A journey through the fediverse

The current state of the web is frustrating to anyone who bothers to pay attention. We've experimented with the idea of people all across the world being connected with each...

4 min read

7 months ago

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The current state of the web is frustrating to anyone who bothers to pay attention. We've experimented with the idea of people all across the world being connected with each other and it backfired. Instead, this became a world in which people are connected to advertisers first, and each other second -- maybe third. The Internet as we know it is under the control of a scarily small amount of private entities. The web seems to be fading into darkness...

But, as in any darkness, when the situation truly gets fucked beyond repair, a glimpse of hope emerges. An idea spawns and it seems to stick, a protocol gets written and it seems to work, and a group of people enthusiastic enough to try a different approach gather together under the same unifediverse.

Photo by Andrei Lazarev on Unsplash.

What's a fediverse?

A fediverse is a network of users of different social networks. Not the social networks you would think of at first, but far more obscure ones. But something sets these social networks apart. They don't want to work separately, each within its own bubble. They want to work together.

Imagine a world in which you didn't need to create a YouTube account in order to follow a YouTube channel. You could just use your Twitter profile. Or your Facebook profile. Imagine a world in which you don't give a rat's ass about what social network your friends use because you can just follow them and interact with them, regardless of their social media choice.

Instead of having to follow different feeds to be kept up to date, why not just scroll through one feed and sort it however you would like? Do you miss seeing everything in chronological order? Well, aren't we all? And if you wish to do so, you could revert back to it. Only this time, permanently.

That's the world the fediverse promises. It doesn't aim low. It doesn't care about the money because it doesn't have to care about the money. The fediverse wasn't created with profit in mind, it was created with people in mind. That's what makes it unique.

The question of life, the fediverse, and everything

The fediverse didn't come of nowhere, but there wasn't a Big Bang that started it all. There was most certainly the beginning of it, but it was more of a spark than a bang. Software got written, protocols got replaced with better ones, and after all of that, a bang! Mastodon was born.

Mastodon is a nerdier version of Twitter. It's a microblogging software that anyone can upgrade or tweak for its own purposes. Most importantly, anyone with the desire to do so can run it on its own, and thus become a planet (node) in the fediverse.

Choose your own neighbourhood

Users of the fediverse, as nerdy as we are, refer to copies of the software as instances (of the software). However, talking about instances is boring, so let's talk about something easier to understand, like neighbourhoods.

If you're a person that wants to join the fediverse, the first thing you do is pick a neighbourhood. Each neighbourhood can have its own rules of what it finds acceptable, as well as put primary focus on some specific topic. Each neighbourhood has a friendly neighbourhood guard (sysadmin) who makes sure that everything continues to operate smoothly.

input.sh recommends:

  • infosec.exchange, a neighborhood oriented around infosec.
  • scholar.social, a neighborhood oriented towards academics.
  • todon.nl, a neighborhood dedicated to people leaning to the left side of the political spectrum.
  • vis.social, a neighborhood oriented towards people that like to talk about data visualisation.
  • botsin.space, a friendly neighborhood for bots.

For the longer list of instances with a common theme, click here.

Don't worry, you won't feel isolated regardless of your choice. You will always be able to follow people from another neighbourhoods, see their posts and interact with them in real time.

So who's on the fediverse?

Around half a million monthly active users. That might not be such big of a number for a social network, but I find it to be a surprisingly large number for a federated network. A decent chunk of people believes in this future already. Around 2.5 million total to be precise, ~71% of which decided to use Mastodon. These users are spread across 4000 or so different servers, using 30ish social networks all communicating together under a handful of protocols.

An incomplete map of the fediverse, with each node presenting a diffferent server. Data collected by Liaizon Wakest.

Other fediverse software

Should you join the fediverse?

The fediverse is in its geeky phase. While there has been a lot of progress of improving the user experience, it still feels a bit rough. The user experience issues are being ironed out one by one, and I expect the fediverse to be user-friendly for the average netizen within the next few years.

That being said, if you like experimenting and are not afraid to change a paradigm or two on how you use social media, you can already find comfort in the fediverse. I know that creating an account on yet another social media sounds cumbersome, but if we play our cards right, this might be the last time.

Mastodon has a friendly guide to choosing an instance, and if you want to follow me, you can do so @r3bl@r3bl.social.

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Published 7 months ago

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