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Mastodon.technology Shutdown (ashfurrow.com)
630 points by freosam on Oct 7, 2022 | hide | past | favorite | 585 comments

This is one of the strengths of a federated system run by people who aren't looking to profit. Firstly, they care about their users and are more likely to take difficult decisions, like the one Ash has made, for the good of themselves and their users. In doing so everyone involved has time to make an orderly move.

Secondly, the service survives. Mastodon didn't shut down. The Fediverse didn't close. One beloved instance bows out and whilst it is a loss to many, their network endures as they thank the admin(s) and move on.

You think this shows a disadvantage compared to twitter? Let's talk once twitter shuts down. Because it will. How will your argument hold up when f*c*book finishes dying? We'll find out soon enough. Or how about when a telecoms/media conglomerate buys out flickr or tumblr and puts a stake through their heart? Oh, that already happened.

This is a bittersweet testament to exactly how the Internet should be built: on the foundations of openness, community and decentralisation.

Look, I like open source federated ecosystems like Mastodon, but claiming Twitter or Facebook will be shut down any time soon is laughable.

I'm not sure I could reliably predict whether Twitter or Mastodon will live longer.

Let’s use Google+ as an example. It did shut down and still not all wounds have healed yet. For example, the indie RPG scene laments its demise.

Edit: A Reddit thread as citation https://www.reddit.com/r/rpg/comments/udegsl/does_anyone_hav...

I'm still pissed at Google for deleting everything related to a Google+ profile. I had a second gaming profile linked to my main one which also has a YouTube linked to it.

Their email about shuttering went into a tab in Gmail and didn't spot it, a suddenly my entire YouTube channel was deleted.

Hundreds of hours of work of crafting early videos of Elite: Dangerous and the beauty of its simulated galaxy just gone.

Luckily backed up on a NAS but I've never put them back up.

Google isn't really a good example, they love killing off services on a whim. Meta closing down Facebook would be much more... dramatic, shall we say.

Google+ is a great example of the point that once a community's platform gets shut down, it's often tough to find another place to meet, and some people don't survive the transition.

Right. So what happened to UseNet-News? Would that not be an ideal federated platform with a standard protocol and everything?

Maintaining federation of USENET was a massive effort. I used to run an NNTP server, and spent way too much time dealing with ensuring we had redundant feeds and kept up with the volume. And on top of that handling spam. It worked well for what it was at the time, but it was nowhere near an ideal federated platform.

What has Mastodon improved on this process, though? It seems the same issues are in place -- difficult to administer technically (this post) and hard to deal with spam (have heard before, don't have a link on hand unfortunately). This is a genuine question -- I wasn't around for USENET so maybe this is a "quantity of difference becomes quality of difference" issue where the degree of effort for maintaining it was just way harder than it is now.

I deployed and have been maintaining a very small Mastodon server (~10 active users) for several years now and I can say that at my scale it is not difficult (for someone with modest technical abilities but no professional sysadmin experience). Sure if your instance is as large as Mastodon.technology and you are the only admin doing it as a hobby/side-gig then things can get rough.

Regarding spam, there is some (seemingly inevitable in any community involving humans). But frankly Mastodon, right from the beginning, focused heavily on Moderation tools. Figuratively speaking, no expense has been spared to make it easy and convenient to block bad actors (or instances) from your account (or your whole instance).

The biggest thing is that expectations are different. Mastodon doesn't do much (or rather ActivityPub doesn't do much - there are many ActivityPub implementations), though there's at least a less manual way of handling federation than having to e-mail people and get added to their config by hand.

With USENET people expected to see every posts in the newsgroups they were subscribed to, and a lot of people would complain loudly if anything was missing. With a network like this nobody expects to read everything. At the same time receiving everything is easier (still) - if you federate with a couple major endpoints you get most stuff. There will be challenges with this as the network grows but I spent too much time ensuring we got messages from newsgroup X within Y hours (less was unfeasible, as there were still sites exchanging on a schedule via dialup).

With respect to spam, once you accept you're not likely to see everything, things get a lot simpler and you can apply a lot more aggressive filtering.

Personally I'm working on my own ActivityPub implementation, and one of the things I've used on Twitter in the past very effectively via the Twitter API was a simple Bayesian network used to rank things to surface interesting stuff, but lots of room to apply more sophisticated machine learning there too.

Maintaining anything takes effort, so who's gonna do it for free?

Maybe there could be a variant of NNTP which allowed some amount of advertisement posts in between. Then let the maintainers keep the proceeds from those?

For NNTP there's a whole (small) industry around providing paid subscriptions.

Usenet is still here. Smaller, than used to be, but still here. Probably average English speaking person even don't understand, how big it is: there are healthy German speaking userbase, lot of people from Italy, even some Finnish groups have life in them.

I'm back on Usenet, and hey my 5 digit uid on /. Still works! Meta-moderation!

The main problem here is that contact information is lost. If there's one problem that distributed blockchain technology would be the better solution for, it's a durable collection of self-managed identifiers and groups of identifiers.

MySpace and AIM might be better examples then.

MySpace today still has more active users than Mastodon.

MySpace deleted all content prior to 2016, making it effectively a new network from the Myspace people normally talk about.

Not even. Still a fraction of the userbase and daily activity we are talking about with today's social sites.

Or geocities.

Yahoo Groups

No, there are no good examples is the point because we’ve never been here before

Oh the youngsters....

Google's the best example to be honest.

> Let’s use Google+ as an example.

Facebook and Twitter are extremely popular services, and have been at or near the top of their categories for over a decade.

Google+ was an attempt to challenge them, shut down after it failed without ever becoming anywhere near as popular.

But still plenty popular - at it's peak it had 200 million users. For comparison, that's nearly 2/3 the population of the USA

That metric is very misleading.

That is the number of Google accounts that didn’t go through the effort of disconnecting from / opting out of Google+. For a few years, all new accounts were automatically enrolled in Google+. It’s likely an extremely inflated number compared to the number of users that engaged with Google+ social features.

Citation: https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2012/01/google-doubles-plus-...

I agree with the sibling that that isn't a representative number. I think we'd want to know something related to actual participation - what's the average daily or weekly number of posts or likes or whatever equivalent is in Plus versus Facebook, Twitter, etc.

> Google+ as an example

It's probably a better example of a service that never got off the ground.

Twitter and FB could survive for decades just on the their current cash positions alone.

I suspect otherwise.

One of the challenges of a social network, especially in a declining phase, is that there is far less commercial value being generated at the same time that various sorts of costs, including attacks on the network in both technical and social/economic senses increase. High-value members abandon the network, and those who remain are either stuck (say, because of institutional circumstances elsewhere), or are actively seeking to exploit other members.

This means that Trust & Safety costs are constantly increasing at the same time that recruiting talent to serve that role becomes increasingly difficult.

What the true cost curve looks like isn't clear, but basing your statement on a constant cost based on present experience is ... probably flawed.

This is especially true at Facebook's scale.

Sad sad story.

It was the best social network that existed, and before it shut down it had so gotten so much right that I think no others have matched anywhere near the complete feature sets.

I remember Google+ and thought it was bad for the average person overall and I'm glad they shut it down for unrelated reasons.

Having the biggest social network sucking up personal data to feed the ad network is the reality we are in. Having Google with a larger collection of personal data linking everything to a large social network would have made things worse. Google+ forced real names which made facebook force real names. Google appstore and preinstalled apps you cannot remove force location data. Google obtaining your social graph leads down a dark path.

Very good points.

Still, technically, Google+ was far ahead of their competition.

> Let’s use Google+ as an example. It did shut down and still not all wounds have healed yet

Despite (and in contrast to) the absolute massive marketing effort that Google put into Google+ right from launch, it never achieved mainstream success as anything other than an OAuth login tool. That doesn't mean nobody used it, but it was always niche.

It's not a proper comparison for Twitter or Facebook, which grew organically and are both mainstream successes as social networks.

TIL about .compact on reddit threads. Thanks!

Wait until you learn about .json and .rss on Reddit threads! IIRC they used to work for subreddits as well but I have not tested either in...forever.

A few of the Reddit RSS features I've found / documented:


That's crazy. I built an entire scraping engine just to get Reddit posts, I'm pretty sure .rss isn't documented anywhere at all, would have saved me so much work!

"... the indie RPG scene laments its demise."

Where did they move?

Sometimes when communities die or are killed, they don't come back. Nobody knows where to go to re-convene.

This is different because mastodon.technology will keep operating until December 1st. This leaves them plenty of time to organize a move by discussing it on the platform like they always have.

They might move to different Mastodon instances (via the built-in migration system) or find a new network, but they are not getting killed with no way to find each other afterwards.

One of the huge problems with on-platform discussions is ... that the discussion itself dies with the platform, and any decisions or announcements disappear with it.

At the same time, based on my own personal experience, it is absolutely impossible to get people to move to another platform or service even for the purpose of discussing future plans.

My exceedingly strong advice is to have multiple points of presence defined as a matter of course, one of which should be a simple email list (which provides persistent contact information), regardless of any awareness of an impending platform shutdown.

As I said, mastodon.technology announced shutdown in advance, they haven't yet shut down. So people can discuss future plans there, they don't have to move to do it.

I agree it is difficult in the situation you describe, which is not mastodon.technology's situation.

Having gone through this multiple times on both Mastodon and other social networks (Google+), not having a readily-accessible discussion record is a problem.

