∂𝒙 How is it different from…
Here are a few comparisons of Aether with other projects that might be useful. Mind that no expertise is implied with these other platforms, always check with the actual projects’ websites regarding their features and limitations. What’s there about them might be outdated or wrong.
It’s also important to realise that these things are not better or worse, and this is not meant to be a list of ways Aether is better - these are all different tools for different purposes, and they make different tradeoffs.
Reddit / Twitter (and other similar platforms)
(Personal experience: Reddit user for a decade, still an avid Reddit user. Casual Twitter user.)
The stuff you post on Reddit / Twitter is forever. Everyone is going to be able to see it, always. If someone you know in real life discovers your Reddit username, they can go back through all your Reddit history.
In Aether, things disappear after 6 months. Somebody can save them to keep it, but even if they do, they’d only keep their own local copy. It doesn’t stay on the network.
A centralised service can say that it deleted your posts, but there is no guarantee that the deletion actually happens.
In Aether, not allowing too old posts to be available on the network is guaranteed because it is part of the protocol every client has to implement. Even if a client changes his own code to keep things for longer, other nodes will not have data beyond the 6-month mark to send. A new node coming into the network afresh and asking for content older than 6 months will get nothing.
These are centralised services, provided by servers that can be arbitrarily shut down.
Aether is a decentralised, peer to peer network. Your data does not live in any specific computer, but in the void between them. (Hence the name Aether).
When you create a community on Aether, It’s not on X, Y, Z service, it’s on the Internet itself. Aether is a protocol like email, so long as there are apps talking Aether’s protocol, it will continue to exist.
Example: Gmail can shut down, but email cannot.
Aether can offer you more privacy than any centralised service, since your posts are not tied to your IP address, and can’t (easily) be traced back to you. There is no one to track you like a centralised service can.
You have no guarantee that the site is doing what it says it is doing. Are the admins of the site editing your posts? Are your posts getting secretly buried? You never know, because you don’t have access to the server that these things happen.
In Aether, this render process happens on your own local computer. You always know exactly what you received from the network, what algorithm is used to calculate your feed.
Admins cannot modify posts. Posts’ integrity is guaranteed by cryptographic proofs of work, so no one can change your posts except yourself.
If something gets deleted, you’ll know who deleted it, for what reason, and how to get it back.
Since Aether doesn’t have servers, it has fewer expenses than it would otherwise. (It still does have other expenses). That means the pressure to monetise is less.
(Personal experience: Used, but not extensively. Corrections welcome)
Mastodon is a federated app, where there are Mastodon instances that talk to each other delivering content to each other that their users can follow. You can think of it as different, separate copies of Twitter talking to each other under certain conditions.
The problem with this is that not all content is accessible everywhere - these servers make explicit decisions on which other servers they want to peer with. The only content you get by default are the content that your server allows, unless you explicitly follow the specific person. But if you don’t get the content, you won’t ever see the person and won’t know s/he exists in the first place.
Aether is a distributed app. It gives everyone one single universe with the same content. All users exist in the same user swarm with the same history, containing the same data, with the same deletion policy. It has no servers, unlike Mastodon, which has federated servers. Every node is its own full sovereign entity. All data goes everywhere. Then it’s up to the user’s client to render that data, and filter out content based on the rules and signals received from the network.
In other, more technical terms, users are not required to care about network topology.
If you’re on a smaller Mastodon instance, you run the risk of your federated server provider one day deciding to just … shut down. (Or their basement floods and server was there, etc.)
Aether doesn’t shut down, because it’s not (only) an app, it’s a protocol. So long as there is another node talking Aether, it will be online. The data will be there. Every node carries with itself a full copy of the network.
Moderation actions are opaque, similar to centralised platforms, because these Mastodon instances are, effectively, centralised platforms that have a way of negotiating with each other. The ‘fun’ stuff runs in a box that you don’t control, therefore the owner of that box does have disproportionate amount of power over you.
In Aether, moderation actions are applied on your machine. You can inspect which actions arrive from the network, and what to do with them, including ignoring them. You are the ultimate sovereign, what happens on your computer is fully under your control.
(Personal experience: Used, but not extensively. Corrections welcome)
SSB is a gossip protocol, the data you receive are gathered from your friends, and you get status updates only from people you follow. This is great for people communicating with friends that you already follow, but it makes it very hard for two people with no shared connection between them to talk to each other. (Though you can subscribe to topics to discover new content.)
In other words, the network topology is constructed based on the social graph on top of it (who’s friends with who), and it dictates which data goes where. If you join SSB and no one is following you, your posts will never be seen by anyone.
Aether is a flood protocol. Its network topology is effectively only concerned with delivering all data to everywhere, regardless of who’s following whom. It is designed to create a public space for people who don’t know each other to talk.
This means you can join Aether, post something, and your content will be visible to everyone even if no one is following you.
As a tradeoff, Aether makes it so that the only content that is directly postable to the network is text. Other types of rich media, like images, videos can be linked, but they cannot be posted directly into the network like SSB can.
This is the tradeoff (along with ephemerality) that makes it possible to fit the whole network’s content into every node. Text is highly compressible and very efficient in terms of storage space, unlike other types of content.
In SSB, spam prevention and moderation happens via social trust inherent in the social network that underlies it.
In Aether, spam prevention is accomplished by requiring proofs of work, and moderation is by social consensus via elections.