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Fediverse – Federated social networks running on free open software (fediverse.party)
259 points by jaywink 12 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 69 comments

Some people are confused about what this is.

On this page you see examples of websites you can host yourself. I'll use Mastodon as an example since I've used it. I know about hubzilla slightly but have not used it.

Mastodon is a platform you can run on your own server. That server you're running is called an instance. You can also register on an instance someone else is running.

Think of a single Mastodon instance as a clone of Twitter. One nice thing is: Your server, your rules.

Then, you can also allow your Mastodon instance and its users and their posts to be discoverable by other instances.

I think it's said to be federated because no one entity controls the content that is being shared. the information is passed around from instance to instance by rules that are defined on a per-instance basis.

I was looking at this page the other day, since I've been interested in hosting something like a Mastodon instance for friends. But, I'm not sure what my responsibilities as a host and admin would be under some of the new U.S. legislation (like the CLOUD Act.) Those laws seem to directly contend with my desire to protect user's privacy and data.

Can I assume that these services (e.g. Mastodon and hubzilla) can talk to each other?

As long as the two services implement a shared protocol like ActivityPub [1], then yes they can communicate! For instance, both Mastodon and PeerTube (p2p youtube clone) implement ActivityPub, and so can communicate. And although according to [2], hubzilla doesn't appear to currently implement ActivityPub, however there is an intermediary "Bridgy Fed" [3] which can bridge between Mastodon and hubzilla.

[1] https://www.w3.org/TR/activitypub/ [2] https://activitypub.rocks/implementation-report/ [3] https://fed.brid.gy/

For what it's worth, Hubzilla is working on getting an ActivityPub API up soon.

They're also looking to implement OpenID2 so it can be used to log into websites just like Facebook currently can.

ActivityPub has been supported in Hubzilla since around June/July 2017. It provides social communications in ActivityPub, Diaspora, OStatus, and Zot. It's designed primarily as a distributed content management and decentralised identity/privacy platform, whereas most of the other fediverse projects focus primarily on social networking.

I heard that things like hashtags aren’t federated though. I think it’s important to make especially posts findable across instances via hashtags.

Wouldn't you have to connect to every instance on the planet and ask each one individually if they have public messages with those hashtags?

I don't think Diaspora* and Mastodon will, just to clarify what other people are saying. But Mastodon <-> Mastodon should (and maybe even ones based off the same protocol).

Also note that email is federated, yet the majority of users have congregated around Gmail.

I predict that the same thing will happen with Mastodon, and that is not the type of future we should have.

Instead, I urge everybody to use P2P/decentralized networking, where even though there might be strong/reliable federated hosts, YOU fundamentally control your identity and it does NOT belong to a federated host.

With latest WebCrypto, this is perfectly possible now: http://hackernoon.com/so-you-want-to-build-a-p2p-twitter-wit... !

> ...where even though there might be strong/reliable federated hosts, YOU fundamentally control your identity and it does NOT belong to a federated host.

Yeah, owning ones identity and also your followers/friends/etc connection to your account should automatically be updated if you choose to move instances. This is what I believe will allow federation to flourish.

When the shortlived Great Migration to Mastodon took place last year, it was terribly cumbersome if you wanted to move instances — you would lose all of your friends again, at which point you’re required to somehow alert every account which follows you and expect them to go through the steps to add your new account. This is just too messy and for people who have spent years building their perfect social net, this is a pretty severe roadblock when one is forced to choose between a new instance with better culture but losing years of work connecting with interesting people.

Federated networks are a type of decentralized network (since no single instance is a single center point of failure).

I think federated networks are perfectly fine and a good first stepping stone into better decentralization, P2P usually has some problems in usability and moderation/administration.

Mastodon instances allow people with similar interests to live together as a community with a strong bond than what you'd usually encounter in purely P2P networks.

I think the majority of users have several emails, and Gmail rules purely on interface convenience. Its more advanced features (like google maps knowing what hotel you've booked) are mostly creepy, and its storage allowance is not a standout.

I remember Gmail's storage being amazing when it came out...

Yes there isnwork by w3c to spec out this protocol. I'm not sure if its under draft or already an official spec though.

It's called ActivityPub and it's been made an official w3c protocol recently.

Yes, I disagree with the above user's statement about why they're said to be federated- they're federated because content from any instance can appear on any other instance. The federation is the cross-talk.

That's the "federated" part of the article's name.

This doesn’t really tell me anything about each network. There’s just a paragraph of free association about them as a physical place, usually with a bunch of misspellings. Presumably you’ve read through the info of each network; synopsize them and tell us what existing corporate site each one is most trying to work like?

