Mark Zuckerberg sets his eyes on Twitter users with a new text-sharing app!

Meta's upcoming app for sharing text updates can give Twitter and other text-based content-sharing platforms a run for their money. This is apparently Mark Zuckerberg's attempt to entice Twitter users who have expressed a desire to leave the microblogging network following Elon Musk's takeover.

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With over 3.74 billion monthly active people across its family of apps, Meta Platforms Inc. (NASDAQ: META) is at the forefront of connecting people, businesses, and communities in the digital age. Interestingly, Mark Zuckerberg has now turned his attention to Twitter’s user base. A Meta representative revealed that the company is currently developing a decentralized social network for sharing text updates. This move could position this future social platform as a direct competitor to Twitter, owned by billionaire Elon Musk.

Meta also confirmed the app development in a statement soon after Moneycontrol broke this story earlier today.

“We’re exploring a standalone decentralized social network for sharing text updates. We believe there’s an opportunity for a separate space where creators and public figures can share timely updates about their interests” a Meta spokesperson said.

According to insiders familiar with the matter who spoke to Moneycontrol, Meta (the parent company of Facebook and Instagram) is currently developing a strategy to create an independent app for text-based content that will be compatible with ActivityPub, that supports Mastodon (a competitor to Twitter) and other federated applications.

What is ActivityPub?

ActivityPub is a decentralized social networking protocol that enables different social networking platforms to communicate. It allows users to create and share content on one platform and interact with users on other platforms that support the protocol as if they are all part of the same network.

ActivityPub is designed to create a federated social web where users have more control over their data and can interact with others in a more open and decentralized way. It has been adopted by several social networking platforms, including Mastodon, PeerTube, and PixelFed.

What is Mastodon?

Mastodon is a free and open-source decentralized social networking platform powered by ActivityPub protocol. It was created as an alternative to centralized social networking platforms like Twitter, with an aim to provide users with greater control over their data and the ability to create and participate in online communities without being subject to centralized control or commercial interests.

Mastodon allows users to create their own communities (known as “instances”) that are hosted on different servers but can still communicate with each other thanks to the ActivityPub protocol. As a result, it has gained popularity among individuals and communities looking for a more open and decentralized social media platform.

Meta’s new app: P92

Some media sources revealed that Meta’s upcoming app would be under the Instagram brand, and users will be able to log in/register using their Instagram credentials. Additionally, Moneycontrol has obtained an internal product brief that outlines the app’s functionality and various features.

It remains unclear whether the app, codenamed P92, is still in its conceptual phase or the development has already begun. According to a source, the app is still a work in progress.

The development of this new app came when a sizable number of users have been seeking alternatives to Twitter, such as Mastodon, Post.news and T2. However, some of these platforms have seen a decline in users after an initial surge.

Mastodon’s monthly active user base grew 8X, from just 300,000 to 2.5 million, between October and Movember 2022. However, this represents only about 1% of Twitter’s total user base. In comparison, Instagram has a monthly active user count of 2 billion, which is eight times the size of Twitter. Meta’s family of apps, including Instagram, Facebook, and WhatsApp, have a global user base of 3.74 billion.

Twitter’s battle with a growing number of technical issues caused multiple outages and glitches. The microblogging platform has faced controversies surrounding content moderation and unpopular policy changes since Musk took over. In recent weeks, the platform experienced at least two outages, one of which prevented users from accessing their timelines. These issues were reportedly compounded by Musk’s decision to lay off over 75% of the company’s staff, including key engineers.

Previously in December 2022, Meta rolled out ‘Notes’ on Instagram, which allows its users to share short posts of up to 60 characters using only text and emojis. This was also touted as Twitter’s alternative.

Salient Features of Meta’s decentralised app

The initial version of Meta’s decentralized social networking app will include features like tappable links in posts with previews (similar to Twitter), user bio, username, verification badges, images, and videos. The app will also allow followers and likes, though it is unclear whether commenting and messaging features will be included in the initial release. However, these features will eventually be added.

According to an internal source, Meta’s current plan is to have the minimum viable product (MVP), which will enable users to broadcast posts to people on other servers. Still, it is not yet confirmed whether it will allow users to follow and view content from people on other servers.

The plan doesn’t end here!

Another media source reported that the company is presently discussing whether to restrict content resharing to business and creator accounts or enable it for everyone’s accounts, much like Twitter.

The app will integrate a rights manager for first-party content from the beginning, but it is uncertain if third-party content from other apps and servers will have the same capability.

Meta intends to adopt the “fork” technique with the MVP, which means that users must first register for or log into the P92 app using their Instagram login credentials, and their profile will be automatically updated with other account details such as name, username, bio, profile photo, followers.

According to the product brief, the app will be available under the company’s current privacy policy. However, a supplementary privacy policy and specific terms of service for the app will mention cross-app data sharing.

“P92 users will be notified of and agree to this notice/terms when signing up to P92. Eventually, the graph will split and, after initial sign up, the data sharing from Instagram to P92 will be minimal, if not none,” said the product brief seen by Moneycontrol.

Interestingly, Meta aims to structure the terms of service in such a way that Instagram users who do not sign up for P92 will still be recommended to those who do. This is only a way to increase the user base of the P92 app through friend recommendations.

Additionally, the P92 team aims to use the Instagram data of all Instagram users, irrespective of their involvement in P92, for analytics, enhancing the product, and ranking on P92 as much as possible.

Takeaway

The legal and regulatory teams are examining potential privacy concerns, although no release date has been announced yet for Meta’s upcoming app codenamed P92. The CEO of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, is leading the project. The project’s most notable feature is its decentralized network, which would allow users to establish their servers and content moderation regulations.

Furthermore, creating a decentralized network could allow Meta to try out new ideas that challenge the typical criticisms directed towards its other social media platforms, including Facebook and Instagram. By permitting users to establish their servers and set their own rules for content moderation, Meta could develop an application that offers a more flexible and diverse user experience.

However, this approach may address some concerns regarding Facebook and Instagram’s centralized content moderation policies, which have been the subject of criticism in the past. Meta would establish a “floor” of regulations, with various groups establishing their community guidelines, comparable to how subreddits function on Reddit.

The optimal business model for such an application is currently unknown, and no profitable, globally scaled decentralized network has been developed yet. One of the challenges developers face is that basic social network functions, such as following other users, become more complex when user accounts are dispersed across a vast network of servers.

However, Meta’s upcoming decentralized social network, codenamed “P92,” can potentially revolutionise how we interact online. P92 could provide a much-needed alternative to centralized social media giants like Twitter by offering a decentralised platform that prioritises user privacy and control. While it remains to be seen how successful P92 will be in the long run, it’s clear that Zuckerberg is taking an important step toward creating a more equitable and democratic digital landscape.

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