Protocols and platforms

Love ’em or hate ’em, big platforms with big collections of people and information about said people are currently ever-present. This deep dive from Masnick has a bias—one which I wholeheartedly endorse—but it is also an excellent description of what does “protocols versus platforms” really mean? What’s a protocol, and what’s a platform? How are they different, and why do they seem to have such different effects on the late-game situation? If you’ve so far avoided this topic, this is a good place to try spending a half an hour to see if it makes more sense.

After a decade or so of the general sentiment being in favor of the internet and social media as a way to enable more speech and improve the marketplace of ideas, in the last few years the view has shifted dramatically—now it seems that almost no one is happy. Some feel that these platforms have become cesspools of trolling, bigotry, and hatred. Meanwhile, others feel that these platforms have become too aggressive in policing language and are systematically silencing or censoring certain viewpoints. And that’s not even touching on the question of privacy and what these platforms are doing (or not doing) with all of the data they collect.

~ Mike Masnick from,