I'd created both a subreddit (https://old.reddit.com/r/plexodus) and wiki (https://social.antefriguserat.de/index.php/Main_Page) to memorialise at least some of that discussion, as well as the on-platform discussion.

That last is of course now unobtainable, though there were over 700 snapshots of the community homepage saved to the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine, see:


Because of the mechanics of both G+ and IAWBM, actually navigating to articles from that archive ... mostly does not work.

The G+ community had over 4,000 members (pretty good for late-stage G+). The subreddit ... a hair over 300.

People. Will. Not. Go. Off. Platform. Even. If. That. Completely. Fucks. Them. Over.

It's a really perverse dynamic.

This should part of a plan for online organizational continuity. Any community that uses big tech’s services should probably have one.

This is just a guess, but probably various subreddits and Discord servers. It's probably not the same because the platforms are very different, but people will find new platforms even if the conversation changes due to different forum/messaging UI designs.

"and Discord servers"

vomits in my mouth a bit

Could be more different. In less tech-focused communities, the migration that follows a forum closure goes to Facebook groups instead of subreddits, and Slack channels instead of Discord.

Mostly discord as far as I can see. There's no single place, though.

Didn’t G+ shut down primarily because nobody was using it (failed to compete against other options)?

Google's stated reason for shutting down Google+ was on account of security issues.

That said, Google's stated communications regarding Google+ had and have been questionable from the start. I'd had my own part in this in addressing the true size of the active community on the site, which was far below the 3--4 billion listed profiles and many hundreds of millions of active users touted. In practice, probably closer to 4--6 million true frequently actives within 30 days or so (itself not unsubstantial), and perhaps 100 million who'd been active at some point.


But I'd take that stated reason with a large dose of salt.

I vaguely remember Ello being mentioned as the place to go that wasn't Google+, and I see that they have now pivoted to being an artist social network. kind of interesting.

Ello's had an interesting ride.

It began as a venture by a couple of graphic artists, focused on artists. It happened to have (for a few iterations) a quite clean design based on Markdown, and (with a couple of what should have been reasonably small tweaks) could have done well in the long-form text+images space (now largely owned / failed by old-school blogging engines such as Wordpress, Medium, and Substack).

The features it had, including Markdown's sections and tables was why I'd posted that particular take on G+ there. It simply presented the information better than any other readily-available platform I was using at the time.

In 2015 a bunch of trans activists and sex performers who'd been hounded off Facebook by its Real Names policy wound up on Ello, and a few people arrived from other platforms (I was at the time a refugee from G+). For about six to twelve months it was the New Hawtness, and attempted a few pivots to the space, but performed fairly poorly in doing so. My own Ello profile has a link to a set of curated posts, one section of which details various gripes and failings.

One thing Ello did do was organise as a B-Corp with a community focus. That went swimmingly until it didn't, with the first accepting VC money then being sold to a collector of such sites. The B-Corp language seems to have disappeared, along with the community principles texts. What's left is now ... a sort of vaguely art-aggregation site with an interesting history but little future so far as I can tell. It's burned virtually all its early adoptors (myself included).

They shut it down because PR disasters were adding up due to security breaches from not having enough people paying attention to it.

Twitter and Facebook has users.

Mastodon will probably die first because it's just a software but that's not a problem: ActivityPub, the protocol, and the Fediverse, the network, will most certainly outlast Twitter. Unless Twitter chooses to get compatible with the Fediverse.

A protocol can't die. People are still using IRC, XMPP, good ol' email, decades after they were created. They are still useful, they still work, so there is no reason for them to "die"

Hey even gopher has 333 unique servers according to a recent census. But for all practical purposes it's pretty much dead.

> for all practical purposes it's pretty much dead.

It has a very small community. That is very different from being dead - in fact, that community is probably much more passionate about what makes it specific than a large community.

For example, you'd find that sysadmins are much more prevalent on Gopher than Twitter.

> For example, you'd find that sysadmins are much more prevalent on Gopher than Twitter.

I'd say ratio of sysadmins to actual users of the service is good indication that something is dead

I get that this was said in jest and I laughed.

But I do think it is worth pointing out there is nothing wrong with folks doing something to scratch their own itch. It does not have to be hugely popular or have a ton of users. If the sysadmins care enough to keep it running, that it literally all that matters...

>I'd say ratio of sysadmins to actual users of the service is good indication that something is dead

I may steal this quote.

Aren't the sysadmins actual users?

>but claiming Twitter or Facebook will be shut down any time soon is laughable.

He didn't say "anytime soon", you added that part.

>He didn't say "anytime soon", you added that part.

I don't think it was a deliberate misquote of gp to manipulate readers. Instead, the "anytime soon" was responding to gp's exact statement of : "We'll find out soon enough."

I understood this as soon enough after they close.

...which is certainly before the heat death of the universe.

That's an extremely loose bound. 60 years would have the same error bars.


> How will your argument hold up when fcbook finishes dying? We'll find out soon enough.

Sounds close enough to "anytime soon" for me.

It also doesn't have to be shut down entirely. It could morph into a form that doesn't work for a lot of people, but does for others (yet making meta more profitable).

I presume this Metaverse thing is that. Facebook may stop being the platform that serves every second person on earth a feed of images and text. Or stop being the place where we can communicate for free. Once profitability shifts to VR sets, virtual-asset markets and augmented advertising (or whatever markets emerge, if any)

"soon enough" could be a decade relative to the assumption that they'll be around forever.

If you’re going to stretch definitions like that “anytime soon” can go as far. It was a reasonable paraphrase

If by "stretch" you mean "consider the context", then no, it's an unreasoned paraphrase.

Given the context interpreted the original post as implying that the end of those services was in short term timeframe. And apparently so did the poster im defending.

That may not have been what the original poster intended but if that’s the case then they should use less ambiguous language.

In theory people are supposed to use the most charitable interpretation on HN. Interpreting the post as talking about a timeline of months or a couple of years, as it seems some replies have done,is definitely not that.

That said, network effect declines can happen much faster than people think, and can be hard to see in the numbers social networks usually put out. History is short on this kind of service, so precedent doesn't mean a lot.

I wouldn't put money on Facebook being around and anything like it is now in 10 years. It's barely anything like what it was ten years ago, and it's clearly not meta's priority anymore.

Twitter is tricky because Elon resuming his bid creates a wide range of possibilities, some that include him cannibalizing it out of spite. He's a wildcard here, as evidenced by him putting in the bid in the first place as something that appears to have been little more than corporate trolling. But if he takes it seriously or turns around and sells it to someone who will it could benefit from a coherent vision (even if it's one I would find very unappealing).

Source: I worked for a regionally dominant social network in the early days and watched it evaporate nearly over night.

There are a couple of supreme court cases that could dramatically impact the internet as we know given the current composition of the court..

I find the idea that X won't / can't happen on a 3 month timeline, in this political climate, silly. Is there such a thing as stability bias? Because folks had best recalibrate their expectations for rate of change, starting a few months ago. I won't be taking any bets on Facebook, but the thing I'm replying to sounds like 6-months ago thinking.

Great point. Not long ago, it was not commonly imagined that large nuclear reactors anywhere in the world would be on the border of moving front lines between warring armored forces. People aren't great at imagining how things can change.

I mean if you’re saying human existence can’t be guaranteed 3 months into the future, then that’s one thing, but what does Facebook and Twitter’s stability have to do with the current political climate?

And if you are saying the former, then Twitter and Facebook’s longetivity should be the least of your concerns.

Funny you say that, the chance of nuclear war is the highest since the Cuban missile crisis.

Which is why I said what I said. If the “political climate” were to affect the longetivity of Facebook, Twitter et al, then their longetivity is the least of our concerns because it would imply something much more disastrous has happened.

I personally couldn’t care less that there’s no Facebook around when I’m living in a post-apocalyptic hellscape due to the “political climate”.

Depends if X is a tool/cause/symptom of the political climate you are talking about.

Because Twitter is, so I think I side with the guy that said it’s silly to think it’ll shut down soon.

Once the twitter sale is completed, the new owner of twitter can chose whatever they want to do with it, including shutting it down - which in this milleu would be something that the buyer of twitter will consider doing just for LOL's.

imagine the trolling potential of a rolling outage of twitter or ooops "new owner" deleted the database as a joke. Or replace all twitter profiles with sayings from Doge.

before you say "this person can't possibly do this" ... think again.

The salt mine and troll would be much greater to bring back trump and merge with truth social putting twitter on the fediverse

That might be slightly over exaggerated. Musk may have other equity investors and certainly has other debt investors (assuming they come through, but then the whole deal hinges on it). So he still has some level of fiduciary responsibility. And a need to cover his Tesla stock backed loans with generated cash flow. Though how much impact that would have is definitely debatable, it probably isn't zero.

Curious though, mastadadon owners can potentially be like that too, no? And stakes are too low to do mischief with mastadon vs. Twitter.

Yes, but why did you ask? I suppose that's exactly one of the reasons why fediverse users want to choose who they trust, isn't it?

of course! but my reply was to answer "claiming Twitter or Facebook will be shut down any time soon is laughable."

which is ... truly laughable if you like doge?

Who are mastodon owners?

the individual owners/operators of each mastodon instance.

there is the mastodon project, but you can fork the code and make your own community if you want more control over your own codebase when it comes to your own mastodon instance

The owners of the Mastodon instances one connects to.

That’s true of Facebook, but I can see Twitter receiving a fatal blow if the Musk acquisition goes through.

