16 votes

Thoughts on the Fediverse?

What are your thoughts on the Fediverse style model of social media/websites in general? If you are unfamiliar with it, https://peertube.social/videos/watch/9c9de5e8-0a1e-484a-b099-e80766180a6d and https://peertube.social/videos/watch/d9bd2ee9-b7a4-44e3-8d65-61badd15c6e6

EDIT: Punctuation

19 comments

  1. synergy-unsterile Link
    Federation is a neat concept but I found the available implementations to be pretty poor experiences. However, for the most part, they work as expected and can replace proprietary social media...

    Federation is a neat concept but I found the available implementations to be pretty poor experiences. However, for the most part, they work as expected and can replace proprietary social media silos (assuming you can find the people/content you want, it's still a relatively small space).

    Some other thoughts:

    • It's difficult to pick an appropriate instance.
      • A new user will not know the difference between Mastodon, Pleroma, Misskey, Peertube, Funkwhale, Plume, or whatever. They may not even know that all these services can talk to each other.
      • Instance themes for smaller instances seem to be gimmicks. Larger and more established communities (Fosstodon, Mastodon.art, etc) do have meaningful themes.
      • Many smaller instances do not actually edit their terms of service or tell you what their privacy practices are. One should assume that anything and everything that goes on a server is public since the nature of federation means the data will be handled by many 3rd parties.
      • There's no way to gauge the competence of the admins and mods (afaik there is no way to see a list of them either). Additionally, if you don't host your own instance there is no guarantee the server will stick around.
    • Bugs: Pleroma occasionally acts up with every update, Mastodon had an endless page refresh error, things get weird when someone starts deleting their old statuses en masse, rendering huge conversation threads can be problematic.
    • Content discovery: If you're new, your initial instance is vital to seeding your timeline since the users on it and their follows are what the server is able to show (as such smaller instances may not show much activity). Additionally, finding accounts who do not get statuses shared on your instance is painful. I know Trunk exists (it's a list of fediverse accounts listed by topics) but there seems to be little curation. Those accounts just asked to be put on a big list and the end user has no idea if any are worth following without investigating each account one by one.
    9 votes
  2. zaarn Link
    Hi, I run a low-activity mastodon instance (3 regulars other than me, about 10 active users per month), I feel like federated social networks are the future of social networking in general. Feel...

    Hi, I run a low-activity mastodon instance (3 regulars other than me, about 10 active users per month), I feel like federated social networks are the future of social networking in general. Feel free to ask me anything about running an instance if you want.

    Mastodon did a lot to make it more approachable than previous attempts (GNU social suffered the GNU-UI plague) and ActivityPub is a very flexible protocol that networks can build upon.

    Other projects like PixelFed and such could likely provide the functionality of other networks like Instagram or Reddit on top of AP as well, and it would federate with Mastodon. Federation relays are a thing too now and they solve the "new instance with 1 user doesn't get a lot of content" problem.

    Right now the problem is users and content, there isn't a lot of users and content isn't that high quality. There is lots of spam instances or just uncomfortable instances. In most cases I silence them (instead of banning them) unless they post illegal content. Moderation is quite neat and I can easily handle my workload, about 2-3 spambot signups per week, about 1 instance ban per 2 weeks and usually less than 1 report every few months.

    I would love if tildes would eventually atleast partially integrate ActivityPub.

    9 votes
  3. [3]
    mrnd (edited ) Link
    I think there are two parts to this question: How is the current use experience, especially on Mastodon? What kind of future possibilities there are for federated social media and ActivityPub For...

    I think there are two parts to this question:

    1. How is the current use experience, especially on Mastodon?
    2. What kind of future possibilities there are for federated social media and ActivityPub

    For background, I have been using Mastodon for about a year, and have enjoyed it very much.

    My experience with Mastodon

    The current userbase of Mastodon is mostly LGBT people, leftists and techies. As you can imagine, the intersection of the groups is rather large. Because I'm all three, Mastodon feels like a nice place just because of that.

