23 votes

The role of mastodon.social in the Mastodon ecosystem

21 comments

  1. diode Link
    As someone who runs their own single user Mastodon instance, my experience has been that very few active accounts on the Federation are actually on mastodon.social. The majority of my feed comes...

    As someone who runs their own single user Mastodon instance, my experience has been that very few active accounts on the Federation are actually on mastodon.social. The majority of my feed comes from relatively small instances and it's a running joke that almost all Mastodon account handles end with a ridiculously long (and therefore cheap) domain name.

    I really find it hard to believe that anyone would be significantly confused by the concept of federation: people can comprehend email just fine. Personally, I don't think anybody younger than 30 is going to be confused by Mastodon's signup system. In fact I'm pretty sure the majority of people on pawoo.net and mastodon.jp (the largest instances iirc) don't even come into contact with Mastodon through joinmastodon.org.

    On a side note, one benefit of the way Mastodon decentralizes that I haven't seen people mention is how international it is. Most major social media sites pretty much only serve one language, or segregate them. On Mastodon, most of my feed isn't even English. You can't have that with centralized services like Tildes or HackerNews because a single community can really only speak one language.

    10 votes
  2. clerical_terrors Link
    Some interesting follow-up discussion in the thread for the announcement toot. Disocoverability and recruitment remain issues for Mastodon. Even joinmastodon.org doesn't necessarily point you...

    Some interesting follow-up discussion in the thread for the announcement toot. Disocoverability and recruitment remain issues for Mastodon. Even joinmastodon.org doesn't necessarily point you towards an instance you'll enjoy or one that is actively taking on new members. Some ideas like "onboarding" instances where people test the waters before switching to another instance or having a primary list of instances to propose floating around.

    6 votes
  3. [12]
    alyaza Link
    i'll be interested to see how people try to innovate around the problem that's described here. in some respects it's actually one of the biggest problems with modern decentralized platforms:...

    i'll be interested to see how people try to innovate around the problem that's described here. in some respects it's actually one of the biggest problems with modern decentralized platforms: decentralized as they might be, they all by nature have flagship servers/communities, and those often become associated with what the platform is in its entirety by people who have no experience with the platform. this also, if left unaddressed, can pretty much work antithetically to the point of decentralization (as some would argue is basically the case with mastodon.social) because if people congregate on mostly larger instances, should those instances fail they'll overwhelm the smaller ones and the effect might cascade and fuck over most of the network (or at least memory hole large parts of the community). and to be honest, i'm not entirely sure what the best solution is to try and minimize consolidation of that sort would be. there are some rudimentary ones like shutting down sign-ups on larger instances--but obviously there are issues with doing that as the post here brings up which make options in that vein difficult. something like a directory of instances based on subject (like what already exists) seems better, but i'm sure people have reservations about that too.

    5 votes
    1. [2]
      Deimos (edited ) Link Parent
      It's a tough problem. Even for myself, knowing it's decentralized and that it's not that important, I still found the "choose a server" experience on the site overwhelming. They tell you that it...

      It's a tough problem. Even for myself, knowing it's decentralized and that it's not that important, I still found the "choose a server" experience on the site overwhelming. They tell you that it doesn't matter, but then they also categorize all the servers into different types/audiences, so it's a mixed message and obviously does matter on some level. By choosing a server you're also effectively tying yourself to decisions about that server and by its admin, in that other servers may choose not to federate with your server for some reason, or vice versa.

      And even though decentralization should make it not matter much, people still tend to centralize when you give them the choice. It just feels "safer" to pick something that a lot of other people have already picked, and sometimes there are convenience or other benefits to picking one of the most popular choices. Hell, Mastodon is practically the poster child for decentralization, but until quite recently, they had their official blog on Medium. It's very easy to set up your own blog that you have control of, but even they still voluntarily centralized themselves.

      8 votes
      1. clerical_terrors Link Parent
        Beyond picking what has been picked it's been a noted trend for a while that people prefer to have as much regrouped as possible into singular apps, sites, or other ways of communication. The...

        Beyond picking what has been picked it's been a noted trend for a while that people prefer to have as much regrouped as possible into singular apps, sites, or other ways of communication. The comfort of being able to search and switch seamlessly without needing to change sites or apps or to use bridging is a huge draw for people.

        3 votes
    2. [4]
      mftrhu Link Parent
      At the very least, easy account export/migration should become a thing, which would help people choose smaller, possibly less older and stabler instances over large, well-established ones. I, for...

      or at least memory hole large parts of the community

      At the very least, easy account export/migration should become a thing, which would help people choose smaller, possibly less older and stabler instances over large, well-established ones. I, for one, get bad choice paralysis when dealing with this kind of stuff - having thousands of instances is actually counterproductive as far as I am concerned.