All the clever positioning breaks down on the iPad mini I’m sitting in bed reading this on. I just get two columns of circular images, with captions nearer to the next image than the one they’re supposed to be for. It seems to work properly if I turn to landscape but...

You’re missing Secure Scuttlebutt. And the decentralized video sharing network whose name I can’t remember.

> And the decentralized video sharing network whose name I can’t remember.

Most decentralized video sharing services I've seen are built on blockchain which this site explicitly denounces in regards to social media. The only federated video sharing alternative I'm aware of is PeerTube: https://github.com/Chocobozzz/PeerTube

This is splendid.

Here's a list of instances that you can try: https://instances.peertu.be/instances

I wonder if

- two peers who streams in different resolution (say 360 and 1080p) can share data through P2P to lighten the load for the main instance.

- if it will be possible to associate a magnet link (for instance, taken from TPB) with a hosted video to allow for peers to leech from the network.

Yeah, I think that's it.

>And the decentralized video sharing network whose name I can’t remember.

perhaps https://d.tube ? it was on HN somewhat recently

BitChute? Uses a BitTorrent browser client.

The main determinant of the stickiness of a social network is the network size, and having to click each icon to find this out is stupid when there are oceans of space that could present this information on the main page.

That said, this is a sad commentary on open source social networks. The largest would appear to be Mastodon at ~1M 'accounts'. Facebook is what, ~2 billion active? if you want to believe their numbers.

I expect Mastodon's numbers to sharply increase over the next few months, and I wouldn't be surprised if this month was by far their sharpest increase in users. The 'big' social medias have had over a decade head start, and by being centralized are more user-friendly. I've known about Mastodon for a while, but always wrote it off as "that weird Twitter clone". I've recently decided to try it again and turned my opinion around about it.

Facebook has a decade on these projects as well though. Also larger financial backing. These projects protocol (forget which ones) are based on an official w3c spec as well. So unlike Facebook these types of networks will be an official part of the web. Facebook can disappear one day but these sites will not go anywhere.

Let's not forget about diaspora.

Mastodon is pretty underrated, I tried it a couple years ago and was unimpressed. I just tried it again today after all of the news about facebook and feel very differently.

Now they have a nice web UI (nicer than most IMO, which I didn't think they'd be able to pull off with it being federated) and some really nice desktop clients (I really like madonctl with ansi colors enabled, I just added it to my .fvwmrc.)

I like Mastodon as well but I really wish it was more than just twitteresque content. I want to be able to have photo albums and such on there as well.

For that, check out MediaGoblin (also implementing ActivityPub for interoperability): https://mediagoblin.org/

Now where is the reddit alternative?

It's called Usenet.

Look Usenet is nice and all but it's not a forum system and it's definitely not a reddit substitute.

It is decentralized though, which is great.

> Look Usenet is nice and all but it's not a forum system

That's exactly what Usenet is, and Usenet with 1990-era terminal clients was superior in most respects to most current web-based forum systems.

Heck, 1996-era GUI clients are also superior in most respects.

Jon Udell wrote an excellent book in 1999 on building collaborative systems with NNTP servers, web technologies, etc.:


It was open-sourced, so reddit's alternative would be reddit... IIRC, the main competitor (voat) is based off of that source.

Sure while "Voat" is an alternative they're both centralized.

I'm meaning decentralized reddit.

Servers as subreddits, federated multi-reddits, only registered server accounts can vote on certain pieces, server by server moderation etc.

I had written a mostly functional system based around exchanging gpg-signed anonymous messages, usenet style a few years ago, with distributed voting, opt-in moderation, and server federation.


I eventually moved on because I couldn't figure out how to solve some of the social problems, but I still think something like that could work out.

Do you have a document (or a set of issues) describing the social problems you were trying to solve? They may have already been solved, in some other context.

I don't understand what this site does. It appears to be a list of federated social networks (if a very "heavy" and overdone one, but cool), but on the "Fediverse" page (which I guess is the "About" page?) there's a buried and unlinked "Join Fediverse!" call to action with no details about what that might mean. Can anyone provide insight about who this is for and what problem(s) it's supposed to solve?

Seems to be missing SSB/Patchwork. Technically it is not federated because you can use it without servers at all, but I think the most practical case is to use "pub" servers, which act as federated hubs.

I'm curious what the differentiation is between some of these projects. "Written in Rust" or "Written in Go" don't really tell me anything as a user.

