Distributed social media – Mastodon & Fediverse Explained
Articles Blog

Distributed social media – Mastodon & Fediverse Explained


In recent years, social media networks have
grown exponentially, with Facebook having a massive 2.3 billion active monthly users. However platforms like Twitter and Facebook
have also faced a lot of controversy and without going to much into details I want to highlight
just one in this video: centralisation. When we’re using Facebook or Twitter, we
are effectively trusting a single company with all of our data. And not just that. They also control what posts are allowed on
their platforms. If yours don’t follow the rules, your account
can be shut down and there is nothing you can do about that. So, how can we solve this? Well we could make social media more decentralized. And that brings us to the main topic of the
video: Mastodon. An open source project that wants to put social
networking back into your hands. At least that’s what the tagline says. In a nutshell, Mastodon is basically like
Twitter. Tweets are called “toots” and they can
be up to 500 characters long, versus only 280. You can also follow people you find interesting
and retweet or “boost” toots that you like. So how’s it different then? For starters, Mastodon isn’t controlled
by one company. It’s an open project and everyone can grab
a copy of the code and set up their own Mastodon server, also referred to as an instance. What’s more, the owner of an instance is
often a member of the community and they define the rules for their server. If those are in conflict with what you want
to post, you simply find another server to register your account. This is a choice you don’t have with traditional
social networks. And the best part is that each Mastodon server
can communicate with the others. Meaning if you signed up for one instance,
you’ll still be able to interact with users on another one. This model for decentralization is called
federated and it can be best compared to email. There are many email providers out there like
Gmail, Outlook and Yahoo Mail. I can sign up for Gmail while you can sign
up for Outlook and yet we’re still able to send each other emails. That’s because email servers speak the same
language: they all use a standard protocol to communicate. The same is true for Mastodon servers, they
communicate with each other using the ActivityPub. It’s a standard protocol that defines how
a server should handle new user posts and how they can be interacted with like sharing,
replying or liking posts. But ActivityPub is not limited to Mastodon. Other applications can also implement it and
that’s where the magic happens! Let me give a concrete example: PeerTube,
a website similar to YouTube, also implements ActivityPub and because of that, Mastodon
users can follow a PeerTube user. If that user posts a new video, it will pop
up on the feed of the Mastodon user. How cool is that? Any platform or application that implements
ActivityPub becomes a part of a massive social network. Imagine being able to use your Facebook account
to follow your friends on other platforms like Twitter and YouTube, without needing
an account there. This big social network is also called the
Fediverse and it already has a ton of services. For microblogging you can use Mastodon or
Friendica. For video hosting there is PeerTube and Funkwhale. For image hosting you can use PixelFed and
for regular blogging you can use Plume or Write.as. You could even say that the Fediverse prevents
lock-in. One of the reasons why Facebook has gotten
so big is because people have to join it before they can participate. And once you’re in, Facebook tries to keep
you in. They intentionally make their platform closed
but in the Fediverse the opposite is happening. More platforms are being built on top of the
ActivityPub protocol because that means they can see and interact with all of the content
out there. Sounds great right? I was so convinced that I decided to sign
up for Mastodon. And straight away I send out a “toot”
asking people what I should cover when making a video about Mastodon. A few short minutes later, without any followers,
I received useful replies. And I don’t mean that sarcastically. People were keen to point out that Mastodon
doesn’t do ads and that it has more advanced features compared to Twitter. There is for instance a nifty spoiler alert
system. One user even asked if my final video would
be uploaded to PeerTube and another pointed out that it’s not just Mastodon, and that
I should also mention the entire Fediverse. Which, I did do. Alright, by now you’re probably thinking:
stop your sales talk already. Nothing can be this good! And yes, there are some drawbacks. For starters: money. Running a Mastodon or any other instance comes
with the costs of running servers and maintaining them. To recover that, most instance owners dependent
on donations from their users. Selling ads is not possible. So before ActivityPub can really take off,
we might have to look into this problem. Otherwise we could see a lot of instances
being born, but a lot of them might also die quickly because of a lack of funding. The second possible downside is adoption. The Fediverse is, in my opinion, a revolutionary
idea. One that could interconnect many social services
together. But it’s all worth nothing if it’s not
being used. Over the years there have been quite a few
attempts at decentralizing social media with projects like GNU social or Diaspora. All of which had limited success. They weren’t build on the ActivityPub protocol
and that might have limited their successes. One this is for sure though, Mastodon is picking
up steam. Fun side effect: it’s very popular amongst
Japanese people. Cultural differences make them feel unwelcome
on Twitter and so many Mastodon instances are created by Japanese people, for Japanese
people. Really cool! But back on topic: currently there are over
6500 Mastodon instances worldwide, who serve a total of 2 million users. That’s nothing compared to giants like Twitter
and Facebook but it does indicate that there is an interest for something else. Something better and more community driven. So that was it for this video. Would you consider signing up for Mastodon
or another platform on the Fediverse? Let me know your thoughts in the comments
below and follow me on Mastodon. If you liked this video, hit the thumbs up
button and consider getting subscribed. Thanks so much for watching and till next
time!