      4 votes
      1. [3]
        alyaza Link Parent
        i don't know that it's necessarily crossed into the threshold of being "easy" for most people yet (or at least not somewhat tedious), but account migration is a feature that already exists on...

        i don't know that it's necessarily crossed into the threshold of being "easy" for most people yet (or at least not somewhat tedious), but account migration is a feature that already exists on mastodon and is being improved from time to time, so the infrastructure is there.

        3 votes
        1. mrnd Link Parent
          For reference, currently you can export and import your followed people list, and set your old account to notify about the change. In a few releases we should get automatic follower move, so your...

          For reference, currently you can export and import your followed people list, and set your old account to notify about the change. In a few releases we should get automatic follower move, so your followers don't have to manually re-follow.

          Full post content migration seems unlikely to come for some time, as it seems to be fairly compute-intensive.

          Also, link to description of current situation by Gargron, the lead dev.

          5 votes
        2. mftrhu Link Parent
          I had actually checked on the Mastodon github and the account migration issue is still open, and it doesn't look like you can actually export/import your own toots. Even just exporting toots...

          I had actually checked on the Mastodon github and the account migration issue is still open, and it doesn't look like you can actually export/import your own toots.

          Even just exporting toots (without the ability to import them back) seems to be absent (but I have not used Mastodon in a long time), which might not help with account migration but which would definitely be a strike against "instance goes down, all the data goes down the memory hole with it".

          2 votes
    3. [5]
      davidb Link Parent
      Eliminating federation is the solution. If the architecture moves to be built on some blockchain type solution (or other distributed p2p solutions), there could be just one namespace and there...

      Eliminating federation is the solution. If the architecture moves to be built on some blockchain type solution (or other distributed p2p solutions), there could be just one namespace and there would be no need for flagship servers.

      1. [2]
        PopeRigby Link Parent
        But federation is part of what makes Mastodon so cool. If you don't agree with a certain instance's rules, you pack up your stuff and move to another one.

        But federation is part of what makes Mastodon so cool. If you don't agree with a certain instance's rules, you pack up your stuff and move to another one.

        3 votes
        1. davidb Link Parent
          That's an interesting argument and something I hadn't thought about too much. A distributed global storage solution would still allow for frontends to provide the same "filter functionality", just...

          That's an interesting argument and something I hadn't thought about too much. A distributed global storage solution would still allow for frontends to provide the same "filter functionality", just through a different mechanism than mastodon.

          OpenBazaar essentially functions that way. Storefronts are published to the globally accessible and distributed IPFS and the "servers" you connect to are what provide the search and discovery functionality.

          3 votes
      2. [2]
        9000 Link Parent
        If you're interested in purely P2P social networking solutions, I highly recommend checking out Secure Scuttlebutt (SSB) to see what's possible. It does not use blockchains, so there is no global...

        If you're interested in purely P2P social networking solutions, I highly recommend checking out Secure Scuttlebutt (SSB) to see what's possible. It does not use blockchains, so there is no global view, but instead embraces the subjectivity of P2P systems. (Although, technically, there is a sort of global namespace enforced through public keys. See: Zooko's Triangle)

        In SSB, every participant maintains their own local history that's cryptographically verified, that way you can just get a copy of your friend's feed from anyone and still know it's legitimate. This leads to a gossip protocol whereby whenever I sync up with friends, we don't just share updates from our own feeds, but also from the feeds of our mutual friends.

        There is still a small amount of centralization in the system by way of what they call pub servers, which are essentially super-friends that connect people over the internet, but these are by no means necessary for the protocol to function. The gossip protocol works over local WiFi, Bluetooth, the internet, and even sneakernet!

        3 votes
        1. davidb Link Parent
          Very cool! I'm definitely going to check this out when I have some time to play with it. I like the idea of the various apps being "magic glasses" that reveal the data in my copy of scuttlebutt....

          Very cool! I'm definitely going to check this out when I have some time to play with it. I like the idea of the various apps being "magic glasses" that reveal the data in my copy of scuttlebutt.

          It kind of reminds me of http://twister.net.co/ but the scuttlebutt protocol not requiring me to have the entire global state locally on my machine is much preferable.

  4. [3]
    Rocket_Man Link
    I think mastodon has a lot of problems, but having a large central server isn't one of them. They should focus on providing a competing service to Facebook and Twitter. People care that things...