Rumors are that he plans to WeChatify twitter under X.com, so there’s more of a chance that twitter gets put under something larger and becomes neighbors with Square.

and then what? Twitter is one of those platform in which overeducated, depressed, insane and innocently malicious kids goes to deploy engineered narratives and absolutely unprofitably destructively dominate over people of all ages and identities. Normies has no place in it, and if anyone is going to change that, the platform just bleeds and eventually dies. It’s a 4.4chan-Lite. What comes of normalizing and integrating it into the society, even to Musk himself in short term?

I think you misstate the complete twitter sphere, but even still if you have a public platform used by all ages and identities, to which you add a commerce and payments platform and improved messaging, I think you would have something. The hardest thing to get is critical mass and Twitter has it. Musk believes twitter has been mismanaged, and may be squandering it, but that’s why he’s buying it.

I think Twitter will become better when everybody who left for Gab, Mastodon, Gettr, Truth social, etc, all come back. Conversations that are more representative of what the public actually thinks (no matter how much you might hate what they say) are more useful than echo chambers.

I can't predict what Musk will do, but I'm under the distinct impression he's trying to allow free speech for everybody, get rid of bots, improve the tech (allow editing a tweet), and potentially hold people to account better by not allowing (or deranking) anonymous accounts. There's also leaked chat with Jack Dorsey about making an open interoperable protocol. Twitter would not die if it opened it's protocol and federated. As a public company that would destroy the ability to profit, but as a private company he can do that.

I have a lot of faith in Elon based on past results. He already solved the problem of people who don't believe in climate change - he got them to buy electric cars because they are sexy. Brilliant man.

> I have a lot of faith in Elon based on past results. He already solved the problem of people who don't believe in climate change - he got them to buy electric cars because they are sexy. Brilliant man.

Wow that's a grim perspective. Somehow I doubt that catering to the consumerism that got us to where we are with climate change is what's going to help us fix it.

Twitter is terrible medium for conversation in the first place so unless musky boi decides to completely reengineer it I doubt that would happen

There's a lot to dislike about Elon Musk (mostly related to his lack of filter) but he has founded multiple successful companies worth hundreds of billions of dollars each. It's possible he'll somehow make twitter worse than it is and starts hemorrhaging users, but if I had to choose I'd bet on Twitter ending up in a better place than it is now.

Mr Musk is unambiguously both brilliant and a complete ass, and I think people who underestimate him or lionise him are both wrong.

That said, I think he is buying Twitter for the lulz / weird libertarian reasons, rather than making a real business out of it, and I have serious concerns it will injure what is currently a public utility absolutely beyond repair.

He's buying it for the same reason all other billionaires buy media outlets, to be able to push their narrative onto the public consciousness. Social media isn't what users post, it's which user posts the algorithm decides to show. For someone with a conglomerate with many interests and huge ambition, owning popular media can be very profitable even if the media outlet itself isn't.

f*c*book has been floundering for some years now and is lurching from trying to follow one trend to the next, pouring money into each attempt and everything twitter seems to do causes another exodus. They'll be brought out and then hollowed out, or attempt a major pivot which will be fatal for their global relevance. This is without the spectre of data protection laws offering us more and more protection from the abuse of these sorts of platforms, having themselves broken up by monopolies, their revenue stream being cut off wholesale by the likes of Apple, investors and big customers finally realising they're paying for bots and I'm sure several other bear traps just waiting for them to stumble into.

why are you censoring facebook?

I was wondering that too, and I think my brain may have figured it out. on a quick glance at the way it's written, my brain read "fuckbook" rather than "facebook" since f*c*book aligns with both. If that's right, it's kind of silly IMHO

It's both silly and a sign of my absolute contempt for them ;-)

Both funny and fitting, which makes it a net plus IMO.

These services may not "shut down" but they might change (or have already changed) so much that many would not have signed up knowing what they know now. This is kind of a danger of an open protocol too (for example, IRC users who signed up in 1998 to talk about Britney Spears gossip are probably not well-served by most current IRC networks), but not to the same extent.

try opening any myspace/google+/orkut/and so on links and you can see this in action.

Orkut was super successful and was eventually shutdown.. Meta will live on forever but facebook might well be a relic of the past. Most people don't even log into facebook anymore than a few times a year.

I wouldn't claim Twitter will shut down soon, but one could argue that mastodon is more robust because it's divirsified.

There's no single person on earth who can shut down Mastodon, so Mastodon dies only if this decision is made massively by many people (or if development stops, but then still nothing will stop the server I run on raspberry pi in my bedroom). Twitter otoh can be shut down by one person for a whole multitude of reasons without any concern for the opinion of users.

In some sense of the word they are already shut down. Moderation is very heavy on both and certain topics just can't become widely shared. For example, a recent thread by a sex worker had something like 8/30 tweets censored off the platform (despite none of the content being graphic, offensive, or illegal).

So sure, Twitter will run for a long time. But it doesn't have very strong guarantees to its users about how it will treat them or what content will be allowed.

> In some sense of the word they are already shut down.

C'mon. Let's call a spade as spade: you wanted to complain about moderation and you shoehorned it into conversation. In no way does it make Twitter "shut down".

Neither does any point on the Fediverse. As long as operators think they can run their site any way they want instead of obeying a common protocol then they're federated in name only. To put it another way: If I can never trust that my email will make it to someone on gmail due to the opaqueness of their spam filters, with no way to be whitelisted by a recipient, then email has been thoroughly decommoditized and centralized... and so too a 'federated' system where operators set arbitrary rules that result in whatever server they don't like being unreachable.

Unlike email, the Fediverse hasn't been captured by a few large organisations. So long as we take measures to ensure that this doesn't happen, "go somewhere else" will always be a viable solution to complaints about an instance's moderation.

I disagree with moderation decisions made by many instances, but if they made no moderation decisions, I would not be able to use the Fediverse. So I'm glad of it, even if it's a pain sometimes.

> Unlike email, the Fediverse hasn't been captured by a few large organisations. So long as we take measures to ensure that this doesn't happen, "go somewhere else" will always be a viable solution to complaints about an instance's moderation.

Wait, where have we heard this before? Oh right, Bitcoin and mining. It won’t be run by small time users if it catches traction. Not techies goofing around on the weekend, but when your Grandma creates an account because her friend is on there.

"Go somewhere else" isn't a solution when a plurality of servers agree to tolerate racist, sexist, or just plain obscene conduct.

I'm also amazed that giving users control over what they see isn't an option. That solves the problem completely by making it the user's problem. That, however, somehow never seems to be an option.

> I'm also amazed that giving users control over what they see isn't an option.

so... you never actually used Mastodon? Its users do have the ability to filter content based on keywords, accounts or domains.

> "Go somewhere else" isn't a solution when a plurality of servers agree to tolerate racist, sexist, or just plain obscene conduct.

You've said this, but didn't bother to give a reason. Can't you go to church even when the plurality of people tolerate porn?

> so too a 'federated' system where operators set arbitrary rules that result in whatever server they don't like being unreachable.

Nah. If you can pick your king, he's not really a king. The intended recipient of your communication decided to join a server that censors your type of message.

The problem is when the federation becomes a trust, and members collude. Like Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube, for example. The more division, the more federation, the harder it is to collude.

OP didn't say anything about timing. Everything comes to an end. The point is that the timing in one case is decided by the users, the other by shareholders.

great list thanks for sharing. I'm just not sure making grain alcohol in the 15th century applies to a modern day Internet company listed on a public stock exchanges. But time will tell for sure.. it always does!

You don't know when they will simply decide not to give you access to certain data.

Look at email providers who suddenly decided "If you don't use it for X months, you're inactive and I'm deleting everything".

It's not about the service existing but people being able to extract and use what they've put in, in 10/20 years.

I don't think he was saying either Facebook or Twitter is going to close soon. Heck, MySpace is still around. But sooner or later, centralised systems either shut down or become something completely different: think about Tumblr as a good example of that.

> but claiming Twitter or Facebook will be shut down any time soon is laughable.

where is soon?

And also, do you have a crystal ball to predict the future?

Google Reader T_T

Where is your myspace page?

I'll just butt in at this point to note that 'federated' systems are more or less FidoNet and Usenet warmed over, neither of which managed to overtake commercial systems, and in the latter case was rendered useless by spam... much like Mastodon and friends which are rendered useless by racism and porn.

Speaking of which... there's supposed to be a Mastodon Server Covenant(tm)(c)(pat. pending) in regards to such matters, but the https://joinmastodon.org/covenant where it's supposed to be documented is 404. Looks like it was quietly removed sometime after August of this year.

In any case I'll make a prediction: Mastodon will remain a haven for people too racist and/or porn-obsessed for even Twitter and Reddit to tolerate and adoption will be hampered accordingly.

> much like Mastodon and friends which are rendered useless by racism and porn.

I think you and I were on very different servers, and considering I've perused dozens, you must have gotten a really raw deal.

You don't have to look very hard to find screaming racists, furries, and lolicons. They make no effort to hide themselves since operators apparently endorse that sort of behavior as long as it fits their own particular biases and kinks.

I note for the record that this is precisely the sort of thing that doomed Voat. They got invaded by racists who decamped there after being given the boot from Reddit and promptly began spamming every sub with their obnoxious behavior which chased off everyone else. They shouldn't be surprised that they have a reputation for being a haven for people too toxic even for Twitter/Reddit.

> You don't have to look very hard to find screaming racists, furries, and lolicons. They make no effort to hide themselves since operators apparently endorse that sort of behavior as long as it fits their own particular biases and kinks.

