In follow-up to the issues I outlined in the Mastodon versus Fediverse discussion, here I want to address an even broader, more urgent topic that I have been trying to put to attention for some time. What I find the most intriguing and challenging - and the general objective that SocialHub was created for - is not so much the individual choices of a FOSS project, but rather: "How to keep things moving and ensure Fediverse evolves in a healthy and steady way?" Whatever you think of Signal m...

We must find a way to empower this community or in some years, sooner or later, the Fediverse as we know it now will be replaced with the next-shiny-thing, and the cycle starts all over again. There is a “Tragedy of the Commons” that applies to Fediverse just as well, that we must overcome.

To me the discussion is not whether Fediverse will be for the masses as alternative to toxic social media molochs, or just for a niche group of people that is able to uphold its unique culture. To me this discussion is about whether Fediverse has a good chance to survive in the long run. It revolves about long-term feasibility of the things we are all passionately working on.

At this point I really don’t see Fediverse going anywhere, it literally has millions of users and that’s a sufficient critical mass for it to exist indefinitely. Stuff like IRC also demonstrates that you don’t need to constantly change for the sake of change.

Sometimes a platform solves a particular use case well, and as long as people still have interest in continuing interacting that way then you can get to a stable state. At the end of the day there are only so many ways to do social media interactions, and over the years we’ve seen these distilled into a few commercial platforms like Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I haven’t really seen anything really groundbreaking emerge since then.

I think the focus needs to be on identifying how people like to interact with each other, taking the best aspects of the mature existing platforms while also addressing their deficiencies. In my opinion Fediverse platforms have been largely doing a good job of that, and hence why we continue to see growth.

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I agree that the post is rather pessimistic about the future of the Fediverse. It is possible however that the Fediverse eventually will become a bunch of silos with every silo their own version of ActivityPub or another protocol. Perhaps the biggest strength of the Fediverse, next to federation, is that I can login with let’s say a Mastodon account to post a comment on PeerTube. One account to rule them all.

I definitely agree with your last point and for me Lemmy is a good example of that.

☆ Yσɠƚԋσʂ ☆
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I think that some divergence is likely unavoidable, especially in the early stages when people are figuring out what the needs for different platforms are. And different platforms have different ways of interaction that may not translate well to others. For example, Lemmy has threaded conversation while Mastodon doesn’t. So, there isn’t a 1-to-1 mapping here.

As long as ActivityPub covers the lowest common denominator platforms can choose how much additional functionality to add on top, and as long as there’s some form of graceful degradation then it shouldn’t be a huge problem.

Ultimately the more content can be shared between platforms the better, and there is a natural incentive for platform maintainers to try and follow a common path here because everybody benefits from that. Platforms that can talk to others will see more content and user interactions, while those that can’t will necessarily end up being more niche. So, I think there will be a natural selection pressure in the end to build things in an interoperable way.

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I agree that the post is rather pessimistic about the future of the Fediverse.

That is intentional. I am on the whole a tireless advocate for all-things-fedi and encouraging thinking out-of-the-box about all that is possible and how fedi can lead us towards a refreshing and positive vision of “Social Networking Reimagined”. The potential for Fediverse to bring us so much more in terms of delight and usefulness exists, but it’d require stronger collaboration and (inter)community interaction.

At this front I find many people too individualistic, not sufficiently aware or interested in the larger picture, and the future threats that exist.

At the end of the day there are only so many ways to do social media interactions, and over the years we’ve seen these distilled into a few commercial platforms

I do not agree. We have only touched the tip of the iceberg in terms of translating real-world “social” concepts to the digital realms. Our software abstractions are merely shallow interpretations, and arguably - where it the traditional social media platforms concerns - they have lotsa anti-social aspects to them. This among others stemming from the fact they were built with the wrong incentives. Commercial, as you rightfully say, being one of them, and - related - built for immense scale. Quantity above quality, move fast and break things, etc.

In scale I am not so very interested. I fully agree that current couple million fedizens are a great achievement, and may well be more than enough. But if we as developers and any other interested people would set our minds to it, and bring a collective effort we can co-create so much more beyond what we currently have.

That’s the plea I make in the article and other ones I have written. A more positive story you may like is the Spiral Island analogy.

I’m all for discovering better modes of interaction and fixing issues seen in commercial platforms due to perverse incentives used to build those platforms. That said, I think it’s also important to acknowledge what Fediverse has already achieved, and that it is a thriving and growing community right now. We can discuss the current limitations and problems while being optimistic about the future.

As I’ve pointed out earlier, I think there is a natural mechanism that encourages interoperability and we’re already seeing different platforms strive to become compatible at least to some extent. So, I don’t think there’s a real danger of Fediverse splintering.

At the same time, trying out new things does work best within a context of a particular platform. So, what Mastodon is doing with different extensions on ActivityPub is a reasonable way to experiment in my opinion. If these end up being generally useful then they can be added to the W3C spec eventually. My experience is that it’s typically much easier to identify use cases through usage, so you need a working platform with users on it in order to see how to improve things in a meaningful way.

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