46 thoughts on “Distributed social media – Mastodon & Fediverse Explained

  1. Very good development. Thanks for this informative content. Adoption requires marketing and users themselves can spread the good word. We need to uproot the evil social media monopolies.

  2. How does this work? Do you query results from all servers or only those you follow? The former seems stupid, while the latter sounds like it would result in a reddit-like system, with gated communities and ban-happy mods.

  3. What about Steem blockchain? It's just like mastodon (blockchain instead of servers) but it pays for posts that are liked by the community.

  4. Great great great video. Sharing it with my friends! I don't know what is your channel about, but the privacy and decentralization themes are aewsome! Good luck with your channel!

  5. It might be better to include some general terminology in the video title. Since I clicked on this video randomly, since I was bored and found it pretty interesting. But I had no idea what it was about before clicking. I think if it said "Decentralized Social Media – Mastodon & The Fediverse Explained" or something of the sort, I'd have been much more likely to click on it, since I have an idea what the video is about before clicking. As currently, the video may as well have no title from the perspective of someone who doesn't know what Mastodon or the Fediverse is. Maybe the thumbnail could also be utilized to add the general terminology too.

  6. That decentralized apps are great! But the problem is that there some of them are still seperated.
    Some of them are Mastodon (and other compatible apps), ZeroNet, Steem… There are also many "storage" providers like Storj, OrbitDB, IPFS, 3Box, blockchains… And it is also same for identify services.
    All of them have some advantages and disadvantages so it would be great if they would be able to communicate and work with each other.

  7. It looks great compared to what's out there. Social media became a minefield of trolls and hate. Maybe this is the kind of thing that wouldn't attract those kind of people. Personally I found social media to be a bottomless pit of wasted time.

  8. I like the idea, but I'm not a fan of the current UI, and I don't like that I have to choose which instance I have to act as when boosting a post etc. For example, the full handles are too long to remember, and I'd like it to go to all instances. There also needs to be an autofill for those handles.

  9. This is awesome, still don't get how the interactivity between the instances works too, but i'll search more for it it's really interesting.

  10. Yes, and I love Plume in particular: in fact I use Plume to communicate concepts, like building a complex Machine Learning algorithm more like the Fediverse, rather than centralized social media, not to better create advertisements, so much as a method of producing "Companion" robots that can hold hands and go "Come By Here" with humans.

  11. About the last point. I know of two instances off hand where members of the community can set up monthly donations to the site, and in return they get to be voteing members of the governing body that runs the instance. It's a niche possibility yes, and mostly works because these instances are aimed at the kind of person who would like that idea, but it is A way of handling server fees without ads.

  12. APub actually is born as an improvement over OStatus (used by GNU Social), and Mastodon actually used OStatus before adding APub support. Some speculate that the Tweetdeck-like UI might have contributed to Mastodon's success.

    Then again, this is way too technical for a YouTube video.

  13. sell a Fediverserout of the Box Pod made from a standard case and a RaspberyPi . Flash it with a first start routine to setup the instance made for just your families accounts. Add Next cloud and an option for massstorage.
    Have it connected to an inbound Dynamic Domain name service or have it beeing able to refresh an A-Record without configurating the router.