Of course not. It's on the Internet. I don't have a problem with furries, people with bias or kinks. What if I'm one of those people, should I not be allowed to make public comment?

None of the instances I've used tolerate the harmful examples such as racists or lolicons, that you've incorrectly lumped together with perfectly cromulent lifestyles, and thanks to that I've barely seen any. And on the odd occasion I do, I just ban the user or the entire instance and move on. This happens maybe five times a year, if that.

Referring to furries as a "perfectly cromulent lifestyle" is such a probably unintentionally fraternal salute in terms of antinormativity/cultural openess. Good vibes.

> What if I'm one of those people, should I not be allowed to make public comment?

If you do, do not be surprised when the service you're using gains a reputation accordingly.

> And on the odd occasion I do, I just ban the user or the entire instance and move on.

Yeah, that's actually part of the problem. If anyone can ban anyone for any reason then you don't actually have a federation. You have, at best, a gathering of barely-interoperable fiefdoms. You can either have a federation of commoditized servers or you can ban people you don't like -- you cannot have both.

> You can either have a federation of commoditized servers or you can ban people you don't like -- you cannot have both.

Why not? A person is only banned from one instance, they are free to choose another and federate across any instances they haven’t been banned from. That sure sounds like having both federation and the ability to ban.

These are not public utilities. A person or organization doesn’t have to support someone with opposing views to them. And that’s ok. And that doesn’t break federation, except to specific instances for specific people.

The big lesson from places like USENET is the opposite:

Functioning federation depends entirely on good tools for users to filter and ban people and content.

You’re trying to redefine “federation” and failing…

It’s a protocol for independent systems to automatically exchange some information.

It’s not a distributed system of interchangeable instances.

> You can either have a federation of commoditized servers or you can ban people you don't like -- you cannot have both.

That's not incompatible. You can go anywhere you want but you can get banned from place if you're an ass there is entirely sensible way for federated network to work.

More than that, it's necessary if you want any resistance to bad actors

Voat was specifically marketed towards the "free speech above all else" crowd, which will always attract people on the fringes since they are the ones with opinions too distasteful for the rest of society.

Many instances of mastodon on the other hand are happily engaged in real meaningful moderation. The owner is expected to moderate what type of content is allowed on their instance, with the federated aspect ensuring the "free speech".

That's not to say mastodon is without issues. The issues of voat just can't be transferred wholesale.

I don't recall Voat ever being specifically marketed as such, although it was certainly characterized as such in the press. It was literally just Atko's .NET knockoff of Reddit.

The only "marketing" a mastodon server does is the description on the main website though, what matters is who joins the server. It seems that people who would join a server that was characterized in the press as "free speech above all else" love racism and porn. It's the people on the server, not whatever the administrator claims to want.

I'm on mastodon.scholar and the most risque thing anyone has posted was a closeup of Neptune's uncensored moons. I don't disbelieve you, mastodon is part of Earth and unfortunately that means there are racists there, but I don't think your experience is typical.

You also dont have to look very hard for large communities that absolutely will not tolerate racists.

The difference between the fediverse and most other online places for manyyyyyy fediverse users who use it day to day is that if a bunch of racists show up and start making things shitty then somebody (mods) will ACTUALLY do something about it whereas every other online platform just didnt really care or defend the vulnerable.

Are there large communities of racists on isolated parts of the fediverse? Sure. It is an open source software, even Trump's shitstick social network tried to steal and use mastodon.

>racism and porn.

That's what got reddit to be the biggest forum on the planet. So I guess Mastodon is worth another look then.

Now that Reddit is very respectable, we're supposed to pretend that it wasn't started as normie 4chan, even ripping off naming subsections like naked directories, just like every imageboard. A normie 4chan that got lucky by existing when digg decided to commit suicide.

Not sure about the intentions of the reddit founders, to be honest, but at the beginning there were no subsections and the like. When they did show up they were implemented as sub-domains, for example http://programming.reddit.com . I can't exactly remember how much that lasted, but it was for more than a couple of months (I'd say for at least half a year) before the directory-thing was implemented.

The reddit founders bailed it within a year.

Then Aaron Swartz took over and made it successful until 2013.

After he was killed by the US govt the original founders came back and have been running it into the ground ever since.

And let's not act like Twitter isn't full of those to this day...

They're getting rid of the porn ... so people are leaving.

Can someone explain why a Mastodon account is so intrinsically tied to the instance it was registered on? This has always confused me and is part of the reason I haven't started using it, I couldn't decide on which instance to use. Why can't an account be globally unique and not tied to a specific instance? Why, as a user, do I have to deal with the low-level concept of an instance?

Is this all just a consequence of keeping user data private-ish? I understand the data has to be stored somewhere, and if user data were distributed to the entire network, it obviously wouldn't be private. Couldn't e2e + public key encryption be used to work around this somehow?

Mastodon confused me for the longest time as well. Which community do I join? If I create an account on "federatedplumbers.example" why would I interact with a community and follow people at "federatedshoelacecollectionists.example"? Shouldn't I create an account at both communities and interact with each separately? This is what we do now by having a twitter account and a facebook acount, and a etc... A twitter account doesn't ever talk to a facebook account.

Then I saw someone do something I hadn't seen before...

They made their own mastodon insance: toot.firstlastname.example and their identity was @joey@toot.firstlastname.example

Joey could make his own toot feed of social media posts that anyone at any community could subscribe to.

Joey could then subscribe to the entire community at federatedplumbers.example, or he could follow just one user: @phoebe@federatedplumbers.example. Then @monica@federatedshoelacecollectionists.example could follow @joey@firstlastname.example and so on.

It doesn't matter where you start an account. You can join a community that you really like or start from scratch with your own instance and go and make friends in other communities. The real advantage with starting your own is that you have control over your content and aren't in danger of having your account shut down if a community decides it can no longer maintain the server.

because that is your identity, the full "user@domain" the domain you are on is an intrinsic part of addressing to get to your account. so the question then becomes why can't you change your name? and it has mainly to do with avoiding name conflicts in administratively isolated systems.

A major problem in distributed systems is names. one solution is to do what dns did, you can have nice names but you only get to pick them under the part of the hierarchy you control. another solution is to do what git or ipfs does. nobody gets useful names but at least you don't need any sort of central name database.

mastodon went the dns/email route, which makes sense people want nice names. but now your name is stuck on your domain. perhaps someone could have setup a central name server to avoid name collisions, but who would you trust to run it? what happens when it goes down? might as well just use dns.

Off tangent opinion on names in a federated system.

Unfortunately mastodon adopted the twitter style "@user" but because this only make sense in the context of a single domain mastodon mainly uses the awkward form "@user@domain" I think the email/xmpp form "user@domain" would have been better, but if they felt the @ prefix was critical to the experience of a twitter like micro blog than they probably should have adopted the form "@user.domain"

> because that is your identity

That seems like a very, very poor choice. I have the same concern with Matrix.

It is actually a better question than I initially thought.

the question actually challenges all sorts of assumptions we make about how the internet works. in this regards it reminds me of IPFS.

And while ipfs has some very cool tech the main thing it has problems with are names. ipfs has no names, which sucks. there is a name system ipns but it does not help much.

ipfs does a publish/subscribe subsystem which I find one of the most compelling parts. it is however considered experamental and inefficient.

this did not stop me from writing a distributed video streaming system using it. which turns out to suck, no names, and, even on my local network I was getting ~ 2 minutes of lag, no one would put up with that for streaming.


> That seems like a very, very poor choice.

By all means, enlighten us to the better one. It seems like they made a tradeoff here, and one that’s most in line with keeping everything distributed.

I don't know that I'd agree that it's a "very, very poor choice" but I can see how it would prevent Mastodon from seeing more widespread adoption. If widespread adoption isn't their goal, then it really doesn't matter though, and as you said, they made a tradeoff. I can definitely see the benefits of both ways of handling users.

>perhaps someone could have setup a central name server to avoid name collisions, but who would you trust to run it? what happens when it goes down? might as well just use dns.

ENS (https://ens.domains/) solves this problem rather elegantly. A single source of truth that is decentralized so any app can use it without trusting anyone. It wasn't around when Mastadon was being built unfortunately but is useful for developers of new apps and protocols.

no it doesn't. and you'd have to pay for names, which disqualifies it for mastodon like usage from the start.

Can you elaborate on how it doesn't? It ticks all of the boxes from your message.

Only the top level namespaces require a purchase. Names for services (e.g. james.mastadon.eth) are free. A live example of this is Coinbase which gives users (name).cb.id for free. Once your service claims a namespace you have full control over it.

From a technical point of view because ActivityPub is based in HTTP and other instances need to know what endpoint to talk to.

There is already support for basic migration of followers but it would be nice to see fully instance-independant accounts. Probably something based on cryptography so your account is a key and you can publish from any server. However a protocol like this would be a lot more complicated than ActivityPub.

It's because of the sybil problem. If accounts are globally unique, then a bad actor can register as many accounts as they want, and can do things like e.g. reserve other people's usernames and charge real money to have them unreserved.

> Can someone explain why a Mastodon account is so intrinsically tied to the instance it was registered on?

There's no central server, and not all of the instances talk to each other.

Where... where would you put the account data?

There's a way to do this, but it requires fat clients https://indieweb.org/POSSE

Ya'll are describing SSB protocol and ManyVerse.

I just looked into SSB and I really like the concept. It seems much more elegant than Mastodon. Why is Mastodon/the Fediverse so much more popular (or is it?)? What are the advantages of federation over total decentralization? I suppose one disadvantage of total decentralization is the need for ‘fat clients’, as another commenter pointed out.

