February 19, 2021

Mastodon is bound to fail

…and that's probably for the better.

I have a problem with my blog. It used to be powered by Wordpress, but the CMS pissed me off without end over the years, so I migrated to Hugo. That fixed a lot of the problems, except the main one: it is still (mostly) a Wordpress style blog, in which posts are fat content pieces of content, consisting of a title and at least one paragraph of text. This is utterly unsuitable for things like posting quick status updates or sharing thoughts. Twitter does way better here, but it’s a proprietary platform, I’m not willing to bind myself to.

So, how about Mastodon then? Looks like Twitter, works like Twitter, but is federated and sadly, also a lost cause.

The thing, Mastodon gets wrong

To me, it seems like Mastodon is trying to be a social network, while, ironically, completely failing to understand the network effect. It’s the right tool for the wrong people (or the wrong tool for the right people? I don’t know).

Let’s face it, what we want is a platform where you can have an intelligent conversation, where our privacy is respected and where we stay in control. But that’s not at all the audience, social media is build for. This ecosystem is entirely build around all those gone gaga self promoters and would be celebrities that have nothing to contribute to society, except “themselves”. Attention whores, that are willing to sacrifice any last piece of dignity, if only it increases their following, so they have a number to show to their sponsors. The deal, influencers enter is simple: bring in two new followers to the platform, get (an old) one for free. Keep any of the money, you may make from sponsors. Now go and post pictures of your lunch before (and after) you eat it.

An ugly truth about building a better mousetrap It's the shitty parts, that made the original design so successful.

And that in a nutshell is why Mastodon is going to fail: it simply is not build for the people who bring in other people, as it lacks any reward mechanism for multipliers. Social media is (and has to be) inherently anti-privacy in order to allow for monetizing one’s personal life. A commodity, available to everyone without any skill requirement to exploit, so there’s no shortage of dipshits, willing to take the deal. Most fail, but even in doing so, still promote the networks.

Quo vadis

So, Mastodon has a choice. Either continue on the path of mimicking Twitter (without getting the crucial part right) and stay a niche product. Or (actively) attract marketeers, influencers and other attention whores, by promising them an audience while becoming a federated ad platform.

Either way, it’s not for me.