Stop Flocking: Kiwifarms And The Lessons We Refuse To Learn About Centralization
I have been told that it's bad form to name-drop the Female Voldemort who catalyzed the downfall of the infamous website Kiwifarms. However, I have numerous thoughts on situation, so I've decided to compile them here and then leave the issue largely alone.
The destruction of Kiwifarms exposes a critical flaw in how we use the internet, or rather, how those who are far removed from the confines of the mainstream use the internet: we keep using the same websites. Those complaining about not being able to use Kiwifarms to a certain extent picked their demise, as coalescing a community around a single point of failure means your infrastructure need only fail once. This is certainly what happened in the case of Kiwifarms Forums, which is (was?) a centralized website.
This naturally leads us to the conversation about decentralized networks. Surely they are the solution! Well, in theory yes, but in reality, I'm not so sure. Many nodes on what is possibly the largest decentralized social media network in use today—indeed, the network in which I am writing this post—tend to function as centralized sites, whether the site-runners want them to or not (graf of poa.st fame and Eugen of mastodon.social and mastodon.online have conversely praised and mourned the massive growth of their individual nodes). Despite a burgeoning new tech, decentralization-loving culture growing in the underbelly of the internet, users continue to make the same mistake that has plagued other dead and doomed platforms: flocking.
Alt tech users need to stop flocking. The practice of an entire community migrating to one node and calling it home can be fun, sure, but it comes at an extreme cost: if someone sets the house on fire, everybody dies. For alternative communities, especially ones that participate in controversial or incendiary speech, creating a node as a hub for your community and then beckoning that community to flood to that one node is a recipe for disaster.
A more sustainable model for communities is to truly decentralize them; perhaps use a decentralized network like the Fediverse, but create multiple nodes so that your users aren't tossed into a singular barrel and easily shot down. Some communities on the Fediverse do this very thing; there is a reason that domains like nazi.social or antifa.social don't exist. These communities are spread out among dozens of instances, making it impossible to ban or stop all members of these groups from communicating.
Of course, we can have the discussion as to whether or not having smaller hosters rather than bigger hosters is a good idea, considering that smaller hosters are potentially easier to shut down, but that is a different discussion than the nature of alt tech users' internet usage patterns.