Overview: Fediverse

This topic emerged from the 5th in a series of newsletters focused on #US2020 #disinformation. A major update in late 2022 followed my #twittermigration to Mastodon.


Fediverse: collection of interoperable social networks built on Open Web standards. ActivityPub standard, for example, is used by (inter alia) Twitter-lookalike Mastodon and YouTube-lookalike PeerTube. Unlike Twitter and YouTube, however:

  • Mastodon/PeerTube are not owned and controlled by corporations. Anyone can launch and operate a Mastodon or PeerTube server, just like anyone can set up an email server and exchange emails with others using the email standard.
  • The person who creates a server sets its rules (privacy, hate speech, etc).
  • Users on any Mastodon/PeerTube server can not only interact with users on other Mastodon/PeerTube servers, they can interact across Fediverse platforms. For example:
    • if Mastodon user A follows PeerTube user B, B’s PeerTube videos will appear in A’s Mastodon feed,
    • user A can even comment on the video from within Mastodon, without visiting PeerTube or having a PeerTube account.

This would be like if my Twitter account followed someone's Facebook page, yet we could still interact seamlessly from our platform of preference. That’s impossible as Twitter & Facebook are walled gardens. Fediverse platforms like Mastodon and PeerTube are not – this is the Open Web on social.

See also: Tim Berners-Lee’s Solid, providing social media users with control over their data through personal knowledge graphs.

So what? Opens up possibility of new social platforms

While each Fediverse server is a community with its own rules, they're not walled gardens. This helps solve the vicious circle problem facing new platforms (why join a network where there are so few people on it? Hence noone joins it, so numbers stay low. So noone joins it): people don’t need to join the same social network, they just have to join any Fediverse network. 

Reality check: Servers must be bidirectionally linked manually? Mastodon apparently suffers from "the singleton problem... [as it's] difficult to convince ... a major server to [federate] ... with a minor one... three Mastodon servers contain almost 60% of the known Mastodon population" - Peer-to-Peer Network Models and their Implications.

See also: adversarial interoperability - another part of the solution to this problem.

Return of the Splinternet?

Nevertheless, this still requires a 'mass decamp'.


Cue the US2020 elections, following which "US conservative leaders may have triggered the sort an en masse decamp that Facebook/Twitter alternatives require to take off".

However they're not moving to Fediverse platforms, so this may simply return us to the #splinternet (pre-platform social media), but with even more political polarisation.

Elon Musk (2022 Update)

Elon Musk's purchase of Twitter triggered a huge uptick of interest in Mastodon, leading me to finally take the plunge after 2 years of faffing about - first post: Welcome to the Fediverse, starry-eyed noob (TwitterMigration, day 3).

Let's do better

If progressives decamp, they should decamp to Fediverse alternatives.

The EU Institutions could help: by simply joining and posting to Fediverse platforms in addition to Facebook/Twitter, they could:

  • encourage the emergence of alternatives to today’s toxic US platforms,
  • add a new dimension to the EU's strategy towards them.

(2022 Update):

  • the EDPS and the EC's IT department did, as I was writing a Fediverse strategy report for another EC department), but the result of both was underwhelming, to say the least.
  • upcoming Mastodon release: multilingual support. This echoes the multilingualism strategy I first explored from inside the EC in ~2002, but we couldn't handle the performance load of coupling multilingual content management and user personalised language preferences. In the new version:
    • each post can have multiple language versions,
    • each post displays in your order of language preference
    • replies are ordered by your lang preference

Ideas to develop

Business models

Good overview here:

  • mostly usual suspects (storage/security, subscriptions, freemiums),
  • advertising based on more limited data, brand advertising and - more intriguingly - reverse auctions, where users "offer up their data in exchange for access or deals" (cf Solid).
  • cryptocurrency-based equity - to be explored.

Twittermigration to Mastodon

(2022 Update)

Choosing your instance:

"the other users on your instance create its collective intelligence — the nearest thing you have to a content discovery algorithm" - so there are pros and cons for choosing both large, general instances or small, focused ones. More as I found it: Am I on the right Mastodon instance?.

See also:

Other useful tools & tips

Strategy, approach

I crossposted everything for a few days, then tried to use moaparty's "trigger" hashtag to crosspost selected content, firstly in both directions and then principally from Mastodon (my principal home) to Twitter.

