Why a Twitter founding engineer is all-in on Mastodon now | Jobs Vox


Blaine Cook joined Odeo, Eve Williams’ startup, in 2005. Along with his fellow developer Rabble (aka Evan Henshaw-Plath), Cook was one of Twitter’s founding engineers in 2006. own company, headed by its original creator, Jack Dorsey. But then, in April 2008, Cook – described at the time as Twitter’s “chief architect” – abruptly quit.

Very few people know that Cook unsuccessfully tried to persuade its bosses at Twitter to create a decentralized version of the service. A photo taken in February 2008 shows him and another developer, Ralf Meijer, creating a map for a federated Twitter and Jaiku (a similar microblogging site) via XMPP PubSub.

Blaine Cook (left) and Ralph Meijer map out a federal social media service in February 2008. Photo by Mark Atwood.

Well, now it’s almost 15 years later and Cook’s vision for a decentralized Twitter looks more viable. Mastodon, the new curse of Twitter, is on the rise; It currently has 2.5 million monthly active users. In an interview with The New Stack, I asked Cook how he feels about the rise of Mastodon.

“It sounds so familiar and exciting,” she replied with a smile. He notes that Ivan Prodromou and others were working on at the same time as he was in 2008, and there was a feeling among this ragtag community of social software developers that “this is going to be much bigger than ” So while he loves the fact that Mastodon has broken out in 2022, it’s still very early in the game.

“We’re back to the point where … we’ve got Mastodon, it’s a piece of software that provides some functionality, but I think Fedreverse and the expense it gives us is much bigger than just Mastodon. And so what I’m really excited about is that we’re now at this more evolved starting point, seeing what people build on top of that.

Fedora Protocol (probably including BlueSky)

Cook has years of experience building decentralized Internet protocols — he also co-authored the OAuth and WebFinger protocols — so I asked what he has and hasn’t learned over the years.

“I think the main thing for me [that having] One set of rules for sociality doesn’t work,” he said. “There’s always going to be differences of opinion, and so the federated model gives us the ability to have different communities and different rules – different cultures online. And that’s just acknowledging that humans really are in the loop.

A few years ago, Cook’s ex-boss Jack Dorsey announced his interest in building a decentralized protocol to run on Twitter (better late than never). In December 2019, while serving as CEO, Dorsey tweeted That Twitter was funding a project to “develop an open and decentralized standard for social media” and that the goal was for Twitter to “eventually become a customer of this standard”.

The project, called BlueSky, was spun off into an independent company—albeit dependent on financial backing from Twitter (it’s unclear what the status of that funding is today). In October, BlueSky released its draft protocol, the “Authenticated Transport Protocol” (“AT Protocol”). I asked Cook what he thought of BlueSky.

“I think that’s great,” he replied, “federal is not just a protocol.”

“I think the technical approach is good,” he said of BlueSky. “He’s got a lot to figure out and work on, but the team is really good and I’m excited to see where he goes.”

How Mastodon May Continue to Evolve

Returning to Mastodon, Cook expects to see “the emergence of different cultural norms” in servers, as different communities seek different functionality.

A good example of this is the difference of opinion about keyword searches in the Mastodon community. The default position of the Mastodon open source software project is to heavily restrict search functionality primarily to prevent trolls from taking advantage of it. But many people (myself included) want to join the Mastodon instance that lets them open up their posts for indexing, so that we can search for content on that instance – this is good for topic tracking, news monitoring, etc.

Even if the Mastodon project were to develop separate standards, there is a fair amount of skepticism in the tech community as to whether Twitter’s role in our society will be eliminated. Twitter, the company, likes to say that this is where “public conversations” happen. I asked Cook whether he thinks it’s likely that the union could take on that role and become the default platform for public dialogue over time.

“Yeah, I think it’s inevitable. We’ve seen a similar story before – phone networks used to be monopolies,” he said, adding that government regulation forced them to open up. expects a similar situation.” My hope is that with the development of Mastodon, eventually Twitter [will] Should be made mandatory for the union.

Creation of better federated infrastructure

Nowadays, Cook is working on other forms of decentralization that could eventually help federate. He is the lead engineer at Fission, which counts Protocol Labs as one of its main investors. Protocol Labs is the creator of Filecoin and IPFS Protocol (Interplanetary File System), two popular crypto projects. Fission says it is building an “edge computing stack” on top of IPFS. I asked Cook what does this mean, exactly?

“So we’re building a distributed computing device,” he explained. “We’re starting with the idea that WASM – with WebAssembly – we now have a secure capability-oriented container for code execution. So you can safely run other code that people give you, basically from. And that primitive, and material address data, and a whole bunch of technology that came out of the crypto world – but not the only application in the crypto world – we’re looking like, well, can we build a execution environment where you can have a local-first app that will run on your phone, but when it needs to run against some large complex data, it can also run in the cloud – without any modifications [and] You don’t need to deploy some complicated Kubernetes cluster, or anything like that.”

While this work is being done outside the union, Cook says it can be of great help to the union.

“We think there’s a lot of alignment,” he said, noting that Mastodon is a Rails project and as dependent on traditional web server and database technology as Twitter.

“You’ve got your server set up, you’ve got some databases, you’ve got a lot of the infrastructure,” he said. “Running a Mastodon server is relatively expensive. A lot has changed in the 15 years since we created Twitter […] There are many things we can do.”

He pointed to Mastodon’s recent scaling issues and suggested that an IPFS solution could solve it.

“We can use things like the IPFS network to host that content in essentially a BitTorrent-style way. so no one host will handle all those requests […] We are working on infrastructure that can be used to help multiple scales.

It feels great to see the visionary work that Blaine Cook has been doing for the last 15 years start to pay off in the wider internet. I can’t wait to see what he and his team bring to the Federation infrastructure in Fission.

Group Made with Sketch.


Source link

Implement tags. Simulate a mobile device using Chrome Dev Tools Device Mode. Scroll page to activate.