2 votes by edangor — 2 votes, 3 comments

Social networks, in particular, are difficult to bootstrap due to network effects

That's true. An exodus from Facebook, or Twitter etc can only be a conscious collective action.

Decentralized networks generally allow anyone to join and don’t link accounts to real-world identities like phone numbers.

That's by design though, almost everyone who wants to decentralise the web also wants to protect people's right to be pseudonymous if they chose to.

These systems often use public key cryptography to ensure account security. But managing public keys is hard for most users, and building software that is both cryptographically secure and easy to use is difficult.

I don't think that security can ever be seamless - security and ease of use is a zero-sum game. Ties back to point 1, it needs to be a conscious action.

If distributed platforms could solve it, they could theoretically tackle media challenges like echo chambers and filter bubbles, but such dilemmas still present a serious challenge for new systems.

Most implementations I know of leave curation up to the user, again, by design.

Finally, platforms benefit from economies of scale — it’s cheaper to acquire resources like storage and bandwidth in bulk.

True currently, although I think the article doesn't consider singe-user instances.

The reality is that most people do not want to run their own web servers or social network nodes.

That's a recurring point: it needs to be a conscious choice, because this is a zero-sum game. In other words, freedom isn't free.

For instance, if users have more control of their data, including the right to export and reuse content they’ve created and friends they follow, they’ll be more willing to experiment with new platforms

Export of user data in a well-documented and established data format (cough json cough) should be bug #1 on any project's bug tracker.

but there’s no silver-bullet technical solution for the challenges that lie ahead.

Very much agreeing on that. The main problem is not technical. It's political. Because again, only conscious collective action can decentralise the web.

This reads like something written by several people of an unified opinion. The title doesn't seem to match most of the article's facts. And for the main opinion of the paper that doesn't appear until paragraph eight.

However, we doubt that decentralized systems alone will address the threats to free expression caused by today’s mega-platforms, for several key reasons.

And for these key reasons, they don't ask why, they only address the difficulties. Everything has difficulties. And for us software engineers, we have familiarity with both the accidental and the essential. Just because some of these difficulties remain hand-in-hand with the accidental you might as well be cynical of everything in the song Imagine and say that peace will never work.

Well I have to agree with this. I like the idea of decentralized social networks, and they do/might work if you have to share something that nobody else wants (for example nudes). Any other case, people just prefer centralized services because they're easier to use/setup, and this is enough to share pictures of their cats. Plus, everybody using social networks for advertising just prefer networks with more people. This is why I'm an advocate of centralized, community-run projects (unless decentralization makes sense).