The Big Story
This year, we have seen the social media landscape continue to transform with the rise and fall of social giants (RIP Twitter) and the introduction of new AI technology. As both the space and the creator economy continue to grow and evolve, so does the need for more data privacy, content moderation and algorithmic control. In search of solutions and ways to advance their own platforms, some social companies, including Meta’s Threads, are starting to toy with the idea of getting involved with decentralized social networks, AKA the “Fediverse”. Since the fall of Twitter and the rise of Zuckerberg’s Threads, there has been increasingly more online chatter about the Fediverse and its ability to reshape the landscape, but what exactly is it?
Before we begin, it’s important to understand the current landscape and the pressures it faces. Not only are there a lot of different social networks these days, but the majority of them are closed off and siloed. As social media users, we know we are unable to access and interact with a social site’s content without being registered to the platform. For example, without an account for YouTube, a user may watch a video but cannot leave a comment on it. A user without a Facebook or Instagram account can’t even really access the platform’s content at all without registering. Furthermore, these social networks heavily rely on the content generated by its users but fail to give them appropriate control over the platforms on which they are creating – all while these social networks are profiting by selling as much of their data as they can collect.
The goal of the Fediverse is to alleviate the pressures of traditional social networks. In the simplest terms, the Fediverse, or the federated universe, is a group of independent social networks that allows its users to interact with each other as they would within a single platform. For example, Mark Zuckerberg recently announced that Threads is officially starting to test integrations within the Fediverse. This would mean that a user’s post on Threads could then be seen on other participating platforms, like Mastodon. Each participating platform consists of a community of independent servers otherwise known as “instances.” Users that create these communities or instances independently maintain the server and control their user community, rules and moderation system. It’s important to note that the Fediverse is currently ad-free and instances are funded by their admins.
All of this is made possible by the use of ActivityPub, a decentralized social networking protocol. We can picture ActivityPub as the universal language spoken by the platforms that live in the Fediverse which allows them to understand and interact with each other.
Now that we have a better idea of what the Fediverse is, why should we care about it?
- Decentralization Fosters Freedom – Without a single entity controlling the entire network, users enjoy greater freedom and autonomy. Users with specific interests can create their own instance with their own set of rules.
- Privacy and Data Ownership – The distributed nature of the network means that user information isn’t concentrated in one place. Users get to decide where to host their data, reducing the risk of unauthorized access and giving them a say in how their online presence is managed.
- Diverse Communities, Diverse Voices – With a multitude of instances and social signals, users can find spaces that cater to their specific interests.
- Interconnected Platforms, Seamless Experience – No more walled gardens. The Fediverse’s interoperability ensures that your online interactions aren’t confined to a single platform. Communicate across instances, discover new perspectives, and engage in conversations that transcend the boundaries of traditional social media.
As of now, the Fediverse is pretty small compared to the likes of Meta, however we are starting to hear about more social companies, like Flipboard, making the jump. Although we are likely far from a completely decentralized social network, it’s important to know where the space could be heading, especially as mainstream social giants like Meta start to get involved.
After cutting ties with big-time advertisers over safety concerns last month, Elon Musk and X are up against their next hurdle: The European Union. Under the newly published Digital Services Act (DSA), the EU has opened a formal proceeding against X for suspected breaches of obligations around disinformation and transparency. Amidst conflict in the Middle East, there has been a rise in harmful content, disinformation and hate speech on the platform, causing immediate concerns among the Commission. This investigation looks to uncover how the platform is handling the spread of illegal content and the effectiveness of the measures taken. This includes looking at X’s Community Notes system, which was a safety measure launched earlier in the year to allow users to flag false or misleading content. The Commission also wants to look into how X’s purchasable checkmark verification, which was originally used to identify public figures on Twitter, could potentially be misleading users and spreading false information. Although the timeline of the investigation is unclear and will likely take time, X could take a big hit if found guilty as the DSA poses fines up to 6% of a company’s revenue.
Under recent pressure from US states and Congress, a trade group representing Meta, TikTok and X filed a lawsuit this month against Utah for its age verification and parental consent rules. These rules, which are set to take effect in March 2024, require all social media users, including both adults and minors, to provide in-depth age verification to access social accounts. Anyone under the age of 18 would need to get their parents’ written consent to create an account and then would need additional parental authorization to use social media during “curfew” hours between 10:30pm and 6:30am. These rules were established earlier this year as state officials try to determine how to best handle child safety online. In the lawsuit filed by NetChoice, they claim that Utah’s age verification and parental consent rules violate the First Amendment rights of both children and adults.
January 4th marks the day that Google will officially begin phasing out third-party cookies with the release of a new browser feature, Tracking Protection. Starting that day, Tracking Protection will be rolled out to 1% of Chrome users around the world. Google noted that starting with a small percentage of Chrome users will allow web developers more time to “test their readiness for a web without third-party cookies.” When enabled, the feature will cut off a website’s access to third-party cookies to limit cross-site tracking. Those that are selected at random to participate will be notified within the Chrome browser and will be given the option to temporarily re-enable third-party cookies for problematic sites.
IPG Mediabrands has teamed up with Amazon in a three-year deal to support their upcoming launch of Prime Video ads in 2024. These ads will first be rolled out to the US, UK, Germany, and Canada followed by France, Italy, Spain, Mexico and Australia later in the year. According to Amazon, Prime Video can reach an estimated 115 million viewers monthly, opening a wealth of opportunity for IPG and its clients. “Amazon’s latest offering brings a first-to-market opportunity for our clients to reach consumers at the category level in a comprehensive, scalable way, from culture and content to commerce and shoppable experiences,” said Eileen Kiernan, Global CEO of IPG. Under the agreement, IPG will work with Amazon on strategies for their clients and will be at the forefront of testing Prime Video’s new ad formats and content sponsorships. In return, IPG and their clients are able to tap into Amazon’s rich first-party data to create more relevant ad experiences for Prime Video viewers.
As the need for brand safety continues to grow throughout the space, YouTube has announced its expanded partnership with third-party measurement platforms Integral Ad Science (IAS) and DoubleVerify. Under this partnership, these tools will work to ensure brand safety for advertising campaigns on YouTube Shorts with strengthened trackability and measurement insights. This comes not long after YouTube’s parent company Google was caught under fire earlier this year after being called out by Adalytics for violating privacy regulations. Dubbed as one of the “fastest growing video formats in digital advertising” by the IAS CEO, YouTube Shorts has seen over 2 billion users with over 70 billion views each day. With increased safety measures, YouTube hopes to boost its monetization potential.