    The content is mostly positive shitposting, but also honest discussion. Current political commentary is usually expected to be hidden behind content warnings, as people often prefer positive content over the repetive outrage that dominates Twitter. As a rather new community, there's less focus on social capital and influencers. The community has also been fairly active in preventing these things from starting.

    Of course the content depends heavily on who you follow and when looking at the local feed, what kind of instance you are on.

    Mastodon also has many small features that make it better than Twitter: content warnings, better tools for moderation, setting image focus points, link verification in profiles to replace the Twitter's checkmark and other small features that are developed actively all the time.

    But yes, the specific people you know already are unlikely to all be on Mastodon, but as an opportunity to meet new people it's great.

    Personally, Mastodon is very valuable to me. But I understand that it may not yet be for everyone.

    Future possibilities of the Fediverse

    The possibilities of federation are amazing. Being able to follow and reply to people on other platforms is a very cool experience. Imagine if the current social media was federated: You have your Twitter account, but your friend posts mostly pictures on Instagram. But because of federation, you could see all the imags right there in your Twitter client, without ever needing Instagram account. And like and reply to their posts too!

    And then repeat this to all future social media platforms: new services come and go, but your social graph stays intact.

    And because federation allows everyone to run their own instances, this returns the social power to the users. Self-hosting social media is now possible, without worrying about network effects because it's now all connected.

    So yes. I'm both happy with the current situation and excited for the future!

    9 votes
    1. [2]
      stephen Link Parent
      "Mastondon is no currently accepting new users' Sniffle. This sounds amazing. I tried raddle a little but didn't like it more than tildes. This sounds even better than that! Do you have any tips...

      "Mastondon is no currently accepting new users'

      Sniffle. This sounds amazing. I tried raddle a little but didn't like it more than tildes. This sounds even better than that! Do you have any tips for aspiring leftist posi-posters to get into the new clubhouse?

      1 vote
      1. kfwyre Link Parent
        mastodon.social, the flagship instance, is not accepting new members. This is by design, as they are not wanting any one instance to dominate the Mastodon community. The good thing about...

        mastodon.social, the flagship instance, is not accepting new members. This is by design, as they are not wanting any one instance to dominate the Mastodon community. The good thing about federation is that you can join any other instance and still be part of Mastodon.

        Choosing an instance can be somewhat intimidating since there are so many, and they're often very specialized. There's a tool that can help you choose here. Ultimately, as long as you don't join a commonly blocked instance, you'll have access to the Mastodon community (and the commonly blocked ones are almost all focused on NSFW or illegal content, so you don't have to worry about being blocked if you join a general purpose one).

        The instance that you choose determines what you see in your local timeline, so if you join, say, mastodon.host (my instance of choice), you'll see posts from other users on that instance. However, you can follow anyone from any instance, so your personal feed will have posts from all over Mastodon from whomever you choose. I just checked the people I'm following, and I've got 40+ people from 20+ instances!

        4 votes
  4. Liru Link
    The ActivityPub protocol seems to have potential, and I applaud people for making open source and decentralized social networks. I have two main points regarding my (very limited) experience: I've...

    The ActivityPub protocol seems to have potential, and I applaud people for making open source and decentralized social networks.

    I have two main points regarding my (very limited) experience:

    1. I've found that the users and content on most instances right now isn't worth the effort of joining or creating an instance. You'd need a specific reason to join.
    2. Needing multiple accounts for multiple instance types, and having them be able to communicate with each other, doesn't sit right with me for some reason.
    6 votes
  5. [9]
    ThatFanficGuy Link
    Am curious about the whole concept; still ignorant about how it's supposed to operate; and anxious about joining, because it's a commitment I'm not sure is going to pay off. Twitter as a concept...

