I have been trying to grok Mastodon for the last week now. And this one thought has been gnawing at me for a while. Seen those handles yet? Mine is @firstname.lastname@example.org … sure prefixed by an ‘@’. But otherwise, these handles look a lot like email addresses … SMTP addresses to be precise.
Now, I can get into the technical definitions of what a federated system is, email servers etc. But what I really want to talk about is “public” email. And the social aspects of email.
Contact lists in email were a user’s OG social network in the early days of the internet. It was just the digital extension of the age-old social network that folks had in the days of letter-writing and postcards.
But most of those posts or emails or messages were private … between individuals sending and getting the messages. But what if I were to send an email to the “world” or make it publicly accessible.
Hey.com did this recently and it was pitched and set up as a blogging system. “Blog from your email” they said.
But that was never going to evolve into a social network, given that it costs money to use hey.com. Who wants to pay for an email address that gives you a blogging platform on the side?
But if you took a few free email offerings, like Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook (heck take all the college edu email servers out there) and get them to pump messages to a public stream of posts that anyone on the internet can read. Isn’t that just Mastodon?
So, the big question: would users want to mix their private email with public messages in their Sent folders? Or does it make sense to keep Gmail and Mastodon separate?
#microblogging my way to understanding decentralized social networks