inessential by Brent Simmons

Alternative to Twitter?

It’s self-evident, I hope, that the best alternative to Twitter would be, like the web itself, not owned by a vendor.

It would be decentralized — there would be no single point of failure (no one big fail whale) and no single concentration of power. Again, like the web itself.

(This is not a critique of capitalism, by the way. I’m a big fan.)

This would remove the barriers to innovation and entrepeneurship. Nobody could stop anybody else from writing apps. There could be all kinds of companies, from the smallest one-person shops to the biggest companies, that work and compete in that ecosystem, but none of them could own it.

But how do you create a system as easy-to-use as Twitter? In a decentralized system, how do you find people to follow? How do you know how many followers you have? How does a message get to everybody? How do you even get started as a new user?

I don’t have all the answers — I don’t even know what all the questions are.

We know that decentralized systems are possible. Again, look at the web: there’s no one big webserver. Or email (as much as we don’t like email). RSS (near to my heart). Usenet. Decentralization is the rule, not the exception, on the internet.

Creating a decentralized system as compelling and ready-for-prime-time as Twitter would be quite a challenge.

Is it a good idea? Is it a necessary idea? I don’t know. But I do know that I like thinking about it.