Is federation the future of every (social) tech platform?

Vijay Krishna Palepu
2 min readNov 8, 2022

I am not sure if humanity should adopt federation of every service on the internet. I am wondering, if humanity will.

Consider what would have happened if there was federation from the get-go: we would not need to make different social media accounts on different platforms, because a Facebook account would have been able to talk to a Twitter handle. The only reason why someone would want to go to Facebook/Twitter/etc is because of a better set of features or experiences.

We have done this with instant messaging. But the idea never caught to other types of services. One immediate challenge is the difference in the feature set on the various services: All the participating “nodes” or “sites” (e.g., Twitter or Snap or Facebook) in the federation will need to agree upon a common set of capabilities that all those sites will have, and in the event of a gap, there would need to be some way of “failing gracefully”. Consider an example around how users react to posts: an FB user sees a post from an Instagram user in their feed. They will be able to react to the post with a “like”, “heart”, “care” or “haha” … Instagram will need to translate/distill/“fail” that reaction into a “heart” (because Instagram has no other kind of post reactions).

But here is the bigger issue, and it is about account counts and ads revenue: if I can see all Instagram posts from my Twitter account, why would I — a Twitter user — go create an Instagram account and see the ads on Instagram? And without ads, specifically ads revenue, there is no way to fund these platforms.

It might actually be great for users, content creators even. A content creator on Youtube would be able to land in the feeds of users on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Whatsapp, Snap, Reddit … all without the YT creator needing to setup accounts on any of those platforms.

But this is not ideal for advertisers, and hence not ideal for the platforms. This question of economics/finances is about viability. It does not even contend with larger (more pressing) issues around if we (humans) should be doing this at all.

— vijay, #microblogging while watching the clown car that is Twitter



Vijay Krishna Palepu

researcher • software • program analysis . debugging • UCI • blogger • software visualizations • Microsoft • Views my own •