Exclusive: Meta mulls a Twitter competitor codenamed ‘P92’ that will be interoperable with Mastodon

Meta, the parent firm of Facebook and Instagram, is hashing out a plan to build a standalone text-based content app that will support ActivityPub, the decentralised social networking protocol powering Twitter rival Mastodon and other federated apps, people familiar with the matter told Moneycontrol. The app will be Instagram-branded and will allow users to register/login to the app through their Instagram credentials, they said. Moneycontrol has seen a copy of an internal product brief that elaborates on the functioning and various product features of the app. To be sure, it’s not clear whether this app, codenamed P92, is still at an idea-stage or the development has begun on the app. A source close to the development said that it is still a work-in-progress. Hours after Moneycontrol broke the story, Meta has confirmed the development in a statement "We’re exploring a standalone decentralized social network for sharing text updates. We believe there’s an opportunity for a separate space where creators and public figures can share timely updates about their interests" a Meta spokesperson said. This development comes at a time when technology companies and startups are eyeing an opportunity to capitalise on the growing trend of Twitter users looking to migrate to alternative platforms even as the social media platform struggles to cope up with the chaos caused under the new owner Elon Musk. In the months since Musk took over Twitter, several rival platforms have launched or witnessed traction to attract these people. Among them include Mastodon, Post.news, and T2. In December 2022, Meta-owned Instagram also introduced a new feature called Notes that allows users to share short posts of up to 60 characters using just text and emojis. The company has considered turning this feature into a Twitter competitor, according to a The New York Times report. “The plan as of now is that the MVP (minimum viable product) will definitely allow our users to broadcast posts to people on other servers. It may or may not enable our users to follow and view the content of people on other servers,” said a source aware of the thinking on the matter. Some of the other features including tappable links in posts with previews (like Twitter), user bio, username, verification badges,  images and videos would be made shareable on the initial versions of the app, according to the plan. It would also allow followers and likes, but it is unclear whether features for commenting and messaging would be there in the first version of the product. However, these will be included eventually. “The team is also discussing whether to have the ability to reshare content like Twitter apart from business and creator accounts. A rights manager will be integrated from the beginning for first party content, but probably not for third party content from other apps and servers,” said another source. According to sources, the P92 team is planning to follow the "fork" approach with the MVP, so users will initially sign up and log into the P92 app using their Instagram login information and their profile will be populated with their account details (e.g. name, username, bio, profile photo, followers). The app will be offered under the company’s existing privacy policy, with a supplemental privacy policy and terms of service specific to the app that will call out the cross-app data sharing, as per the product brief. “P92 users will be notified of and agree to this notice/terms when signing up to P92,” said the product brief seen by Moneycontrol. “Eventually, the graph will split and, after initial sign up, the data sharing from Instagram to P92 will be minimal, if not none,” it said. Sources said the plan is to build the terms of service in such a way that Instagram users who do not sign up for P92 will be presented to users who do choose to sign up for P92 to power friend recommendations. Further, the P92 team's desire is to use Instagram data of all Instagram users regardless of their participation in P92 as freely as possible for purposes of analytics, product improvement, and ranking on P92, said the sources.