In this post, I want to explain what the Fediverse is and why you should join it. I talk very little about the technical stuff, but this post is intended to be understood by anyone.
Another post for the really technical topics is planned for the future.
Where does the name come from?
The name is a portmanteau of federation and universe. So the Fediverse is a federated universe.
This name does represent it pretty well. The Fediverse is decentralized web of social media platforms all connected to each other. Anyone can connect with anybody else, even if they are using completely different services. You can imagine it like email. Every user has an email address by a specific service, but they can write with anyone they want, not just with users of the same service.
For those who are familiar with the classic social networks: Imagine using Twitter and seeing Instagram or Facebook posts in your timeline, just like they would all be using Twitter. But that’s not all. There also could be YouTube videos or anything else. You decide. That is the beauty of the Fediverse.
Why is the Fediverse so important?
The old social media platforms are owned by companies. Not so is the Fediverse. First of all, there are many services in the Fediverse, so the whole thing cannot be owned. Just like the internet. Therefore, nobody can force users into something or exploit their market dominance, as the current big players do.
The creators of the Fediverse platform Peertube explained it in a straightforward way. Here is their explanation. (This video is by the way hosted on Peertube)
Free and Open Source
But even the producers of Fediverse software are very different. It mainly consists of FOSS (Free and Open Source Software), which means the software is genuinely free and independent developers can modify it and help to improve it. FOSS is incredibly important and I will cover its numerous advantages in a future post.
Because of this freedom, making money is more challenging. However, the user doesn’t get treated like trash, as the user contributes to the Fediverse through donations. Also, there are no ads because of that.
So, the software producers of the Fediverse are primarily volunteers or non-profit organizations. Both aim to make the internet a better place and not just want to make a bug.
Moreover, it’s not just the software producers who act fairly, the people who run the servers are mainly volunteers, organizations, or even states!
The force of the masses
Because you can freely choose your service in the Fediverse, no one gets excluded from society anymore. I find this to be a significant issue with classical social media platforms. I am not using any of these because of all the bad things they do. As a result, I sometimes feel a bit excluded in specific contexts.
This is extremely important when it comes to messengers. Not using the specific service that is popular in your region can have a significant impact. Personally, I stopped using WhatsApp for around a year. In Germany, where I’m from, it is used nearly without exception. A few people have Signal or Threema, but that’s about it. Not having WhatsApp did affect my day-to-day life significantly. While I thought that using other services might encourage a few people to switch, it did only to some extent. Not everyone made the transition and some friends or family members remained exclusively on WhatsApp. Beyond the challenge of communicating with those you know, like and love, there are difficulties in meeting new people. I’ve had experiences where some form negative opinions if you don’t use the service that is common. Moreover, the barrier of contacting someone is much higher if they need to install a new app and you cannot contact them because you don’t have the right messenger.
While a social media platform is not a messenger, the effects are quite similar: The people using the big service essentially force you to use it too!
Current culture in the Fediverse
The current culture in the Fediverse is a significant positive aspect. People in this community are exceptionally friendly compared to traditional social networks. Moreover, the Fediverse is highly inclusive. For instance, if you post an image without an alt text (allowing blind people to understand what the image is about), someone will certainly remind you to add it. This inclusivity is crucial to the community, emphasizing that everyone should have the opportunity to participate.
There’s also a good amount of instances for LGBTQ+ to create safe spaces for those people. I consistently see different instances with this objective.
Of course, this depends on which edge of the Fediverse you are at. But overall, I think there are many minorities in the Fediverse who are not as represented elsewhere. I recall a poll someone conducted with around 11,000 votes, asking how many queer people there are in the Fediverse. The result was 60% not queer and 40% queer. These are solid numbers. Of course, this result is biased in some way because of who the poll maker is and who reposts it. But with this number of votes, it definitely gives a good hint.
If someone wants to create artistic content that goes a bit beyond the guidelines of platforms like Instagram, it is acceptable in the Fediverse. You can choose an instance where the rules align with your preferences and create your content there. While most instances may require a content warning for specific posts, you are free to express yourself as you like.
Also, there is no need to upload regularly or avoid using specific words to please the algorithm. There is nothing like that here. There are no ads and therefore no advertisers which do not want you to say something “bad”. You can handle things how you and your instance want them to be.
Another immensely beneficial aspect here is that the moderator count per user is relatively high. This is because each instance is responsible for its moderation. As a result, every instance manages its part, leading to an overall high count of moderators. Moreover, if an instance becomes unmoderated, other servers will block them, ensuring a clean network.
But, after all, the Fediverse is currently a big home for people who are interested in technology. It is relatively new tech and because of that, there are a lot of nerds. Which is great!
Of course, these are not all groups of people, but I hope I could provide you with a bit of an overview of the kinds of people currently in the Fediverse. This may change as new people join us, but at the moment, this is how I perceive the Fediverse. Let’s hope we can maintain this diversity for the future.
Who is in the Fediverse?
I just saw that the Netherlands also have a state owned Mastodon instance. I really like the idea of nations backing the network and hopefully the values, this network comes with.
Mozilla also created its own instance available to the public: Mozilla Social. However, there are another 26,000 servers waiting for you to explore them.
