Xanadu

Xanadu
Photo by Alina Grubnyak / Unsplash

Throughout the last 48 hours I have been descending ever further into the federated internet rabbit hole. While trying to wrap my head around it all, the words of Samuel Taylor Coleridge came to mind.

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.

from Kubla Khan, by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

When I first encountered the “fediverse”, I wondered if people might not prove it’s undoing. While it’s wonderful to imagine a diverse network of communities spread across the internet, it’s probable that people will turn variety into difference – and communities into factions.

In my experience, people tend to ruin everything.

Just as a community might form to foster and protect a vulnerable minority, another community might form to pollute surrounding communities with hate.

It’s already happening. Groups are emerging to cater for every undesirable predilection you might imagine – from extremism, to racism, sexism, bigotry, and so on.

Thankfully the developers of the federated internet foresaw such obvious events, and built in the ability to block entire communities – and to share information with the wider network. A vaccine of sorts to a social virus – depriving tolls of the air needed to spread their hate.

It strikes me that gatekeepers of federated internet communities are essentially benevolent dictators. There’s only one problem with that – when did you ever see a dictator remain benevolent?

It’s going to be interesting – watching the federated internet build itself – watching it twist, contort, and evolve. A tipping point appears to have been reached in recent days – a trickle of newcomers has become a flood.

I wonder what will happen when the corporate and commercial worlds inevitably attempt to exploit the new networks. Any attempt to pollute the firehose with advertising or marketing is not going to go well for them – I can almost hear their complaints about being blocked from huge swathes of the internet landscape already.

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