A Billionaire Has a Plan to Save the Internet—Buying TikTok Is the Next Step

By migrating TikTok over to DSNP, Project Liberty says it could scale quickly, making it more competitive against similar protocols. Project Liberty has migrated more than 875,000 out of 20 million MeWe accounts over to DSNP since McCourt’s 2022 $150 million investment in the platform.

Owning TikTok would provide the project with more than 150 million users, even if the app doesn’t come with its enviable algorithm. Still, that number dwarfs in comparison to, say, Facebook’s reported 3 billion monthly active users.

Despite having existed for more than a decade, open protocols like DSNP have never been more popular than they are now. Mastodon is one of the few platforms that’s powered by ActivityPub, a protocol similar to DSNP. Meta’s Threads platform has also started incorporating the protocol. Anything you post on Threads could show up on Mastodon if you choose to join the “fediverse.”

European antitrust regulations, like the Digital Markets Act, have forced many large platforms to make their messaging services interoperable as well. Earlier this week, Apple announced that iMessage would support the RCS protocol in iOS18, replacing SMS and allowing for higher-quality images and read receipts to be shared with Android devices.

This mix of competition, regulatory power, and digital idealism has led to an open internet renaissance that McCourt is looking to seize by pursuing TikTok. Still, open protocols aren’t necessarily profitable, mostly because no one owns them. Capitalism created the web we use today, warts and all, and it’s difficult to think it would let go of that control anytime soon.

“Somebody else shouldn’t own us, and we should decide what pieces and parts of our social graph information gets shared with other people and other platforms,” McCourt said. “This is a fantastic opportunity, and the reason I’m so optimistic is that we’ve had an incredible outpouring of support from all kinds of people and institutions and money sources that are very excited about this.”

Revolutionizing the internet is an admirable goal, but it’s still not clear if Bytedance is open to selling TikTok at all. Even if the company did divest, it would take years for TikTok to migrate over to DSNP. Maybe by then we’ll all be posting to Reels.

The Chatroom

I’ve been steeped in fediverse discourse for months now and may be a bit too optimistic about how it could democratize the internet. Do you think this is where the web is headed? How do you think it could affect political discourse and organizing online?

Would love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment on the site, or send me an email at mail@wired.com.

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What Else We’re Reading

🔗 The Hidden Life of Google’s Secret Weapon: For years, Joshua Wright was a staple in conservative antitrust debate over Big Tech. But a series of affairs and scandals have led to the lobbyist’s downfall. (The Wall Street Journal)

🔗 Google still recommends glue for your pizza: Last month, Google’s AI search results were telling people to put glue on their pizza and eat it, pulling information from a Reddit post. We are two weeks into June and it hasn’t changed! (The Verge)

🔗 Congress wants Scarlett Johansson to testify on OpenAI dispute: The House Oversight Committee plans to hold a hearing on deepfakes next month. They’ve asked Scarlett Johannson, voice of the OS in the movie Her, to testify after she accused OpenAI of stealing her likeness. (Axios)

The Download

This week, the WIRED Politics Lab podcast crew is running a fun episode about a couple of AI bots running for public office. Vittoria Elliott and David Gilbert join our host, Leah Feiger, to discuss what it means and if it’s even legal. Plus, they get into how some AI chatbots won’t share the winner of the 2020 US presidential election. Go check it out wherever you listen to podcasts.

Thanks again for subscribing! You can get in touch with me via email, Instagram, X and Signal at makenakelly.32.

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