    Am curious about the whole concept; still ignorant about how it's supposed to operate; and anxious about joining, because it's a commitment I'm not sure is going to pay off.

    Twitter as a concept seems okay, and not have to use the real Twitter to send out messages is appealing in this context. I'd taken a look at Mastadon a while ago, and it seemed messy. On a single instance, people "tweeted" in different languges (most of those I don't speak), and on an array of subjects (not all pertaining to the idea of the instance). Some of the tech ones felt like advertising boards, with devs only posting updates to their software - which is boring, considering how much there is to talk about in front-end development alone. Non-tech instances... I don't even know.

    3 votes
    1. [8]
      mrnd Link Parent
      This is very interesting experience to hear, because while it's true that people use multiple languages on Mastodon, to me it is rather refreshing! Of course, people use multiple languages on...

      On a single instance, people "tweeted" in different languges (most of those I don't speak)

      This is very interesting experience to hear, because while it's true that people use multiple languages on Mastodon, to me it is rather refreshing! Of course, people use multiple languages on Twitter too, but because of firehose feeds, it can be more visible on Mastodon. Seeing people naturally switch between two languages depending on who they are speaking with is something that makes the place feel much more homely, to me at least.

      Also, there's a setting for selecting which languages you want to see. Autodetection is not spotless, but it filters much of the noise away, if you prefer that.

      and on an array of subjects (not all pertaining to the idea of the instance)

      This feels like it's miscommunication on how instances are supposed to work: they're not generally discussion forums for specifc topic, but hosts for people. Often for people with specific interests, but there's no expectation that the topic is their whole identity. Choosing an instance is mostly for finding people to follow and for specific moderation policies, not choosing what you want to talk about.

      5 votes
      1. [7]
        ThatFanficGuy Link Parent
        See, this is where you lose me, 'cause the whole concept of an instance of a federated-space service is not one I can wrap my head around easily. The fact that the very essence of it has to be...

        Choosing an instance is mostly for finding people to follow and for specific moderation policies, not choosing what you want to talk about.

        See, this is where you lose me, 'cause the whole concept of an instance of a federated-space service is not one I can wrap my head around easily. The fact that the very essence of it has to be explained indicated very clearly that there's still work to be done, at the very least in the area of letting people know what is what.

        There's also the issue of interconnected instances, what with it being the whole premise of the fediverse. How interconnected are they? Why do I even have to choose one if they're interconnected? Can I talk to people on other instances, and if so, to what extent? Can I follow them? Can I DM them? What's the point of having separate instances if the goal is to provide the same "same-space" experience?

        Am I the only one confused by this? Someone on Tildes explained the idea to me like email providers: you can still email people from other email servers: a GMail user can email a Yahoo user, and so on. But it's not as if it's the same structure for the fediverse - or is it? And that's the issue: I don't fucking know, and I can't find out easily.

        ...eh. It's not as if I'm an old fart in my 20s. I can wrap my head around a lot of things - but, for some reason, not this: this, which a whole lot of people are entirely comfortable about. What gives?

        2 votes
        1. [5]
          mrnd Link Parent
          I agree that communicating federation is hard, and Mastodon definitely has not succeeded as well as it could. But I could quickly go over the questions you raised: Firstly, the home page is...

          I agree that communicating federation is hard, and Mastodon definitely has not succeeded as well as it could.

          But I could quickly go over the questions you raised:

          Firstly, the home page is https://joinmastodon.org/ and there is nice video introduction to the idea.

          Someone on Tildes explained the idea to me like email providers: you can still email people from other email servers: a GMail user can email a Yahoo user, and so on. But it's not as if it's the same structure for the fediverse - or is it?

          It is exactly like email, and the structure is very similar. There are servers, and users on them communicate with each other.

          Can I talk to people on other instances, and if so, to what extent? Can I follow them? Can I DM them?

          Yes.

          What's the point of having separate instances if the goal is to provide the same "same-space" experience?

