Upcoming Feature: Follow Mastodon Users through Threads by the End of the Year – Insights from the Meta Meeting

Threads’ roadmap for integrations with the fediverse, aka the network of decentralized apps that includes Twitter/X rival Mastodon and others, has been revealed. In the meeting, which Coates characterized as a “good faith” effort by the Instagram team, the roadmap for Threads’ fediverse integration was laid out, starting with a December launch of a feature within the Threads app that would allow their posts to become visible to Mastodon clients. Meta did, in fact, start testing ActivityPub integration in December, allowing Threads posts to appear on Mastodon. In addition, this rule would potentially come into play when a user banned from Meta’s platform moved their content to another Mastodon server. Other questions remained unresolved at this time — like whether Threads would surface third-party Mastodon content in its algorithmic feed, whether it would ultimately allow for algorithmic choice, whether Mastodon content would be made to appear visually differentiated from Threads’ content in some way, and more.

Threads’ roadmap for integrations with the fediverse, also known as the network of decentralized apps, has been unveiled. In a new blog post, Tom Coates, co-founder of the older decentralized app Planetary, delves into a December meeting held at Meta’s headquarters, where the Threads team connected with members of the fediverse community to gather feedback on their project to challenge Twitter and X with a decentralized app that will eventually integrate with other fediverse platforms through the ActivityPub protocol.

The gathering, described by Coates as a “good faith” effort from the Instagram team, provided insight into the roadmap for Threads’ fediverse integration. The plan begins with the launch of a new feature within the Threads app this December, allowing posts to be visible on Mastodon clients.

“Meta actually started testing ActivityPub integration in December, enabling Threads posts to appear on Mastodon. However, this was only done with selected members of the Instagram team, including Instagram’s head Adam Mosseri, who is now the second-most followed account on Mastodon, just behind Mastodon’s official account with 675,606 followers.”

During the meeting, the Threads team also shared their upcoming steps as they venture into the fediverse. This includes enabling replies from Mastodon servers to be visible on the Threads app in early 2024 and, later in the year, allowing users to follow Mastodon accounts, reply to their posts, and like them. However, Coates mentions that the full interoperability between the two platforms is still being determined.

The team also discussed their approach to content moderation as they incorporate fediverse integration, stating that they will not display any content from the fediverse that violates their rules. This may come into play if a user banned from Meta’s platform moves their content to another Mastodon server.

Other questions have yet to be resolved, such as whether Threads will feature third-party Mastodon content in their algorithmic feed, if users will have the option to choose their own algorithm, and if there will be visual differences between Mastodon content and Threads’ content. The main takeaway is that Threads’ move to the fediverse is still a work in progress, and the team is actively determining the best course of action.

One notable detail from the post was Coates’ mention that he has heard from multiple sources that Meta’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, believes Threads should be “totally open.” In other words, Zuckerberg’s view is that the future of social networking is open. Coates offers various explanations for this, such as possibly trying to avoid future regulations or taking over Twitter/X’s position as the popular app amidst new owner Elon Musk’s intention to turn it into an everyday app, potentially taking away its value as a source for breaking news and conversations. However, it’s also possible that Zuckerberg is simply predicting the direction of the web as a whole.

But he is not the only tech executive placing bets on a decentralized future. Last month, Flipboard became a federated app with support for ActivityPub. Automattic has also made it possible for all WordPress.org and WordPress.com blogs to become federated, and mentioned plans to do the same for Tumblr next year. Additionally, both Medium and Mozilla have set up their own servers, and the latter has even backed a Mastodon client called Mammoth.

Explaining this move, Flipboard’s CEO Mike McCue stated in an interview with TechCrunch that what fascinated him about Mastodon and ActivityPub was not just its impact on social media, but its impact on the web as a whole.

“I saw what was happening with ActivityPub and it became clear to me that this is not just the future of social media, but of the web in general.” McCue compared it to his early days at Netscape, convincing publishers to adopt the web by creating websites. Eventually, the linking of webpages became the norm, shaping the web into what it is today.

“With the social web, we’re talking about people linking to pages and to other people, creating a more intricate web. It truly is the future of the web,” he added.

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Ava Patel

Ava Patel is a cultural critic and commentator with a focus on literature and the arts. She is known for her thought-provoking essays and reviews, and has a talent for bringing new and diverse voices to the forefront of the cultural conversation.

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