As you can see with Twitter, more popular doesn't mean better.

I imagine it working similarly to IPFS, where the data is distributed across the network.

Think of it as more like email. You have an account on a specific server, but can send or receive emails from anyone on any server.

There's not one network with mastodon. Depending on which node you start in, you can get different graphs (from what I remember, mostly due to differences in value between valuing free speech vs preventing hate speech).

And who will pay for that openness and decentralization? Let’s hypothetically say that Twitter is closed, millions of users discover Mastodon and move. Mastodon instances will be down in matter of seconds. How do you approach this? By volunteers adding more instances(that they can close anytime)? This will not change anything. Everything cost money and living in an “free” world bubble isn’t helping in any project adoption.

So I do not see any advantage in federated system. It’s cool as technology and all, but completely unprepared for huge traffic or real life scenarios.

PS. Please do not say anything about “anyone can start his own instance”. No, average Twitter/Facebook consumer can’t start his own instance.

Did Web 2.0 make us all forget how open IRC networks were run?

Resources donated by an organization in the form of a server linked into a larger network, a committee that vetted new server applications to the network, volunteer administrators for the network and the individual servers, coordinated regional and global upgrades. And as network users increased, reforming under a hub and spoke models to improve scale and capacity.

And when a single IRC server went away after some time operating for its various reasons, the network kept going.

Could the average IRC user start/host their own instance *and* link it to the larger network? No. But they didn't need to.

As a daily IRC user I can say this: IRC never was reliable. Constant attacks, splits, nick squatting or other crap ware pain in the ass. That’s why it never was adopted as a mainstream communication platform, and at its peak it had maybe 400k+ users. Now most of that are bots and stale sessions.

I am a daily IRC user and I think you are exaggerating the problems. I can count on my one hand the number of times I have seen an attack on my nick or the channels I hang out in, in the last 15 years. Those attacks pass without much disruption (sometimes requiring staffer intervention). Nick squatting is solved by Nickserv these days. Splits do happen occasionally but they resolve on their own automatically without much disruption.

It is ok if it never gets adopted as mainstream communication. But for the target audience (like opensource support communities being the target audience of Libera), it works quite well.

As a daily IRC user: IRC was never reliable, but it persists still. A distributed system is easier to hurt but far harder to destroy.

in the last 20 years I have had more attacks on my email account and $whatever_current_social_network account then I had on my irc account. Things like nickserv and ip cloaks (which have been part of nearly all networks I used to connect to and those I connect to) do the job just fine. Is it easy to flood down a server, sure is, but if there's more then 1 hub on the network, things will settle pretty quickly normally.

In my opinion, the main reason why it was never adopted as a mainstream platform, is because it was never picked up by a big corp that saw a way to earn money off of it.

I don't think we can just assume that "reliable" is a globally agreed property to judge alternatives. That property is something that came about and on some level spoiled users. Because for commercial social network providers any downtime meant a loss of users, eyeballs, and most importantly money.

Uh, no, it was always usability.

Insert any modern chat app and random user can drop a screenshot there trivally, do some basic text formatting, and paste code in nicely colored blob of text, all from comfort of single login in a browser. And now even jump to voice chat or video conference directly from it.

They can also look at what they missed in channel by just scrolling up. Sending files just worked. You just got notifications without extra fuckery. Hell, you get digest with conversations you miss.

That's why modern closed down chat ecosystems won. Coz it's easy for "normies" to use.

Let's take other example, XMPP. It had all that but in network of XEPs that some clients/servers implemented, some not, some just not very well, and some being fucky to config. It wasn't just "login here and get every feature" like it is in modern chat clients.

It had it's one shining moment where both facebook and google offered XMPP way into their garden so you could have connectivity across federation and just have a single contact list but that didn't matter to non-nerds that just used facebook/google talk so once they decided to close their gardens any benefit of xmpp faded away.

> Did Web 2.0 make us all forget how open IRC networks were run?

I haven't forgotten about the Freenode hostile takeover.

And yet a large number of channels and a large number of communities migrated seamlessly to Libera and survived.

> migrated seamlessly

I disagree with that characterization.

> and survived

Survival is not the issue. Mastodon will survive. Tumblr survives. Even MySpace survives. But major disruptions tend to lose users.

(And yes it's true that the potential Twitter acquisition is a potential major disruption. But it's not going to be shut down after a $44 billion investment.)

The staffers setup the new servers and did all the heavy-lifting.

As a user, I only had to point my client from Freenode to Libera (exactly one line change in my client config), run /msg nickserv register to register myself, run /msg chanserv register to register the channels I op-ed, and it was all done.

Total time spent was less than 30 minutes. The next few days, others did the same and the community started trickling in to the channels in the new servers. Seems seamless enough to me. I doubt such an easy migration is possible if Twitter disappears suddenly.

And yet userbase got decimated for most channels when moving from Freenode to Libera. Just because it was only 30 minutes (for you or for anyone) doesn't mean people will go through the effort.

The active userbase was not affected very much. (Note that some channels moved to OFTC, not Libera.) The lurker userbase was more than decimated – I think it about halved – but they were barely part of the communities, and there might not even have been anyone sitting behind the IRC clients.

anecodote only, but #ardour lost precisely zero users when moving from freenode to libera. just because people on channels you joined weren't willing to go through "the effort" doesn't mean that other people feel that way.

We switched to a bridged Libera IRC, FreeGameDev IRC, and a Discord channel, when the freenode drama happened, and our total lurker count went 10x.

It's not $44B that twitter will have available and can spend. Most (all?) will go to current investors to buy their stocks at a set price, which is where the $44B comes from

It's probably more about how much the new owners will want to drop into it and how long before it moves to x.com (?) and becomes an everything app

> It's not $44B that twitter will have available and can spend. Most (all?) will go to current investors to buy their stocks at a set price, which is where the $44B comes from

Why did you feel the need to mention this 100% obvious fact?

Of course I meant that the new owners wouldn't shut down something they just spent $44 billion on, thereby throwing their investment in the trash, not that Twitter would magically get a $44 billion operating cash infusion.

You called it an investment, it is not an investment, it is an acquisition.

It was not 100% obvious what you were implying, obviously

> You called it an investment, it is not an investment, it is an acquisition.


> It was not 100% obvious what you were implying, obviously

"Please respond to the strongest plausible interpretation of what someone says, not a weaker one that's easier to criticize." https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

In Comments

Be kind. Don't be snarky.


I see you've edited it now to be more clear

Except that the freenode takeover didn't really have much to do with IRC as such. It had to do with a domain name theft.

Besides the other comments, was this anywhere near the same scale?

Pay for what? It's not about making money.

> By volunteers adding more instances(that they can close anytime)?

"That they can close anytime", just like twitter in this example. Partly, yes. But that sort of total exodus would mean a lot of additional people contributing ideas and code to the Fediverse, not just servers, but by making it easier to run your own instance. Who's to say it couldn't be run just like an email client with the right ideas and effort? It's such an extreme example that I'm not even sure it's useful to discuss.

What traffic is it prepared for? It would be interesting for you to provide the numbers and the evidence which backs this up.

As for real life scenarios...there are upwards of a million people using it right now. I've made friends, networked professionally and found several homes there. I am literally a real life scenario and so are the people behind most of the posts there.

And today you are right about "anyone can start their own instance", but it's a darn sight easier than running your own twitter.com, and it'll get easier every year.

> "That they can close anytime", just like twitter in this example. Partly, yes.

Twitter pays people money to keep their service running, so there's that incentive.

> As for real life scenarios...there are upwards of a million people using it right now. I've made friends, networked professionally and found several homes there. I am literally a real life scenario and so are the people behind most of the posts there.

Twitter is, say, 300m MAUs. That would mean the volunteer Mastodon infra would have to increase 300x (assuming scaling is linear, and the Mastodon community hits Mastodon as hard as Twitter users hit Twitter) to cope with similar traffic numbers.

> Pay for what? It's not about making money.

For servers that run Mastodon.

> But that sort of total exodus would mean a lot of additional people contributing ideas and code to the Fediverse, not just servers, but by making it easier to run your own instance.

Most users aren’t interested in contributing anything to the platform. Social media platforms popularity lays in simplicity. No one wants to run anything, just use service without any hassle.

> there are upwards of a million people using it right now.

Compare that to 200m+ users of Twitter sending 500m+ messages daily. I bet Mastdon can handle this without a sweat.

This right here. He's right you know. Everyone knows that Mastodon can't handle this amount of users and after 6 years, it's enough to see that by itself it has failed, (unless you count Truth Social as a great example of a Mastodon usage that has more users than Mastodon itself in less than a year)

It is not early days anymore and no non-technical user is interested in hosting their own servers for chatting with another person. They don't care about decentralization as even if they tried they will recentralize to the main Mastodon instance.

And hell, even tech users aren’t inclined to sign up for a sysadmin role for free with absolutely nothing in return except users berating you whenever there’s problems. Which there will be at some point in time. Source: I ran chat services for friends. I no longer run chat services for friends.

> For servers that run Mastodon.

Running a server that can cope with thousands of users would probably cost just a few dollars a month. Donations would be more than sufficient.

Time to maintain it ain't free

> PS. Please do not say anything about “anyone can start his own instance”. No, average Twitter/Facebook consumer can’t start his own instance.

