Rumors have been circulating that Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, is exploring the creation of a text-based social network to compete with Twitter. The app, codenamed P92, will allow users to log in through their existing Instagram credentials, according to reports. While details about the project are scarce, sources say that legal and regulatory teams have already started to investigate potential privacy concerns around the app so they can be addressed before launch.
The most notable aspect of the project is that Meta plans for the network to be decentralized, allowing individual users to set up their own, independent servers and set server-specific rules for how content is moderated. Building a decentralized social network could let Meta experiment with an app that pushes back on standard criticisms of Facebook and Instagram. Individual servers would let different groups set their own community standards, though likely with a “floor” of rules set by Meta, in a fashion similar to how Reddit’s individual communities work.
A decentralized network would also be more resistant to censorship efforts from governments, and would enable users to choose from a variety of ranking algorithms that better reflect their desired experience. , co-founder of Twitter, has repeatedly called for a decentralized version of the network for these reasons. While still CEO, Dorsey funded Bluesky, a decentralized alternative to Twitter that launched last week on iOS in private beta.
However, building a decentralized social network is not without its challenges. Basic social-network functions like following users become complicated when accounts are located across a vast network of servers. In addition, there is no clear business model for such an app, and the ongoing implosion of the cryptocurrency market has made funding decentralized networks with network-specific, non-fungible tokens look less attractive.
Despite the challenges, Meta has the teams and track record in place to credibly try to launch a decentralized social network. The move comes at a time when Silicon Valley as a whole is rethinking the value of forcing users into centralized services, and Twitter’s decline is paving the way for other platforms to build next-generation replacements. With Instagram already at global scale and counting among its users most of the public figures that would be necessary to kick-start a new text-based network, Meta’s latest exploration bears close scrutiny. Only time will tell whether it will be truly disruptive, but few other companies have the resources and expertise to credibly try.