That didn't work, so now I just post different stuff to different places. My "noob" post sets out the "city vs country village" metaphor which I still find useful. See also:

... Twitter is not a Mastodon replacement. They're different places to do different things: on Mastodon there's "less of the massively viral, you-gotta-see-this posts... a lot more murmuring conversation", with lots of content hidden beind content warnings. The world probably needs both - Twitter, after all, does bring "crucial social and civic issues to mainstream attention", which will be harder on Mastodon even with the same sized userbase


Highlighted Resources tagged #fediverse or #openweb follow below, or jump straight to all of them:


Relevant resources

Distributed digital gardens
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"the distributed/federated digital garden approach is the way to go for knowledge commoning... cribbing from ActivityPub's local, global, and 'those-you-follow' timelines... you could have local, 'those-you-follow', and global gardens... [with] some kind of liquid democracy", and interest-based groups, perhaps s…


Feedbot vous permet de faire de la veille, de suivre et d’automatiser la publication de vos flux RSS favoris sur Mastodon

Social knowledge graphs for collective intelligence
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The second in my 1/1/2023 bundle of 5 posts exploring collective intelligence looks at the role of decentralised social networks: "A personalised, decentralised Social Knowledge Graph for each user multiplies the knowledge available to them via a trusted network of Followers and Friends, and creating collaborative possibilities more akin to w…

A Minimum Viable Ecosystem for collective intelligence
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The "executive summary" of my 5-part bundle of 1/1/2023, which "provide a snapshot of my current thinking into how a decentralised collective intelligence ecosystem could be bootstrapped into existence."

Manton Reece - Micro.blog Mastodon

"Micro.blog can now cross-post to a Mastodon user account... Your custom domain on Micro.blog can now be ActivityPub-compatible, so that you can follow and reply to Mastodon users directly on Micro.blog ... someone can follow your blog posts".As a result "you can consolidate your identity and posts back to your own blog at your ow…


Yoyogi "breaks from the timeline... elevates the author and centers the thread".Pick a Fediverse account (Mastodon for now, Pleroma and Misskey next) that you’re following and see just their threads, in a columnar interface.You need to login and give it permission: the accounts you follow are presented at left, allowing you to select one…

Am I on the right Mastodon instance?
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My second post following my personal #twittermigration: "the other users on your instance create its collective intelligence — the nearest thing you have to a content discovery algorithm".Not that I like algorithms, but "Apart from hashtags, ,,, your server’s Local and Federated timelines [are your] primary discovery channels when y…

Twitter alternative: how Mastodon is designed to be “antiviral”
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Mastodon is "subtly designed to reduce the huge, viral surges of attention we see on Twitter" and others, which have "deformed people’s behavior... coaxed people to constantly try to hack the attentional marketplace... incessantly making posts ... operatically theatrical... enrage ... [other] high-voltage reaction".Hence “antiv…

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"I wanted a way to add any bookmarks I make there into a 'Read later' category in my RSS reader ... I create a PHP file that gets the latest 20 bookmarks... and takes an access token from your mastodon 'development' admin page. Then I can give this URL to my RSS reader: https://neil.mckillop.org/stuff/mastodon_bookmarks.rs…

Welcome to Mastodon - Google Docs
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"Welcome To Mastodon Welcome to Mastodon, and The Fediverse! This is a living document with some tips and Frequently Asked Questions about Mastodon and the Fediverse..."Pretty complete-looking

RSS to ActivityPub Converter

convert any RSS feed to an ActivityPub

Welcome to hell, Elon - The Verge
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Awesome hot take open letter to Elon Musk: "You fucked up real good, kiddo... no possible way to grow ... without ... compromises that will ultimately destroy your reputation and possibly cause grievous damage to your other companies... the problems with Twitter are not engineering problems. They are political problems... absolute monarchs u…

How to Leave Dying Social Media Platforms | by Cory Doctorow | Oct, 2022 | Medium
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Those who've read Doctorow's books and blogs on the collective action problem stopping people leave the established social media walled gardens may not find anything new, except for the quite brilliant link he makes with "the 1971 film adaptation of Fiddler on the Roof ... the Anatevkans can’t just pack up and leave: they are being…

Gab switches to Mastodon's code: Our statement - Official Mastodon Blog

The story on Gab and Mastodon:"After crowdfunding millions of dollars... Gab abandoned its own code and switched to ... Mastodon software in early 2019 as a way of circumventing Google’s and Apple’s ban..."Mastodon's AGPLv3 opensource license allows this, of course, but there are conditions, which Gab then broke until JoinMastodon &…

How to write an image description | by Alex Chen | UX Collective
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a "how-to guide ... through an online survey of Blind / low vision / visually impaired people."Discovered via Mastodon, where the culture is not to boost any toot containing non-accessible images, but applicable to all online publishing. "alt text and image descriptions are ... not actually the same thing. Alt text refers to the tex…