This is a really cool idea. I never really understood what "the social web" was really about in the mid-aughts. The Internet was always a social tool before Facebook and Flickr and all that happened. It's nice to see it come back around to being distributed again. I hope protocols take over again.

Sandstorm[1] has not been in news lately ever since they decided to stop their for-profit offerings. But it seems like a good base layer for people to host these apps.

[1]: https://www.sandstorm.io

How much safer is my data on these networks compared to Facebook? E.g. is my friends list safe from people outside my network? And also from people running federated servers?

So long as you trust your server’s admin, your data should be safe from them and non-federated servers. However once your server is linked to another, the whole map of connected servers can see your outward-facing info. If you are DMing users outside your network, you can also consider those messages non-private, as your server, the destination server, and possibly intermediatry servers will have seen it.

Services like this would do well to integrate the Signal protocol, although I don’t know how well it scales with federated servers, I can’t recall any actual tests of that functionality yet.

Ah interesting coincidence; I've just started experimenting with building a social network using the Signal protocol. Not made much progress so far, but I think it's a sensible avenue to explore.

It’s a HN meme, but please don’t mess with scrolling! Even with JS off it still seems to happen.

Regardless, I enjoyed the summaries. One suggestion would be screenshots.

Vague information. too complicated for the average facebook user. this is positive zero.

The average Facebook user needs a visible face to trust. Here there is nothing like it.

Tell Elon Musk. That would be a blow.

If you really want to win at Facebook, you need to play. with your owns weapons: advertising and people.

I like this. It's non-obvious what it is at first, but it invites you to click on things and explore.

Neat to see it all together!

I'd heard of most of these projects, but there's some I hadn't heard about so I'll be sure to check them out.

One issue I've got is that there's no real rhyme or reason to the layout, or why they're put where they are.

Off topic complaining about the website:

What’s up with scrolling on that site? I’m on iOS safari, and when I click through to one of the pages (say Mastsdon) and do a quick “throw scroll” (you know, when you move your thumb quickly across the page and lift up and the page keeps scrolling by inertia), the page stops immediately after my thumb leaves. (See any HN page for a working counter example.)

Why does this happen? Why is someone overriding scroll events? Why not just leave stuff alone and allow a consistent experience? Why? Why? Why?

Every time I see a Facebook, privacy or a social network topic on HN and then read about alternatives such as tent.io, mastodon and others I ask myself why the open source world is so bent on reproducing it. Half of those topics dwell on privacy issues (might be fixable), half deals with the effects on the mind and on society. That won't be solved by the open-source software stack.

Well, people clearly like this kind of social network thing. It makes sense that the open source community would try to replicate the experience without the tracking.

Movim [0] is also a federated social service.

[0]: https://movim.eu/

Aren't all of these a way too complex? All I want of a "social network" is to create a page to express my personality efficiently (by presenting whoever interested some pictures, music and quotes I like, publishing some thoughts of mine perhaps) and let them leave me a message (not to talk, just to leave a message, I will contact them by the contacts they may provide (e.g. WhatsApp/Telegram/email) if and when I want). Nothing else. The page is to be easy to find for everybody and free for me to have (requiring no maintenance nor a hosting subscription). What options match this the best?

There are Reddit and HN for crowd discussions, there are WhatsApp and Telegram to chat with friends, there is Twitter (with relaxed message length limit, finally!) to post your updates if you want and to contact people publicly. All we actually need "a facebook" for is to present ourselves.

About.me. Wordpress. The World Wide Web.

However, if you want something that actually promotes social, it is NOT posting stuff about what happened in the past. What you read, saw, some news article about what happened. And then enlessly waste time contributing comments about it.

No, it's this:


They forgot about micro.blog

Nice! I just started hosting a GNU social instance for myself. Like it so far.

Only one of them MIT licensed. All of the others GPL or AGPL. Need more MIT licensed alternatives. Preferably written in Python ^^

Welcome to your new side project.

It's good that developers are starting to think seriously about who they want their work to benefit.

We need a license that excludes use by user data harvesting companies, such as Google and Facebook. Even if not legally enforceable, it could make a difference, by clearly dividing between good and bad.

Many of those companies, including Google, allow GPL and LGPL and absolutely avoid AGPL because it applies to network services.

Now you know.

That would make it a nonfree license, but I would use an MIT like license that does this for some projects.

If you're running an instance on your own server and not distributing binaries, you can treat the GPL like the MIT licence.

The GPL's copyleft terms only kick in when you redistribute the software. Allowing other people to run the software remotely doesn't count.

(This is my understanding; do check for yourself.)

Yeah, that's the biggest difference between GPL and AGPL

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