          For the same reason as why there are multiple email providers: so that no single entity has authority over the entire network. Google and Outlook can allow different kinds of content, and I can run my own email server if I want to.

          Admin of an instance defines the rules and who to block. Some servers allow NSFW content, some require it behind content warnings, some completely ban it. But there's nobody who can make the decision for the whole network.

          It's also easy to see all posts on a server, so choosing a server with similar people to yourself helps finding them, even if you can follow them from any server.

          The problem is as you say that this is hard to communicate. The email metaphor has been fairly successful so far though.

          4 votes
          1. [4]
            ThatFanficGuy Link Parent
            I must be really dumb here, 'cause it hasn't been for me. It does nothing to connect the dots for me. In my head, there's an idea called "email" and an idea called "federated space", and they're...

            The email metaphor has been fairly successful so far though.

            I must be really dumb here, 'cause it hasn't been for me. It does nothing to connect the dots for me. In my head, there's an idea called "email" and an idea called "federated space", and they're nothing alike. There's no parallels - apart from, maybe, your "multiple providers" argument - and no steps I seem to be able to take to rectify this.

            Man I feel stupid about this.

            1. [2]
              mrnd Link Parent
              Please don't feel stupid! This is complicated subject and responsibility of communicating effectively is on the developers. Maybe the biggest difference is that with email, people don't tend to...

              Please don't feel stupid! This is complicated subject and responsibility of communicating effectively is on the developers.

              Maybe the biggest difference is that with email, people don't tend to think about mail servers, but about identities? So my address could be someone@gmail.com, but that also means that gmail hosts my accounts and rules how I may use it. Mastodon is the same, it's just not less established.

              And instead of someone@gmail.com and person@yahoo.com exchanging email, @someone@mastodon.com and @person@mastodon.org exchange different social actions, like posting, liking, DM'ing or following.

              3 votes
              1. ThatFanficGuy Link Parent
                Thanks for educating the confused. I'm getting the hang of it slowly.

                Thanks for educating the confused. I'm getting the hang of it slowly.

            2. Grand0rbiter Link Parent
              Maybe you're thinking that joining a server/instance, automagically you can see everyone in the entire "federation world". But it's not the normal behaviour (some instances have bots and other...

              Maybe you're thinking that joining a server/instance, automagically you can see everyone in the entire "federation world". But it's not the normal behaviour (some instances have bots and other gimmicks that pulls from others).

              When joining one instance you will see only people from your instance, but you can follow people from other instances by searching their username@instance the same way you would ask for their e-mail address to message them.

              Once you follow them, they'll appear on your timeline. And by following them, you'll see people they are interacting with, expanding your reach.

              1 vote
        2. Grand0rbiter Link Parent
          If you can understand e-mail and how you can send messages between gmail, protonmail, hotmail or any other, you can understand federation. It works almost the same. You can see people on other...

          See, this is where you lose me, 'cause the whole concept of an instance of a federated-space service is not one I can wrap my head around easily. The fact that the very essence of it has to be explained indicated very clearly that there's still work to be done, at the very least in the area of letting people know what is what.

          If you can understand e-mail and how you can send messages between gmail, protonmail, hotmail or any other, you can understand federation.

          It works almost the same. You can see people on other instances. You have their username@instance, or something similar. Just follow them.

          2 votes
  6. NaraVara Link
    I’ve been in Mastodon for a little while and I’m kind of down on the whole concept. It’s fine for what it is, but I’m coming around to the idea of a “universal” social media platform (anyone can...

    I’ve been in Mastodon for a little while and I’m kind of down on the whole concept. It’s fine for what it is, but I’m coming around to the idea of a “universal” social media platform (anyone can connect to anyone and post everything to potentially everyone) is just flawed at its core.

    The main problem is that people aren’t just one version of themselves in all contexts. I behave and speak very differently in professional contexts than I do with my own family, and that’s different from my “birth family” (parents) and that’s different from extended family which is different from friends. Even within friends, I’m different around people I’ve known since high school versus people I’ve met after college.

