Welcome to the Fediverse (goodbye twitter, facebook - hello mastodon & friendica)

 


 
At the time of writing this entry actress Marina Sirtis (probably best known for her roll as Deanna Troi on Star Trek TNG) has left Twitter.



One of the things that made Twitter an amazing tool, were people like Marina - Famous people who would actually reach out and talk directly to fans, unlike some others, who just seem to use it for blatant marketing purposes - but that is a different rant altogether.

She is one of many actors in the Science Fiction genre who was very active on twitter


Regardless of your feelings about Elon Musk, or Twitter, or Facebook, or any of the large social media companies.  This entry is to remind everyone, you do not have to be 'stuck' on one particular platform, when their is an entire Fediverse to choose from!

What is the Fediverse?

Star Trek fans such as myself are already familiar with the concept of the Federation. The United Federation of Planets is a fictional organization of numerous planetary sovereignties. Each planet has its own customs, beliefs, rights and freedoms which come together under the spirit of mutual cooperation working to create something bigger then itself. The Federation is more then the sum of its individual parts.

In technical/internet terms, 'Federation' is a series of multiple servers each which agree to join together also towards a common purpose. That purpose could be Microblogging like twitter or sharing videos like YouTube, or being a social network like Facebook, but with an important difference

NO ONE OWNS THE FEDIVERSE

There is no central authority placing rules on how it operates. Programmers write the software most of which is 100% open source.  Developers/Designers follow various agreed protcols such as ActivityPub. A de-centralized way of interconnecting these machines together.

This means:

    a) Admins set the rules (eg: moderation against hate speech) for their individual sites

    b) You have full control over your content. Don't like the site admin? - No problem just switch to another site, announce yourself and move your content. You followers follow with you.

   c) Those that follow you DO NOT have to sign up to the same site you do.  One person might sign up over at mastodon.social while your followers maybe singed up at scholar.social, or keyboard.me, or sterophonic.space. Don't like these? There are hundreds more ? - Still not happy ? No problem - then run your own instance - The choice is yours

Remember: All of these sites can communicate with all of the other Fediverse sites. So you followers are not limited to one location, and their is no "one" large company owning (stealing?) all of your content.

What is the cost?

The good news - joining the Fediverse is 100% completely free, just like Twitter / Facebook, etc, and in 99.9% of the cases their are zero ads / sponsored posts. 

How is this possible?

Typically these sites are maintained by just a few fellow geeks, with their own time, money, and servers. They are not multinational corporations, with millions of dollars of revenue. So if you do want to join the Fediverse, while it is 100% completely free. Consider making regular dontations to your site admin (or even other site admins) to help cover the costs and maintenance of these systems.

But, if it's just a few small people, won't it be slow ? and/or go down often?

Well the answer is both 'YES" and 'NO'. Instances can go up & down, traffic can be slower on certain instances then others. New instances pop up, and old  instances get retired. In most situations you will get a notice from the site admin warning you giving you time to switch servers - but not always.  But this is true about the web in general. In fact, one of the main reasons you don't see sites like 'Facebook' or 'Youtube' go down, is because they use a type of Federation too ! - It's called a Content Delivery Network (CDN). A set of distributed servers that share common content, configured in such a way to provide you the feeling of 'not failing' when in fact when a failure occurs, it effects a minimal amount of users due to the 'federated' nature of the system.  So while an individual instance may go down shortly, you can still see the same information and content and may not even notice at all!

What about safeguards?

Marina makes a good point - If everything is Federated, who works to keep the hate speech out of the system ? -  Is that even possible in a system that is not 'centrally owned'?

What makes the Fediverse more powerful then any single microblog or social network, is its ability to cater to a wide variety of people regardless of political views, associations. The technology doesn't really care - but the instance admin's do !

Just like on Twitter, you can follow people you like, and stop following those you do not. Twitter algorithm however still may show you trending tweets (or $$ promoted tweets) which may not to be of your liking.

In the Fediverse, of course, you can follow people and not follow others, but so can the server admins! - This means that a certain server sets its own moderation rules, and can "hide", "ban" or "unlist" un-follow other servers that it does not want to associate with.

So yes, anyone in the Fediverse could for example setup their own Federated anti-Semitic microblogging service, and server admins can either follow or block those from entering their feeds.  Again the choice is yours ! Join a server for a while, don't like the content in your feed  ? doesn't match your liking? - No problem, move yourself to another server and try again until you find the right fit that matches you.  Meanwhile those anti-Semitic can still play in their own little 'sandbox' blocked off from the regular world spreading mis-information and lies only to those who buy into it.  Again - this is just like how the Internet was designed, no one person controls the 'Internet' (at least not yet thankfully).

What about mobile clients?

Everyone today needs to use their cellphone for everything. This is no different in the Fediverse world. I have been trying several of the mobile clients to find one that is a good match for me.  Your experience may differ but personally I recommend for android is called "Tusky", and although it refers to itself as a 'Mastodon' client. You can use it with Friendica as well.

What's next?

Are you ready to give the Fediverse a try? - Great.  No need to setup any special forum's or special websites, just join an instance.

Here are the list of some software instances you can join:

Mastodon -> It has a very similar look/feel as twitter, posts are public and federated automatically by default. Plus their instance list let's you walk through a little wizard to find the instance that feels right for you.  https://instances.social/

Friendica -> This is much more like Facebook, you can have the concept of a 'wall' public and private posts, groups and events, but is also Federated. https://dir.friendica.social/servers

Peer Tube -> This is a federated 'YouTube'. Watch videos, post your own videos, comment / reply on other videos, have your own channels and playlists  https://joinpeertube.org/instances#instances-list

Pleroma -> Similar to Twitter / lightweight so it does not use a lot of system resources for server admins. It doesn't yet have as many instances https://pleroma.social/#featured-instances

PixelFed -> Prefer 'Instagram or snapchat?' PixelFed mimics these tools and let you post images both publicly and privately. https://fedidb.org/software/pixelfed

Reminders:

Don't like those you can always setup your own instance as well!

You don't need multiple accounts! - You can sign up on Friendica and follow people and reply to others on Mastodon / PeerTube, Pleroma. You an also follow popular blogs, and pretty much any content that uses RSS feeds.

You don't have to leave your Twitter / Facebook if you don't want to make that dramatic of a move just yet. Just sign up and try it out. One of the first things you'll notice is people post in many different languages. The internet is not just English! - can you imagine?


Join the Federation today :-)
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