Elon Musk's Twitter impersonators: Trekonomics author Manu Saadia on making a fake Musk account for the lols.
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A very funny round up from week 2 of the twitter migration: "It hasn’t even been two weeks since Elon Musk officially took over Twitter, and things look like they’re going about as well as a Cybertruck demonstration... one response to Musk’s tenure has seemed to really get under his skin: the verified impersonators."Funny, but the number…

Mastodon Privacy Guide V.1.0

"a guide & a general backgrounder/crash course on data protection law... primarily targeted at Mastodon instance owners ... and users, but much of the elements will likely also apply to other #fediverse services" by "an External Data Protection Consultant, researcher, and general buzzkill who focuses on helping organisations and…

The Importance of Choosing the Correct Mastodon Instance - Carl Chenet's Blog
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Why is it important to choose your Mastodon home wisely? Because "You can move your user account from one instance to another, but you have to follow a special procedure which can be quite long... create another account on a new instance and import three lists... your followers, ... the accounts you have blocked [and] have muted".[note: …

The many branches of the Fediverse
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how "Mastodon fits into the much larger concept of the Fediverse... visualisation ... many different use-cases and benefits of different services".Good intro to the Fediverse as a whole, plus the visualisation in png & pdf, and some Q&As covering multiple accounts ("a user preference"), Nextcloud (adding ActivityPub end…

4 Twitter features Mastodon is better for not having - Scott.mn
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4 ways Mastodon doesn't optimise for enragement.On Mastodon’s "home timeline... posts don’t have metrics ... you have to click through ... makes you judge a post first by its content, rather than the score attached to it... the whole dynamic [being "ratioed"] doesn’t exist... leads to more thoughtful engagement rather than ... …

Hope for a Post-Musk Net. A federated future and suggestions for… | by Jeff Jarvis | Whither news? | Nov, 2022 | Medium
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JJ "explore some of the opportunities afforded by the likes of Bluesky, Scuttlebutt, the Fediverse, and Indieweb — not to mention good, old, reliable RSS".Most of the mastodon tips I knew, except: "enable the advanced web interface (it’s like Tweetdeck)" - I didn't know that existed so moved to Tusky and spent my first wee…


search the people you follow, are followed by, blocked & muted on Twitter, as well as the lists you maintain and follow, for possible Mastodon/Fediverse accounts. Provides graphs of which instances they're on, too, so useful for identifying which server to join.

Welcome to the Fediverse, starry-eyed noob (#TwitterMigration, day 3)
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I discovered the Fediverse as I kicked MyHub.ai’s shiny new tyres in early 2020, and I’m kicking myself now for not diving in then.

Building collective intelligence from social knowledge graphs
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Writing a chapter for a book on Personal Knowledge Graphs made me rethink MyHub.ai, and led to a new collective intelligence pilot project with the founders of massive.wiki.

From Personal to Social Knowledge Graphs: a vision statement
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I've been invited to write a chapter for an upcoming book on Personal Knowledge Graphs (PKG). My chapter will encompass each user’s PKG, the Social Knowledge Graph created by networking them together via the Fediverse, Solid hosting, AI writing tools and Decentralised Autonomous Organisations.This post provides a first draft of its Introducti…

Three protocols and a future of the decentralized internet
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An overview of three protocols - ActivityPub, Scuttlebutt and Dat - and their complementary roles in helping redistribute power from "large centralized corporate interests and back into the hands of individual people and small groups... No one protocol [is enough] ... each protocol has its strengths and weaknesses". We need "develo…


Pretty good explanation of ActivityPub from Darius Kazemi: "ActivityPub describes ways for social network sites to talk to each other... [from] sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat... [to] New York Times ... Spotify. Basically any site where individual "users" create content and other people can subscribe to it could be A…

Open-sourcing Twitter's algorithms is more complex than Musk implies
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"it's a start... Musk argued that disclosing what amplifies or downranks tweets would reduce the risk of “behind the scenes manipulation.” [but] algorithms alone offer limited insights" because it's not just an algorithm that defines what you see: it's a huge dataset - "content that enters the platform, each user’s p…

The Garden and the Stream: A Technopastoral | Hapgood

I suspect this will be a canonical text for me moving forward with myhub.ai.Mike Caulfield in 2015, when my first hub was only about 2 years old, had also "been experimenting with another form of social media called federated wiki... instead of blogging and tweeting your experience you wiki’d it. And over time the wiki became a representation…

Mastodon Twitter Crossposter

allows you to connect a Mastodon account and a Twitter account and enable cross-posting between them. You can choose some options, such as if you want to post boosts, unlisted toots or replies.

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