    The take home message is that we aren’t the same in all contexts, our personalities differ based on who we are with. But the way social media is designed, by attaching our entire “social graph” to a single profile account, tries to collapse all of our context dependent personalities into one universal thing.

    That was kind of okay in the early days, when the range of our engagement was narrower. When Facebook was just a public profile with the highlight reel to your life it represented just a specific “public face” of our identity. But as we engage with these services more, post a larger array of experiences and thoughts, and put more of ourselves into them, it just stops working. They’re just not set up to provide the depth of social interaction they want to.

    3 votes
  7. knocklessmonster Link
    I have no experience with federated social media software, but I do have a strong opinion. Federated social media is like a couple groups of friends going to the pub, but actually staying at home...

    I have no experience with federated social media software, but I do have a strong opinion.

    Federated social media is like a couple groups of friends going to the pub, but actually staying at home and attempting to have the normal interactions between groups via supersonic carrier pigeon (I can't think of anything both fast and slow that spreads one idea at a time, but hear me out). You have rapid interactions in the group, but slow interactions between groups as data has to be pulled from one and deliberately sent to another.

    Looking into ActivityPub (@Liru, really, it's a cool concept I wouldn't have heard of if you hadn't mentioned it), it speeds the transfer up. Ideally, with this system, each instance could block undesirable content, and the market would determine where in the federation the users went, and you would potentially have a somewhat fragmented, but probably all happy userbase.

    2 votes
  8. bilbodwyer Link
    I've dabbled with Mastodon on and off for a couple of years. I really like the idea of a non-centralised social media platform, and being able to spin up a new one as and when you want. I think...

    I've dabbled with Mastodon on and off for a couple of years. I really like the idea of a non-centralised social media platform, and being able to spin up a new one as and when you want. I think there's great power in something like that.
    But the issue that I had (and that I often have when looking to check out new social media platforms), is that none of my friends are there. And none of them are there because none of their friends are there. For something like peerTube, it's that the content I want to watch isn't there.
    You can argue (rightly I'd say) that the opportunity lies in meeting new, and like-minded people via the platform. And you'd be right. But the things I'm interested in (music, programming, writing, minimalism, amongst others) already have very good, dedicated spaces on the web already (forums, subreddits, Stack Overflow, etc), and the Mastodon instances dedicated to these things either end up ignoring them, or devolving into self-promotion without much other interaction. So the instance is either very quiet, or very noisy, without much signal.

    Perhaps the problem is that federated social media (at least the ones that I'm familiar with) appear to be just copying other platforms, and adding federation on top, without much else to differentiate from the mainstream alternative. And without there being something tangible to offer that's different from Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, or whatever... I'm not convinced that we'll ever see federation take off in a big way, and it will forever remain the purview of techies, and FOSS enthusiasts.
    I do genuinely hope that one day we see Facebook able to communicate with Twitter (or something), without having to use a third party service to bodge the functionality. But for the time being I remain unconvinced that these companies will ever allow for people to leave their walled gardens.

    2 votes
  9. Grand0rbiter Link
    Mastodon is big, just not big for the average joes. So it's not a lack of user problem, it's a lack of the users i want to have contact with problem. I joined two times to support it, but like...

    Mastodon is big, just not big for the average joes. So it's not a lack of user problem, it's a lack of the users i want to have contact with problem.

    I joined two times to support it, but like twitter, i can't see the reason to use it.

    I had a pixelfed account and it was the same. In the end i deleted even my instagram.

    I don't think pixelfed will take off because people want flashy things and to replace big rich companies with bandwidth, big servers and money is impossible. Instagram is big on videos.

    Mastodon has a chance, but i think Twitter is not something that has major scandals and it's ingrained. That said, Mastodon already has it's users and is well stabilished.

    1 vote