Social Media Architectures and Their Consequences

By Johannes Ernst


This is an outcome of a session I ran at last week’s “Logging Off Facebook – What comes next?” unconference. We explored what technical architecture choices have which technical, or non-technical consequences for social media products.

This table was created during the session. It is not complete, and personally I disagree with a few points, but it’s still worthwhile publishing IMHO.

So here you are:

Facebook-style ("centralized") Mastodon-style ("federated") IndieWeb-style ("distributed/P2P") Blockchain-style
Moderation Uniform, consistent moderation policy for all users Locally different moderation policies, but consistent for all users on a node Every user decides on their own Posit - algorithmic smart contract that drives consensus
Censorship easy; global one node at a time full censorship not viable full censorship not viable
Software upgrades Fast, uncomplicated for all users Inconsistent across the network Inconsistent across the network Consistent, but large synchronization / management costs
Money Centralized; most accumulated by "Facebook" Donations (BuyMeACoffee, LiberaPay); Patronage (Patreon) Paid to/earned by network nodes; value fluctuates due to speculation
Authentication Centralized Decentralized (e.g. Solid, OpenID, SSI) Decentralized (e.g. wallets)
Advertising Decided by "Facebook" Not usually Determined by user
Governance Centralized, unaccountable Several components: protocol-level, code-level and instance-level Several components: protocol-level, code-level and instance-level
Search & Discovery
Group formation
Ownership Totalitarian Individual