In this article I want to take a look at Mastodon, the Fediverse and what that means for me.
Why do I want to write about it now? Short overview is that Elon Musk bought Twitter, he's screwing up big time and now mainstream tweeps are moving over to Mastodon. So the Fediverse is getting some mainstream attention, finally!
I've had an account on the Fosstodon instance for a long time. Aside from following some interesting people, I've never really used it that much. My Twitter account wasn't that active either, but after seeing Elon destroy Twitter, I'm on Mastodon more often, along with what seems every interesting person on the birdsite. While I was very happy with the Fosstodon instance, I felt that setting up my own instance and 'contributing' back to the Fediverse was a good move.
So from now on I'll do my tooting over at https://mastodon.sinax.be/@michael, which means you can follow from any ActivityPub client or Mastodon instance using my firstname.lastname@example.org handle, which is also my oldschool email address.
Mastodon? Fediverse? ActivityPub?
Mastodon is an implementation of the ActivityPub protocol, with some extra API goodies. Through the ActivityPub implementation it's part of the Fediverse. What's all this you say?
While this all sounds complicated, it actually isn't. AcitivityPub is basically a protocol that describes how you can publish content (any content really) and how you can get that content. Regardless of servers or platform, ActivityPub established a way to share and consume content. Mastodon is a software implementation of the ActivityPub protocol. You can view it as a Twitter clone if you want, but it's much more polished and has plenty good feature that is lacking. Technically Mastodon and Twitter are microblogging platforms: small pieces of text (micro) that are chronologically published (blogs). Because Mastodon is based on the ActivityPub protocol, it can have multiple servers, instances is the correct term. All these instances can be Federated, which means they can interact with each other. If you have an account at fosstodon.org, you can interact with my account at sincurity.com
Comparing Mastodon to Twitter
With the current influx of Twitter users trying out (hopefully staying?) Mastodon, the inevitable comparisson between the two platforms is happening.
I don't intend to write a full comparison of functionality on both platforms. The basics features are very similar and any somewhat savvy user will feel right at home on Mastodon if they used twitter, or the other way around.
A really great post by @email@example.com about this:
The thing about Twitter is that it really lacks a lot of the features you'd expect from a true Mastodon replacement. For example, there's no way to edit your toots (which they, confusingly call "tweets"—let's face it, it's a bit of a silly name that's difficult to take seriously). "Tweets" can't be covered by a content warning. There's no way to let the poster know you like their tweet without also sharing it, and no bookmark feature. There's no way to set up your own instance, and you're basically stuck on a single instance of Twitter. That means there's no community moderators you can reach out to to quickly resolve issues. Also, you can't de-federate instances with a lot of problematic content. It also doesn't Integrate with other fediverse platforms, and I couldn't find the option to turn the ads off. Really, Twitter has made a good start, but it will need to add a lot of additional features before it gets to the point where it becomes a true Mastodon replacement for most users.
Tongue in cheek of course as Twitter is older than Mastodon. But it really turns the comparisson around as (IMO) Mastodon is the better technology of the two.
For historical preservation, here's a bit of context and information about "Twitters downfall". Of course at the time of writing, it's a bit too soon to know if this all is really Twitters downfall ;-)
So Elon Musk, everyone's favourite love him or hate him billionaire, has bought Twitter. After a very long saga of "I'll buy it" / "No I won't buy it" bullsh*t, Elon finally procurred Twitter. As could have been expected, it's been a realy entertaining series of events.
Shortly before closing the deal, Elon showed up at Twitter HQ carrying an actual sink. Tweeting about his visit to Twitter HQ: “Entering Twitter HQ – let that sink in!”. Turns out now that he was prophesizing the fact that he'll sink the entire company. First order of business for Elon was restoring free speech. Moderation was axed at Twitter, giving free reign to all sorts of racism and other crap on the platform. Then, hours after completing the deal to buy Twitter, he fired half of all employees (about 3700 people), 5000 contractors and ordered the remaining people working there to cut infrastructure costs by 1 Billion. He also revoked all remote working "privileges" as he had done at his other companies, Tesla and SpaceX. Along the way he also tweeted false facts about Twitters workings, and fired a couple of Twitter engineers through a tweet when they corrected him about his false claims.
To top up it all up, he later sent out a company wide email that basically told employees to work extremely long hours for the same pay, at exceptional performance, or GTFO. Being the great coach Elon is, he described this as "needing to be hardcore".
Needless to say, things aren't going well for Twitter at this time. Advertisers are leaving, employees are gone or going and users are starting to test alternatives such as Mastodon.