This isn't a law of the universe, it's just software people haven't written yet. Installing new client-side apps was hard, until it wasn't. "Anyone can start their own instance" will be easy once someone writes the software to make it so. (Presumably a cloud provider like AWS, since that's who stands to profit from lots of people wanting to run server-side apps)

Anyone can just pay $6/month to the good folks at masto.host to manage one for them. It's enough for them and possibly a few friends. I don't know if there are any other managed Mastodon companies, but this one has been around for years and has a good reputation. Their managed instances also meet the joinmastodon.org listing requirements by default.

Who pays for Twitter ?

Who said anything about the Fediverse having to be free ?

There is absolutely no doubt that should Twitter die, if no single actor can emerge quickly enough, for-profit actors will emerge and they will have all good reasons to be compatible with something that already exists. There will be mega large instances paid by siphoning data and with ads, there will be large instances paid by users/funds/donations, there will be small, community instances. Maybe HN will have its own instance; how much do you pay for HN today ?

As a counter example, email is a federated system too. I don't think a federated network should, or can for that matter, mimic the user friendliness of a closed system; so there won't be massive exodus of users from Twitter to the federverse, no matter how screwed Twitter became.

Our pay-what-you-can cooperative Mastodon instance at social.coop, running strong for over 5 years, is currently debating what to do with our 10,000€ budget surplus.

The idea that social media costs more to operate than people would be willing to pay is false. It's propaganda from the people who profit from keeping you trapped in their closed networks to monetize your attention.

Well, it was true decade, maybe two ago. Stuff got faster and therefore cheaper too.

Server written in reasonably fast software on $10 (well, probably some extra bux in storage if community is image-heavy) VPS can reasonably serve tens of thousands of users in typical forum/blog/hn-esque format. Mastodon isn't but I don't doubt someone would rewrite it in something faster if there was a need for it.

> Mastodon instances will be down in matter of seconds.

Of course not. Mastodon instances can be capped in the first place, and anybody with a rudimentary server management knowledge can start their own instances on a cheap server. Mastodon has current hundreds of instances, let's not pretend it can't go to thousands if the user base increases.

I think the problem is exactly that the average consumer can't start their own instance. What if there was a front-end service that made creating a fediverse instance as easy as creating a discord or Slack, and handled all the messy technical stuff with setting up an instance for the average user, while at the same time allowing said user to have full control of the cloud files? The front end would be incredibly light weight (just API calls, no data storage), so even if it shut down, as long as it is open source someone else could run their own instance of it on a different URL and the user could keep admin of their instance through that.

Admins of existing instances can configure user limits, close registration, etc., so new user will move to other instances or create demand for commercial instances.

> Mastodon instances will be down in matter of seconds. How do you approach this?

The same people who pay for everything right now will pay for it: us. Some instances will have patreon, others will be voluntary donation, others will use some craptocurrency, others will have contractual subscriptions, some will have ads... And whatever models are best will win out. Quit with the FUD. Just sit, back, relax and watch it happen.

Simple: It collapses and the millions move on to the next one, leaving the collapsed server to catch up and come back online. Like a scared but surviving turtle. Most servers are crowdfunded. Even the project's instances get funding through Patreon.

The official instance finding site seems to be good about spreading the load out every time Twitter burps. You have to meet certain reliability requirements to even be listed.

Is there anything to prevent a person/group from setting up a Mastadon instance with a charge to cover hosting, admin, & support costs (something like businesses charging for service on Open Source software support)? This could both make it more stable and sustainable and be a barrier to bots/trolls.

Nope - Mastodon supports invite-only which can aid in this sort of set-up; I'm sure other platforms do as well. And if one runs a close-knit community (which takes more than expertise and infrastructure), donations or something like a Patreon scheme can work.

Musk suggested that for Twitter and responses were not positive at all.

This is why I view the "federated" form of decentralization to be more of an intermediate stop-gap between fully centralized and fully decentralized in the form of true P2P.

For a decentralized social network to be viable/sustainable (especially on the scale of something like Twitter), it has to be truly P2P, not federated on volunteer-run servers paid for through donations. That volunteer-run federated model is really only sustainable for smaller niche communities, not a global social network.

As of right now, the closest framework I can think of to handle something like this is a social network built on OrbitDB: https://github.com/orbitdb

Fully p2p doesn't really work well either. For a fully p2p network, nodes will have to hold the entire data.

Now first storage space taken will be ridiculous, and then you will be hosting content you don't want to host because it could be straight up illegal in your country.

Look at any crypto-blockchain and count how many full-nodes vs thin-nodes are running in networks.

Then there is the whole tragedy of commons: average seed ratios and streaming video players for torrent content shows that are not willing to contribute to the greater good.

Yeah, and there will be people that will just throw their porn collection there, hogging space on other people's drives for no good reason.

There is an option of dividing it between "publisher" (source) and "cachers" (caching whatever is recent and popular) but that only helps a little bit.

> Then there is the whole tragedy of commons: average seed ratios and streaming video players for torrent content shows that are not willing to contribute to the greater good.

Over 2 decades of pirating that has only been a problem for obscure and old stuff.

I don't see it being a problem in social network sense; you publish your stuff, if there is nobody wanting to look at it, seeds 1, leeches 0. Moment there is interest it propagates. It is of course problem if you want to see something archival that author is no longer in the network tho.

> Over 2 decades of pirating that has only been a problem for obscure and old stuff.

It's a common problem for old stuff like you said, very new stuff with specific formats. It's an issue for new stuff because it often doesn't have enough starting seeds, and people leaving as soon as they're done watching/downloading doesn't help the situation. Before I've discovered usenet this was a very common issue for me.

Then there is specific file formats like chunky movie rips with Dolby Vision + Dolby Atmos + Dolby Yet Another Audio Format + all of that again in 5 languages. People will often choose a different release to download, and that leads to fewer seeds.

I know a group of people on a popular torrent tracker that just downloading everything and seed forever. They do entirely for free. Those petabytes will probably rot once they...die.

All fair/valid points to consider. The closest example so far that I've found of a truly P2P online community is Aether: https://getaether.net

edit: Scratch that, a more fleshed out and popular protocol that implements this P2P concept is Scuttlebutt: www.http://scuttlebutt.nz/ The most user friendly and refined client I’ve found that implements this protocol is Planetary: https://www.planetary.social/

Funny, I've discovered scuttlebutt, that you're talking about, while I was reading about cluster membership and fault detection protocol. I was so confused of how all of this chat rooms have to do with what I was reading about just a minute ago.

Your comment piqued my interest, but I didn't find the android (Manyverse) or desktop (Patchwork) apps to be user friendly. The UIs had a few UX oddities and unless you are convinced to join by others who are already using it, the social network is barren. Even trying to chain my from the most active people (last posts months ago) through their follower and following lists didn't fix my impression of it being a historical ledger.

Yeah unfortunately that was my experience as well when i tested Manyverse and Patchwork on my test Android and Linux devices.

The Planetary app handles this much better, but it’s only on iOS/iPadOS ( therefore also able to run on M1 MacBooks) unfortunately.

I am not participant but I have seen some invite only fediverse instances. Can't there be paid instances too, even pay by (please don't hate me here) watching ads ? Does actually anyone need to cater to millions of users?

Absolutely. In Mastodon it's a pretty simply setting IIRC and I expect it's commonplace across other microblogging platforms that use ActivityPub. I certainly wouldn't be against the principle of joining an instance that was paid for.

The whole "millions of users" fallacy is the result of people not being able to grasp what federation is about. The network can easily accommodate millions of users. Individual instances don't need to be able to.

Mastodon.Social has a Patreon page. Quite a few supporters. Obviously Wikipedia, NPR etc are a model.

> Mastodon instances will be down in matter of seconds

what, why? The load is hardly that high.

When the Musk takeover was first announced it was practically impossible to register on many of the most popular Mastodon instances.

An actual takeover will almost certainly be a virtual DDoS on Mastodon.

For reference, based on quick Googling, Twitter publishes around 10 000 tweets per second on average.

i.e. my laptop could handle the write load. A retired nerd with a real server they put in a data center for bandwidth could easily run that level of traffic on 2022 hardware.

For reference my work laptop (8 logical cores, so 4+HT? 32GB RAM) can handle 100k rows/second sustained inserts into postgres 14 with some batch jobs I'm working on. You can buffer http requests into batches and easily handle way more than 10k/s on a server while still providing synchronous semantics and reasonable latency to the client (e.g. flush batches every 10-100 ms).

I doubt Mastodon is designed for that kind of scalability, but most techies could probably afford to run Twitter as a hobby if they knew what they're doing and they weren't trying to do all the analytics and advertising stuff to monetize it/just wanted to provide the service.

I think you don't understand that 10,000 tweets isn't 10,000 inserts. It's not enough to just write tweet, you need to fan-out writes to every user's feed. It's also not batched into neat transactions like your batch jobs.

You have no idea what are you talking about.

You don't need to fan out writes to feeds. Users subscribe to other users, not tweets. You can attempt to send out the notification to subscribed users, and if it fails, that's fine. You don't need to record notification status. Have a worker that records (in the db) the last tweet id it's processed, and just regularly joins N new tweets to authors to subscribers and attempts to send. You can play with how that query works to limit total work done in a chunk rather than N new tweets (in case of someone with many subscribers), but the idea is straightforward.

You can easily batch writes into neat transactions: make a queue, have your POST handler write (row, callback) onto the queue and await the callback. Have the queue reader grab a chunk, push it to the db in batch, and execute all of the callbacks on commit. The callbacks return a 200 to the client, or 500 if the commit failed. This can all happen fast enough to be done in "real time" (however fast you want your queue worker to flush batches).

