Mastodon & The Future of Social Media

Mastodon is free software that anyone can download and run on their own device. Imagine if you could download an entire copy of Facebook or Twitter or Instagram and run it for your friends, family, and community. Obviously, you wouldn’t be able to use the same URL, the actual domain name one types in their browser, but perhaps you could get something more personalized. This could be helpful if you disliked the moderation practices (or lack thereof) of previous social media, or wanted to divest from unethical tech giants. On Mastodon, we have established a lot of safe & inclusive cyberspace for both LGBT+ and disabled people.

This is what Mastodon, Friendica, and Pixelfed offer. They compete directly with Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram by letting anyone host their own social media platforms, at their own domain names. As is convention within free/libre, open-source software (FLOSS), there are a few different versions floating around based on personal preferences of different communities. Further, these platforms exist in a broad ecosystem called the Fediverse, in which different domains can share data, and their users can talk to eachother. This way, unlike on proprietary platforms such as Facebook & Twitter, there is no price to be paid for choosing to migrate to a different platform in the future. Everyone is empowered to leave should they wish, without having to give up on all their established connections with friends and family. This solves a major political-economic problem in social media.

One of the subtle things this enables, is that one can sign up for a single service, with an administration, features, and user interface that personally meets one’s needs, and follow and comment on completely different services in the Fediverse. Imagine if you could comment on YouTube and Instagram with your Facebook account, so there’s a lot less pressure to sign up for an arbitrary array of platforms. This is the promise of the Fediverse: A massive trimming down of the total data people are releasing, and finessing such releases down to only personally trustworthy sources.

I’d love to hear if I can help anyone with this. Some people are surprised that to use Mastodon, they have to find a local community they like. Imagine if you couldn’t join Facebook without first finding a group to join. This will be their local community, and the moderation team there will make judgement calls about when to “defederate” from other servers for the safety, comfort & well-being of their community. For example, running a proper social media server requires blanket bans against reactionary doorknobs like TERF’s, neo-Nazi’s, and (US-style) “libertarian” loudmouths. A quality moderation team would defederate from those people’s domains, so that the federated, non-local content that locals see will be reasonably healthy. Always read the about page by clicking "Learn More" before choosing to join a given Mastodon server.

I tend to use the Fediverse mainly via the web, as opposed to an app. People are also surprised that if they use an app on their phone or tablet, there’s zero reason to use the “official” main one. In fact, everyone openly hates it because it lacks standard features of the platform. Instead, because all of this is built on free software and open standards, there are a handful of competitors. On Android, I use Tusky, and people absolutely love it. On iOS, which I have never used, people like one called “Toot!” supposedly. This situation is new to outsiders to FLOSS, but it helps a great deal with data safety. After all, if users access Facebook via the web, but also via an official app, that opens up great opportunities for such entrenched companies to weasel around consumer-protection regulations.

I’ll leave a few very quick introductions from the French free software org Framasoft, along with another hosted on TILvids. Both sites are PeerTube instances, part of the Fediverse.