MIGRATING TO THE FEDIVERSE?
Are you tired of another website? Are they changing features for the worse? Did someone suggest Mastodon to you? You may want to pause and read this before doing so.
Mastodon is very often and erroneously referred to as an “alternative” website for many other websites. Others have been known to call it “like if Discord and [insert website here] had a baby” or “Twitter with no nazis”. Neither these statements are true.
Mastodon is not a live-chat platform, and is far more akin to Twitter than something like tumblr, Instagram, Facebook, or any other popular website you can think of. It is also open for anyone to create their own instance for anyone and any purpose; the truth is unfortunate but it cannot be helped, as the entire concept behind the fediverse revolves around integration of communities, the free creation of communities, and the cultivation of a personal experience.
Communities revolving around your interests and personal choices exist; if they do not, you can easily create your own.
WHAT IS THE FEDIVERSE?
Federation is the concept of platforms, communities, and servers, known as an instance, interacting with one another, allowing users to see, reply, and follow people not on their home platform. Federating is the act of this concept, allowing your instance to, indeed, communicate with other such instances, often with decentralization in mind.
As such, the fediverse is a colloquial term for the entire network of instances that federate with one another. The Federated Timeline allows you to view everything contributing to the fediverse, in chronological newest-status-first order.
Some instances choose to silence (statuses muted, interaction) or suspend (statuses and interaction blocked) others, in order to cultivate an environment to their liking; the validity of doing so is contested within communities more attuned to the concept of federation, but it is entirely the admin’s (or community's) choice.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE FEDIVERSE
Many platforms have seen their hayday, and have come from a cornerstone to federation to more niche software run by fediverse veterans.
Perhaps the grandfather to all modern platforms is GNU Social, created in 2007 by one Evan Prodromou. Initially used on identi.ca (which now uses different software), it was designed so as to be free for anyone to use for their own platform; this concept of open source-ness can be seen reflected in its name: “GNU”, of the GNU Project. Other things that would carry over, following GS’ format, was the use of OStatus, which carried out the communication and federation between a number of instances.
2013 saw a boom in the use of the fediverse, in part to the popularity of the #Gamergate movement on social media; as people involved were banned on sites like Twitter, they moved elsewhere, discovering the decentralized platform.
Mastodon’s creation began on the fediverse, as a pet project of Gargron’s. Meant to fork off of GS, he was struggling to have the project finished, and reached out to various administrators of existing instances (including @moonman and @takeshitakenji of Shitposter Club, @Maiyannah of Highland Arrow, @Nerthos of Rainbow Dash Network), who graciously helped him. Upon finishing this pet project, however, Gargron left the community, decried them, and began Mastodon in earnest.
While it may seem biased to include this in the fediverse’s history, as many members of the Mastodon network will not discuss this topic, it is important to highlight, as it explains, in part, why non-Mastodon fediverse members dislike the platform as a whole, and why there is a rift that has essentially created two “sides” of the fediverse.
- Robek. “What Is GNU Social and Is Mastodon Social a ‘Twitter Clone’?” Robek World, 9 Dec. 2017, robek.world/featured/what-is-gnu-social-and-is-mastodon-social-a-twitter-clone/.
- Anonymous. “An Admin: What If There Was Twitter without Nazis?” Robek World, 8 May 2017, robek.world/futurology/an-admin-what-if-there-was-twitter-without-nazis/.
PLATFORMS AND YOU
If you are new to the fediverse, you may only know of Mastodon. While it is one of the more popular federating platforms, there are a number of different types of software an instance may run.
Each federation platform is open source, meaning that anyone can use it to create an instance for free and can modify it as they see fit.
Mastodon is a federated platform owned by one Eugen Rochko (@Gargron), previously as a fork of GNU Social. The entire platform is themed around the extinct mammal of the same name, with themed terminology (statuses are, by default, known as "toots").
A common misconception is that Mastodon is the only service and platform in federation; as you can see by this guide, this is far from the case. If your instance is not federating with another, it may be due to it being silenced or suspended, whether through personal admin choice or through the use of a blocklist.
Mastodon is unique in that it has a flagship instance, Mastodon.Social. This is often a new user’s gateway into the fediverse; as such, it is large and messy, and most instances have it silenced, as to reduce spam and strain on their servers.
Some Mastodon instances are hosted on services like Masto.Host, which will host the instance for you - reduced upkeep time and hosting cost, at the cost of less features and customizability for your instance.
NEED AN INSTANCE?
This is not a comprehensive list of instances on the fediverse; this is only to recommend some that may be of interest to new members or those looking to branch out. Be sure to read rules and about pages to help decide on what's right for you.