You can do all of this in a couple dozen lines of code with something like Scala/ZIO.

Computationally, it is totally doable. The biggest constraint is the cost of storage.

I've worked in a social network with feeds. Feeds are hard. Both fan-out on write vs fan-in on read both have upsides and downsides. Either way, it's "cheap" problem to solve in a couple of dozen lines of code.

When I said that you can't batch, I meant that each tweet will be at least one transaction. Async write with batching like you suggested will have a horrible user-experience, also your client often is a mobile device or browser - how do you deliver a callback from server there?

Nah, how many inserts your laptop can make and how many tweets created in a unit of time are two irrelevant metrics.

> how do you deliver a callback from server there?

You don't. The callback is on the server before it ever responds to the request. The client sees a synchronous response with a delay of a few extra milliseconds.

Here, I slapped this together to demonstrate the technique[0]

Your HTTP route handler becomes

  override def create(body: String): Task[Long] = {
      rspP <- zio.Promise.make[Nothing,Long]
      _ <- createQueue.offer(InsertRequest(body, rspP))
      rsp <- rspP.await
    yield (rsp)
i.e. make a promise, put your work on a queue, and have the HTTP response be the result of the promise. Then you have a background worker:

      _ <- ZStream.fromQueue(createQueue)
        .groupedWithin(8192, 10.milliseconds)
Which processes up to 8k requests at a time, waiting up to 10 ms for a batch.

The worker does a bulk db insert, and completes the promises with the generated ids.

Similar techniques should work on read batching, but I haven't tried that. You can also speed that up some more with the COPY protocol, but IIRC you need to be more careful about escaping/SQL injection. The example I wrote uses prepared statements/parameter binding.

On my 6 year old mid-range desktop (this CPU[1] and this disk[2]) this program can process ~30k `create`s per second. For about $1500, I could buy a new computer with a Ryzen 9 7950 with 4x the core count/8x the thread count and 2x the single-threaded performance, so around ~10x more processing power, 128 GB of RAM, and a Samsung 980 Pro SSD, which can do 1M Write IOPS (25x more than my SSD) or 5GB/s sequential writes (10x more). So a $1500 computer with a single disk should be able to do around 300k/s. PCIe gen 5 is now coming out, which will allow for another doubling of disk performance.

128GB of RAM means you can keep at least 100M rows worth of index in memory. It's not that expensive (under $10k) to build a server with 1TB of RAM.

Totally feasible for a hobbyist to do without tons of tricky optimization (the code I posted is purely functional Scala!); people spend $20k on a jetski or $80k on a truck. Like I said, the most expensive part is going to be the storage, but you could do something like only store the most recent 1000 tweets per person, and charge $10 to bump that up to the most recent 10 million tweets or something. You'd come out at a substantial profit with that model if you got a few thousand takers. Similarly you could charge to let someone follow more than a few thousand people so you could pay for a read replica or two.

[0] https://github.com/ndriscoll/twit/commit/19b245677b978b42a6f...

[1] https://www.cpubenchmark.net/cpu.php?cpu=Intel+Core+i5-6600K...

[2] https://www.disctech.com/SanDisk-SDSSDHP-256G-256GB-SATA-SSD

Yeah, you have not the faintest clue what you're talking about.

On average I guess that makes sense. The peaks must be ridiculously high though.

I'd assume it's not so much the peaks that are a challenge - most of these 10k tweets/second aren't critical to serve to anyone fast, and that scales horizontally- it's the hot spots, that one tweet thread in the spotlight right now that everybody wants to read and jump on - that doesn't scale by just adding more servers

Yes, hosting is a cost and it is not 'free', hence the frequent downtime with Mastodon instances, even when they had traffic during Elon's takeover of Twitter many of then could not even handle the new users.

Also, these users don't even know which instance to go to, since there is little to no-one to talk on there. If there are 'hundreds of thousands' of users then that means they have just recentralized on Mastodon.social, the "main" instance, defeating the point of it all.

> PS. Please do not say anything about “anyone can start his own instance”. No, average Twitter/Facebook consumer can’t start his own instance.

This is why Mastodon has failed in the first place after almost 6 years with this system.

Six years of steady growth is a Silicon Valley failure. It is not a failure by any reasonable measure. I predicted back in the early days that Mastodon would grow slowly and organically as more people figured it out and helped people in their circles come over. It's slow and steady, but I was right. This is how things grew before anything less than a double-digit billion sale to one of the big tech companies was seen as a failure.

I look at all of the interests and discussions and shitposts that are on my home and local feeds, watch the interactions between mutuals and people argue, learn, laugh and join in shared hobbies and simply cannot fathom how this can be "failed". All this and if I turned off my anti-virus I wouldn't see any adverts and am never subjected to abusive interests or dark patterns. How is this failure? It's what I want from the Internet. It's real, actual people.

Weren’t you complaining about mastodon having “no users” in the last big discussion about it here? Do you have some kind of personal issue with the protocol?

There are plenty of people using it. It has not “failed”.

> Weren’t you complaining about mastodon having “no users” in the last big discussion about it here?

Yes, I said: 'Little to no users'. After looking at it for a couple of years, it is not the typical twitter user that is self hosting their own Mastodon instance and just the same tech-folks that are doing that (unreliably) and sitting on Mastodon. The level of social interaction on Mastodon is so low and limited, that they still use their Twitter accounts more than their Mastodon accounts.

So yes, it is not early days anymore and we have given it enough time and it has already failed.

I'm following so many accounts that if I don't sign in for three or four days I can barely keep up with my home feed. Almost all of it is interesting, funny, insightful or simply chill discussion. They almost exclusively use the Fediverse, none of them use the Fedi as a second-class citizen. Your insistence that something that is alive, growing and healthy has "failed" is simply proof that you have failed to bother with it because of your preconceptions.

Exactly. I use mastodon daily, I follow tons of people that do as well. Mastodon doesnt need to be massive or fulfill whatever growth expectations armchair tech entrepeneurs expect of social media platforms here. It just has to be reasonably easy to maintain and actually play an important role in people's lives and it is absolutely doing that.

Also, I put content warnings when I blab on about some tech thing because not everyone is a techy there. I am friends with lots of people there who will roll their eyes and walk away if you start blowing their timeline up with that kind of topic and you arent conscientious. It isn't just techies all hanging out with no reason to be there other then the tech novelty of it, it is a lot of peoples' home.

> Your insistence that something that is alive, growing and healthy has "failed" is simply proof that you have failed to bother with it because of your preconceptions.

Having 90% of registered accounts inactive with only 10% of them actively using the platform isn't exactly 'alive', 'growing' and 'healthy' especially when they occasionally run back to Twitter since they know little social engagement goes on Mastodon. 10 is closer to 0, than 90 and usage is still declining; Hence "Little to no one".

But we both know it is not just that. Not only they can't help using Twitter more, they won't move to Mastodon for the exact same reasons as I said and Twitter's network effect, hence why little to no-one is using Mastodon. The same tech-folks like (Mastodon.technology) are the ones 'self-hosting' these instances and not the regular users, since they don't care enough to even use it.

Not even the one operating Mastodon.technology could handle it. Might as well recentralize back to Mastodon.social just to save itself from the very low levels of social interaction since Mastodon has already repeated the same problems as GNU Social once again.

> Having 90% of registered accounts inactive with only 10% of them actively using the platform isn't exactly 'alive', 'growing' and 'healthy'

That's not at all true. Account activity follows the Pareto principle. It's not at all unusual for any online service to have a large number of inactive users. Perhaps it's different for Twitter, but considering I've probably signed up for it three times and use it approximately never, I'm skeptical.

What exactly has Mastadon failed to do?

This user's been on HN for a while repeating this ad nauseam.


I wouldn't engage.

> This user's been on HN for a while repeating this ad nauseam.

Repeating what? The truth?

Right, Please don't engage because everyone here knows it is true.

> Let's talk once twitter shuts down. Because it will.

Bingo. I say this all the time, Twitter is not immune from being a member of this list (Defunct social networking sites, wikipedia):


The Fediverse (or Federated Social Web as it was previously referred to in 2007[0] or so when it was first envisioned) will never close. Single installations may, but the network as a whole can not.

[0] https://www.academia.edu/2760660/Towards_a_Free_Federated_So...

Wouldn't the answer for most people to "What happens when Twitter shuts down?" be, "Well I'll just move to the next social media site".

I don't necessarily hold that opinion, but I get the impression most folks I know do.

people will move to the next social media site (or jump to another medium if it's good enough) even before Twitter shuts down.

This happens all the time and there are parallels with other format / medium shifts (Gutenberg invents movable type, newspapers supplanted by news reels at the cinema -> people buy radio receivers -> broadcast television -> cable news -> whatever we have today with our always-on internet connections and services.

My main point here is that audiences are fluid, we can respect their intelligence, and they go where the content is.

Sure, but commercial entities generally shut down when there's too few users to justify the costs. But then you're not comparing the value of current Twitter shutting down but an empty wasteland Twitter shutting down. An empty wasteland Fediverse also wouldn't be of much use to the vast majority of people.

>Bingo. I say this all the time, Twitter is not immune from being a member of this list (Defunct social networking sites, wikipedia):

It is if people who've decided it's "de facto infrastructure" get their way and the government nationalizes and regulates it. Then we're all stuck with it forever.

nothing's stopping your local city council, library, or fire department from shoe-horning the ActivityPub protocol into their existing website (like WordPress or Drupal or whatever CMS they use) and immediately turning their site into their own Twitter service.

