Michał Sapka's website

Mastodon Has Already Won

A few years ago, the internet has changed. What was open and crazy became closed and tamed. Facebook, Twitter, and Myspace - big companies took it all. People no longer have their websites, email became synonymous with Google, and Messenger, Discord, etc., took over instant messaging. We stopped owning the internet and started renting the space from a few companies. Their grasp is firm, and nothing changes unless they make something foolish.

Not that there are no alternatives. We always had open-source and free replacements. We are still able to use (and host) bulletin boards, blogs, emails, IRC, Jitsi, or XMPP. Those alternatives are proven, stable, and feature-rich but lack the most crucial aspect - the user base. You can use it, but your friends or family won’t. You become part of a small community when you join any of those. It’s fantastic, but Zuckerberg had nothing to fear. If you want to message a friend, the friend is most likely on Messenger/WhatsApp.

The only counter-example I can think of is Mastodon. Recently the network passed 10 million users. 10 million may not sound impressive next to 450 million monthly active users of Twitter, but it’s a lot.

We are seeing something new. Musk is slowly destroying Twitter, and, of course, someone will benefit from it. Recently, this would be another VC-backed personal data-gathering machine. But somehow, contrary to any logic, people moved to an open-source solution.

This is what I consider the victory of Mastodon. It showed us that a free, open-source, not backed by any big company product can be a viable contender.

We’ve seen some free products gain tremendous traction, but only after help from big businesses. For example, Linux got a lot of support from IBM; Android is Google-owned, and VSCode is from Microsoft.

Mastodon is a creation of a single Russian dude. And, by a lucky dice roll, it became the first real success of the open-source world. So for me, even if Mastodon disappears tomorrow, it will already be a great victory.

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