Currently there are around 10,000,000 users in the Fediverse with a total of about 1,200,000 of them being active in the last month. So you hopefully you find someone to connect with.
A good overview of instances and the biggest users can be found at FediDB.
In this section, I want to showcase a few of the most important services of the Fediverse. But there are many more to be explored!
This image provides a quick overview of the different categories and services.
Mastodon is the biggest and also the most developed platform of the Fediverse. It is a microblogging service. The company behind it is a German non-profit company (gGmbH). It is comparable with Twitter and gained a lot of attraction during the catastrophic takeover of Elon Musk. At that time, there was a huge mass of people moving to Mastodon from Twitter.
After these events, the “freed” platform attracted even more extreme right-wing individuals. Additionally, many journalists face occasional blocks. If you truly seek a free platform, consider joining Mastodon: https://joinmastodon.org. (They also have a really fancy website: Check it out!)
Pixelfed is the pardon from the Fediverse for Instagram. It is developed by a Canadian software engineer and the community.
In my opinion, it is not as widely developed as Mastodon. But it’s almost on a perfect level. It has many features, even some that classical Instagram does not have. But most importantly, it is part of the Fediverse and therefore, you could also consume the great photography available on Pixelfed from your Mastodon feed or whichever service you like the most.
And of course, Pixelfed is developed as Free and Open Source Software / FOSS!
You can join it at: https://pixelfed.org/
Lemmy is Reddit for the Fediverse and it is also FOSS. It seems to have a really active community. I personally did not try it out that much yet but it seems pretty good.
After all, the decision to use Lemmy is not that difficult if Reddit is the current choice. Reddit did screw up hard this year. Same as Twitter. They banned every third-party app and also made a couple of other bad decisions. On the image below, you see a Reddit event where the collective of Reddit users has written “Fuck spez!” which is the CEO of Reddit.
This is a great example that the community cannot do anything against the will of a platform like Reddit, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok… They are extremely powerful companies, maybe monopolies, exploiting their power of having all the users. Let’s break that! Let’s make a real change and go to the Fediverse!
If you are interested in Lemmy: https://join-lemmy.org/
Peertube is an alternative to YouTube. Because video streaming is quite expensive and in a decentralized network, there are many smaller communities with less money. Peertube decided to use peer to peer. This means if you watch a video, you help someone else watching because your computer sends bits of the video to other persons. So the server does need less bandwidth and therefore, small communities are able to operate a video streaming platform. This approach comes with downsides, but after all, it makes something possible, which would be really hard to achieve in another way. A really free video platform.
In terms of content, this platform is still a bit niche. There are really good channels, especially in the privacy, tech and Linux community. But for more mainstream content, there is not that much to offer. This, of course, is not a problem of the platform but a problem of the creators who are not feeding the platform. I hope this will change in the future!
Because of the Fediverse, you can, of course, watch and subscribe to Peertube channels from Mastodon and other platforms.
Peertube is developed by the French non-profit association Framasoft as FOSS.
Here you can find more information: https://joinpeertube.org/
What about Threads (Meta)?
Now, bigger companies are starting to join the Fediverse. The biggest is Threads made by Meta.
Currently, Threads is implementing the required ActivityPub logic to join the network. You can already follow the CEO of Instagram and a few of the team. But it seems like the full connection will take a while to implement.
This topic is a controversy in the Fediverse. On one side stands that Meta is bringing a lot of users to the network, but on the other side, Meta is also well-known for incredibly bad privacy and being part of surveillance capitalism, hurting millions of users.
A few instances have even made the “Fedi-Pact” and therefore will block Meta on the server side when they are joining. This has an impact of about 7% of active users on the open side of the Fediverse. (Of course, only Meta will not see them. The rest of the network can still interact with them normally.)
If a server does not block a specific other server, the user still has the power to do that. Here, the founder of Mastodon explains his audience how it is done.
And, of course, Meta will not provide a platform that is nearly as free and open as the other ones I mentioned above. They are only trying to make money and hopefully are not destroying the Fediverse while doing that. The only good they do is that they bring a lot of users with them. That’s it. But this also may open the Fediverse to a lot of people, which would be great.
Meta joining is like a dance with the devil. But we may benefit from it.
Also worth mentioning
You are not stuck with your account on a server. Of course, you have the freedom to choose another one and take all your followers with you. No problem here. Free software doesn’t lock you in place.
Another thing getting weird in the old networks is the account verification. You now need to pay in both Instagram and Twitter to be verified, even if you are not a big creator or another person of interest. This is rather stupid and confusing. In the Fediverse, you do not need to pay anyone. You can just link yourself from another platform/website you own and you get a sign that this account/page is verified to be owned by you. A much better way of verification.
The technical stuff
I decided not to put the really technical stuff in this post. This would have made this blog post even longer than it is now. I have a bit of experience in creating servers for the Fediverse because of Fedodo. I want to share this experience in a future post and talk about the details of ActivityPub. This is the protocol powering most of the Fediverse.
Thanks to the amazing artists providing their work under Creative Commons licenses. They help me so much in illustrating this post. Links are available under each image. Go and check them out!
Also, thanks to you for reading this until the end. I hope I could give you a bit of an overview of the topic. And maybe I even convinced you to join us fighting for a better web. But don’t pressure yourself. Have fun ❤️