I'd like to see RSS come back in a big way, but replace RSS with ActivityPub and instead of nationalizing shitty centralized commercial services, adopt the protocols that allow for distributed and federated social activities.

By same logic, UUCP never died.

> This is one of the strengths of a federated system run by people who aren't looking to profit.

People who aren't looking to make a profit (or even break even) means they are running a social media platform while funding it through some other means. What is that means of making money? What pays for the hosting and the time spent doing ops?

You can't take money out of the equation because you have hosting costs at the least.

How are things funded and why that way should be a conversation. Anything that ignores money ignores the reality of operating something on the Internet. That means it's not sustainable.

"Trying to be self-funding" and "trying to make a profit" are very different things, and it doesn't make sense to conflate them.

Even though funding wasn't the primary focus of this blog post, it seems to make it quite clear where the money was coming from: https://www.patreon.com/ashfurrow

Money was obviously an issue. $319 USD/month didn't cover the costs of running it. As noted in the post, "I’ve donated countless hours".

Where is the line between "trying to make a profit" and "trying to be self-funding"?

Trying to be funded off of donations is really hard and rarely works. Most of the time you need other funding models.

If someone runs a biz where they run mastadon instances and the business breaks even (or just a little more) is that making a profit?

How does an organization behind an instance make money to cover expenses? This has to be looked at.

There’s lots of space between “not doing things for profit” and “not caring about money”.

> Secondly, the service survives. Mastodon didn't shut down. The Fediverse didn't close. One beloved instance bows out and whilst it is a loss to many, their network endures as they thank the admin(s) and move on.

I'm understanding that the data is gone and you're bragging about the observation that the protocol still functions?

I'm not sure this is an aspect any of us care about?

I think we can all observe that a common interface for posting and interacting with people will remain and that no corporation right now can unilaterally change that. I don't think pointing that out in a thread about all of the data on that server being gone is a strength.

> in a thread about all of the data on that server being gone

Oh, is that what this thread is about? Who says it is?

You answered a question with a question.

So is the answer that I'm misunderstanding, or is the answer that I'm understanding correctly. Are the ramifications that I highlighted true in either case, or false?

Just as a small nitpick, there is still a community on Flickr. There are certain elements that Photographers get out of Flickr that we don't get from Instagram, or other platforms. This isn't to say that the service is as big or powerful as it once was, but it has done an adequate, if not satisfactory job, at meeting the needs of its base.

Very true in comparison to Instagram. Flickr doesn't strip your metadata and color profiles. They allow uploading actual rectangle photos instead of square or square-ish. They don't compress the hell out of the images. They store an original of the upload (great for an archiving failure). There's also more community-building tools even if they're no where near the vibrancy of a decade ago (though the unlimited storage is probably what led to the decline as many folks just dumped everything on it).

The biggest beef is everything that comes with it needing to be for-profit and how you can't control the whims of the product owner.

I did go for the jugular a bit :-)

I know a fair few people who were really big Flickr fans back in the day and they lament at how the service has changed, and how its soul was diminished, because of the interests of those who now control it. You're right that it is still a going concern.

All in all, it doesn't mean much. Mastodon makes the domain part of your ID, so moving to another server isn't different than, say, moving to Twitter. Even if it's possible to move your existing content, it doesn't have significant value on an ephemeral timeline. You might as well save your backups and keep going.

Mastodon might be able to force your followers to follow your new account, but AFAIK it doesn't do that either for reasons I don't know. That would've been cool.

Mastodon does inform your followers when your account moves[0], but unfortunately doesn't allow you to automatically migrate your existing posts over to your new account.[1]

[0] https://github.com/mastodon/mastodon/issues/8003

[1] https://github.com/mastodon/mastodon/issues/12423

That's not much different than informing your followers with your new Twitter profile link, is it?

"What will you do when MySpace shuts down?"

We will ALL collectively move to another platform, instead of some users having to move multiple times because the server they are no closed.

Also worth noting that MySpace is still running and though far below peak usage still has millions of monthly visitors, likely more than Mastodon.

Well, I shut down my FB page 6 years ago and didn't move anywhere else. The "social network" need died in me already.

Twitter shutting down would need a couple black Swan events, you shouldn’t avoid doing something just because there could be a small chance of death(not walking out side to avoid a meteor strike).

Twitter by all means is superior in every sense, speed, network size, reach and content.

>> Twitter shutting down would need a couple black Swan events.

Can you (or anyone) please expand on this with some example hypothetical “black swan” events?

There's a book called that by Nassim Taleb, about how extremely improbable events can have outsized impacts but can't be easily modeled...


Not op, but…:

- Multiple C-suite executives and board members get caught up in a Jeffrey Epstein level underage sex and sex trafficking ordeal. They resist when busted, and it becomes a spectacle. The evidence is just messy enough and the group is just tight-lipped enough that the legal parts of the case take a long time. In the mean time, Twitter loses users who voice their objection via not giving Twitter its attention and moves on to an up-and-coming competitor.

- The US elects a group of politicians who have authoritarian leanings (note that these could be extremists from either side of the politic spectrum, imho). This group of people lose power in legitimate elections. Via various levels of chicanery that revolve around undermining the spirit if not the law around the US election system, this group makes it so that they are able remain in power. Once they’ve started down that slippery slope, they just rewrite the laws so that they stay in power permanently. This group clamps down on free speech. The powers that be at Twitter object. A puppet leader loyal to the leading party is installed in order to manage Twitter out of existence, with a state-controlled competitor being supported in its place.

- The US is successfully overtaken in war by another country. The powers that be at Twitter allow for speech against the occupiers. Twitter is shut down.

- Twitter is found to have facilitated genocide in a foreign country (e.g., Myanmar), and the public revolts. To be honest, this will probably be overlooked, but I thought I would put it here as a thought exercise.

Part of the problem with hypothetical black swan events is that they seem entirely impossible… until they happen. That’s why they are black swan events.

I feel like the cheeky cop out answer is that since one definition of a black swan event is that no one could see it coming, it's impossible to give examples because then someone saw it coming :p

>> Twitter by all means is superior...

I hear they have the greatest censorship. Some say the best censorship. Nobody does censorship like Twitter. Not even close.

> black Swan events

I think we might be experiencing this just in this year with its new ownership about to occur.

Can you copy your toots across yet? Last I heard you can only migrate profile which seems a bit.. well I can do that by hand in 10 minutes

E: called them tweets

You are correct. There is currently an open issue[0] requesting support for migrating posts, that was opened in 2019 and unsurprisingly has some comments from today pointing out how useful such a feature would be.

[0] https://github.com/mastodon/mastodon/issues/12423

To be clear, when you move accounts, your old server will notify the servers of all the people who follow you such that they will silently be updated to following your new account. This is not something you can do yourself at all; you can contact all of those people and tell them about your new account, but then they'd have to take action to follow it.

Why not consider twitter, Facebook, tumblr as decentralized instances of social media? Why build decentralization into the tech instead of having decentralization through multiple companies existing? A real community is being destroyed here, even though other similar ones exist

Though not a social service, the recent shutdown of Stadia is likely indicative of how corporate shut downs will be handled.

This article is replete with examples of the weaknesses of a federated system run by people who aren't looking to profit.

> This made me realize how little joy I’ve been getting from being an admin. How I’ve come to resent the work I have volunteered to do. I’ve donated countless hours to running the instance, solving both technical and moderation problems, and I’ve always put the instance above my own needs. But I can’t put the instance above the needs of my family.

> Why Not Transfer to a New Admin?

> Users have put their trust in me with their data. Choosing a new admin would require a massive amount of trust, since they’d have access to over a half decade of user data. Not just data from my local users, but from users they have interacted with.

The ideal inherent in federated systems- "people will use servers run by their anarchist commune's sysadmin" breaks down in real life. Nobody actually has a personal anarchist sysadmin to run their mastodon instance for them. In absence of this, the servers in federated systems are run by strangers on the internet who foolishly volunteer themselves for a huge amount of unpaid work, and who you just have to hope are going to be responsible with user's data.

This is why the anarcho-capitalist philosophy of the blockchain world has been so much more successful. The first thing they figured out was how to reward people running the servers, and how to make it so you don't have to trust them. It's a viable, expanding system, and with improvements to scalability and privacy, it will handle decentralized social media as well.

I always wondered when twitter is ultimately shuttered if they will hand off (at least all the public facing) tweet to some place like the the library of congress for historical purposes.

>This is one of the strengths of a federated system run by people who aren't looking to profit.

And one of the weaknesses of a decentralized model compared to a distributed one.

It sounds like the only actual advantage is 'you get to keep the same account'?

That doesn't seem like something most people are going to care about.

Closed source dies with the lack of money. Open source dies with the lack of users and attention. The problem is, money buys users. So for FOSS, it's a chicken and egg problem with the interplay of money and eyeballs.

Doesn't at&t already own flkckr by way of yahoo?

SmugMug bought Flickr quite some time ago.


what exactly happens to all the URLs that were linking to mastodon addresses? surely those are now going to die?

Myspace still hasn't shut down

> f*c*book

Are we censoring Facebook now? Is this the modern version of using M$ Instead of Microsoft?

Edit: fixed quote, and learned more about hn text styling

No, it seems we're making a little joke: The asterisks don't necessarily have to mean 'a' and 'e', do they? They could be some other letters...

Ah, that completely went over my head

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