Yesterday’s decoder episode is an interview with Eugen Rochko, the author and BDFL of Mastadon – the crowd-funded, open source decentralized social network that many Twitter users are moving to (myself included).
At its core, it’s a pretty standard story of an open source project disrupting a multi-billion dollar market with large, well-funded incumbents. The wrinkle in this story is that the primary incumbent is struggling to align to a massive overvaluation and is run by the world’s richest person – Elon Musk.
The next chapter of the Mastodon story is about commercial sustainability as it scales. I’m assuming that there will be new rounds of growth fueled by Elon Musk’s efforts to monetize the huge Twitter install base. The impending blue check mark sign-up deadline will likely cause another Twitter diaspora, and Twitter seems to be in a tailspin.
Rochko and the Mastodon ecosystem face some challenges – on the one hand, they have to ensure no single vendor dominates the fediverse. Conversely, the BDFL model provides the focus and direction many open source projects lack. And typically – a BDFL model requires a dominant vendor to guide the development and roadmap to fit the market need. Without a balanced ecosystem, we’re back to where we are today.
The challenge for incumbents is whether they can afford to ignore the unifying standards behind the fediverse (e.g., ActivityPub) and whether they have enough user affinity to avoid users taking their content and social graphs elsewhere.
It’s going to be interesting to see how this plays out.
I’ve been playing with Mastadon for a while, and you can follow me here: https://techhub.social/@RichSharples