  14. Mastodon has no respect for free speech, they ban you account if you don't follow their political agenda, so is as bigoted as facebook or twitter. If you wanna be the social network of the future, you really need to let censorship behind, just saying

  15. I got banned from all platforms because I am a National Socialist, and I was told to join Mastadon, and the one I did join was Mastadon social, and they banned me too. It's not fucking free speech if you're not allowed to have your own server with your own rules! Basically ran my own instance and they shut it down because I was a "nazi".

  16. I know mastodon has specific policies on this, but the nature of the service makes me wary.

    But being decentralized, how does it prevent their Network being a safe harbor for white supremacists? Having an opinion doesn't necessarily mean you deserve a platform for that opinion. (For example, if I think your mother is fat, I don't deserve to be able to set up shop in your living room, or even on your public street to broadcast that to the world)

    So like, what prevents a "rogue server" from becoming the new white supremacist hub?

  17. Three million users now that Gab with about a million users have joined the Fediverse. (Cross-Posted forever on Dissenter)

  18. Just as a warning to some people, Gab is now using Mastodon and the Fediverse.

    I'm not warning you that Gab is on it. Gab is awesome, and one of the few good Social Media sites left.

    What I'm warning you about, is that there are Leftist assholes using Mastodon and the Fediverse to block and censor people using it. Since they can't just censor Gab from Network to user, they're censoring from the users to the Network. They block/mute/outright ban any user on GitHub who uses Gab, and certain apps are straight up blocking signing into Gab as an instance. In particular, Tusky will send you to the Rick Roll video if you try and sign into Gab using it.

    There are other apps that use Mastodon and the Fediverse you can use, but I don't know of many of them. The two that work are Tootdon, which will be shutting down on Sunday, and Fedilabs, but I think they're planning to do the same thing Tusky is.

    So this isn't full proof, but it's a step in the right direction.

  19. You think money is a problem? hahaha You're jsut as shortsighted as the people who came up with this idea. the instance you create your account on might not even be even followed or follows lots of instances for various reason so you can't grow your channel or following. Everyone sets up his own rules and if your mini boss doesn't like you anymore you can't just migrate. At the end of the day there will be 2 – 3 instances that follow every other one and then they can dictate their own rules and do whatever. Does it remind you of anything? Exactly! Another youtube. hahahaha
    Hell google and other companies with money can simply use it. And nobody will be able to compete with them. I asked people behind this fediverse you know what I got in response. Foaming at the mouth and nobody addressed my questions. Here's the nature of the problem. People want one url, one set of rules, one video catalogue or whatever.

  20. I signed up for Gab and I love it. I look at the Fediverse like the world and Instances like cities. You have very diverse groups of people in cities. Some you agree with. Some you don't. However, I get to decide who I do and do not involve myself with. A place like Gab is an open platform that has not taken that first step down a slippery slope of banning people for expressing opinions. Twitter is more like a dictatorship. They ban people for violating their standards but they often cannot pinpoint why the ban took place. They shadowban trends based on political bias.

    Long story short, companies like Facebook, Google, and Twitter WANT people to think that Gab is some kind of Alt-Right playground because they don't want competition. I'd encourage people to sign up.

  21. The really big problem with Mastodon is the "Admins" running the Instances, they act like little dictators banning or blocking your account if you dare wander from the lefty group think. It is no secret Mastodon is very leftwing, so it is full of feminists and snowflakes. It's only "free speech" if its their special kind of PC free speech. But things are changing, Gab now as 1 MILLION users and Gab has recently joined the Fediverse. Gab is now the BIGGEST instance within the fediverse.

  22. "Cultural differences" made the Japanese uncomfortable on Twitter… lol just come out and say it. Japan realized SJWs are ruining Twitter.

  23. Why is there not a cryptocurrency associated with the fediverse? Something that can be generated or transferred to server operators?

  24. I'd say this is only partial decentralization here since you still need rely on "servers" and hosting of "instances" (with fixed addresses). The key would be running a service on virtual servers or an anonymous network like a cloud. It seems to me that no matter what source the programming you can't escape the basics: Server networking vs. Peer to Peer sharing (in some form or other) and frankly we need an alternative for both.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back To Top