feedback is welcome! You can also sign up to be notified when I have something ready here.