    I think mastodon has a lot of problems, but having a large central server isn't one of them. They should focus on providing a competing service to Facebook and Twitter. People care that things work well and they can get feature parity. People don't care about picking servers or about decentralization as a concept.

    4 votes
    1. [2]
      alyaza Link Parent
      that, i think, would be a massive mistake to actively commit to. while mastodon is very similar to twitter, it doesn't really market itself that way--and i really don't think it should nor should...

      They should focus on providing a competing service to Facebook and Twitter.

      that, i think, would be a massive mistake to actively commit to. while mastodon is very similar to twitter, it doesn't really market itself that way--and i really don't think it should nor should it try to be strictly a twitter alternative. for one thing, twitter is basically an institution with hundreds of millions of users; mastodon in comparison has like, four million accounts total (not users). picking a fight with companies of that size when you're the size of mastodon can really only end poorly. for another thing, trying to be a twitter alternative wouldn't do much besides wall in what they can do and what people's expectations of them are.

      3 votes
      1. Rocket_Man Link Parent
        Their design and function already restricts them quite a bit. It's just 3 chronological feeds of short text, pictures, and videos. It's already a functional alternative to twitter. They want to...

        Their design and function already restricts them quite a bit. It's just 3 chronological feeds of short text, pictures, and videos. It's already a functional alternative to twitter. They want to push an idea that their decentralized social network is better than centralized social networks. You don't do that by not competing with the centralized social networks that already exist.

        2 votes
  5. acdw Link
    If Mastodon really focused on account migration, then maybe mastodon.social could be like a "beginner's server," where most people could sign up and learn the ropes of Mastodon, the network, and...

    If Mastodon really focused on account migration, then maybe mastodon.social could be like a "beginner's server," where most people could sign up and learn the ropes of Mastodon, the network, and the Fediverse. Then when they know what's going on and know what they want to focus on, they could choose another server and migrate their account there. Then mastodon.social wouldn't be too big a player, but there'd still be one main "entry point" into the network for people used to siloed social media.

    4 votes
  6. [3]
    nothis Link
    Can anyone explain to me what mastodon is? Or maybe a good link to one? I'm getting slightly off-putting "open source community" vibes from it, where each explanation or news item on it seems to...

    Can anyone explain to me what mastodon is? Or maybe a good link to one? I'm getting slightly off-putting "open source community" vibes from it, where each explanation or news item on it seems to focus on the technical quirks and edge cases rather than any practical experience. My impression is that it's basically "open-sourced, decentralized twitter" but somehow that's not enough for it not to feel intimidatingly alien to me. Does it even want to be a mainstream-facing thing? For example, if anyone can run a mastodon server, doesn't that defeat the purpose of a social network, which, to a point, is supposed to be centralized?

    3 votes
    1. acdw Link Parent
      For an end-user, I think it is just as simple as a "decentralized twitter." The mechanics are all the same -- you post short messages, and reply to, favorite, and boost others' messages. You...

      For an end-user, I think it is just as simple as a "decentralized twitter." The mechanics are all the same -- you post short messages, and reply to, favorite, and boost others' messages. You follow people and they follow you in a non-symmetrical way (like twitter, versus facebook). That's it as far as I can tell. I don't really know if it wants to go mainstream, but the admins are proud when user number milestones are hit (I think we just got 2 million? I could be very wrong).

      As far as whether social networks are supposed to be centralized, I'm not so sure. I think of it kind of like towns: there are a lot of neighborhoods that are closer-knit, but anyone from any neighborhood can talk to anyone from any other neighborhood, too. That's decentralized. There's some centralization, for example, everyone speaks the same "language" (here, ActivityPub, the federation protocol), and there's shared roads and infrastructure (Mastodon's software and the Internet), but as far as people are concerned, it doesn't matter "where you're from," in terms of conversations. I think the metaphor kind of fell apart there, but it mostly holds together. I feel like federated social networks are more "natural," or more similar to actual communities, than the current siloed paradigm.

      5 votes
    2. synergy-unsterile (edited ) Link Parent
      It basically is FOSS decentralized twitter but there are different frontends/backends that allow for more or less any kind of social media experience like Plume/writefreely for blogging, Peertube...

      It basically is FOSS decentralized twitter but there are different frontends/backends that allow for more or less any kind of social media experience like Plume/writefreely for blogging, Peertube for youtube-clone, Pixelfed for instagram-clone, etc. Some people don't like tech company silos due to the centralization, "censorship", surveillance capitalism, etc.

      4 votes