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    What would be more interesting is a list of ways in which it differs from the heaps of existing open-source federated social networks.

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      The key difference right now is people are using it, or at least have started to use it in the last few days. So if I were to draw a Venn diagram of “people I follow on twitter” and “people who have mastodon accounts”, it wouldn’t just be two distinct circles, which I can’t say for any of the other federated networks.

      Whether they’re all still using it next week, well, we can be optimistic.

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        I suspect part of it is that the people running Mastodon instances tend to have specific anti-harassment policies at a time when Twitter is getting a lot of flak for ignoring their harassment problems.

        Icosahedron (a Mastodon instance) specifically calls out that “Fascism is incompatible with a free exchange of ideas”: https://icosahedron.website/about/more which is a breath of fresh air after the way Twitter has been avoiding admitting there’s even anything wrong.

        I have a gut feeling that enforcing such policies would be easier on a federated network.

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          Not sure how much of a factor it is, but I did notice that the majority of the instances (including all the big ones) are run by either Germans or French, which provides a different cultural and legal background compared to American-run services like Twitter. For example, whether to allow overt Nazism isn’t even really a debate in the German or French context, because it’s illegal.

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            Disallowing ideas seems a bit less compatible with a free exchange of ideas to me.

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              you’re free to think that, doesn’t mean you’re right though, and I guess with Mastadon you’re also free to pick a host that agrees with you rather than being up to the mercy of a totally centralized model.

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            or at least have started to use it in the last few days.

            Any idea why that is?

            I’ve had an account for ages, but I’m seeing Mastodon everywhere today and can’t figure out why it’s suddenly a thing.

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              Twitter changed how replies work and that’s became a sort of last straw for some people. Some high(ish) profile folk tweeted they had made mastodon accounts, others followed, and it’s gained traction.

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            For those of us with less knowledge on this subject, can you share some examples that you have in mind?

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              Some that immediately come to mind upon reading about Mastodon:

              • Diaspora
              • Tent.io
              • Pump.io
              • Friendi.ca
              • Identi.ca (now GNU social?)

              Edit: seems there are quite a few more I didn’t know about!

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                Identi.ca is a pump.io node; it used to be based on StatusNet which is now GNU social.

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                  Mastodon is compatible with GNU Social fwiw. It’s an alternate server and web-UI implementation, but speaks the same protocol and can federate with GNU Social instances. The linked article doesn’t make this clear, but the GitHub repo does.

                  I think the linked article is targeted at Twitter users looking to switch who don’t already know anything about the history of open-source / federated networks, so avoids going into too much digression there. There’s been a huge spike in people signing up on mastodon.social the past 2-3 days, it seems due to a dislike of some recent Twitter changes that somehow it was in the right place at the right time to capitalize on. So I think this post is an attempt at writing a “hello, welcome to this new option” article for people who are seeing people on Twitter post about it and are wondering what this is all about.

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                  Here’s someone’s attempt to provide a short history of how all this stuff came about, and how it relates.

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                The Github repo has more technical infos. Mastodon should federate with the others.

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                I really hope something replaces Twitter soon. The experience for the average user hasn’t improved in years, and is arguably worse. And there is a lot of bullshit going on w/r/t accounts getting banned, shadow-banning and tweet suppressing, etc. I’m in no way an open-source-or-bust kind of person, but Twitter is definitely an example of a product that is worse off because it is a corporation.

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                  There is more than the base instance. If you are considering testing out the service you might want to take a look at https://instances.mastodon.xyz/ which lists a few with some stats (uptime, tls score etc).

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                    This is part of what doomed Diaspora, in my opinion. There’s a huge list of servers but nothing about who owns them or why you should trust them, and the landing page says “pick a server you trust”. OK, so, um, you mean, pick one at random? Pick the biggest one? Twitter is bigger than any of them… There needs to be a clear “official” server for “normal” people to use. Once people get comfortable they might move to a different server, but you can’t expect people just arriving on the platform to make choices like that.

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                      I think to really make that work, in addition to some info about who’s running the instances and how to pick, there needs to be either some form of account portability between instances, or else some way that a regular user can reasonably tell which servers are going to be around long-term. With centralized services there’s also a risk of them going down, but it’s not something users have to make fine-grained predictions about: Twitter will either stay up, or it’ll all go offline. But with Mastodon, if you pick the wrong server, you could build up an account with followers/etc. that goes poof when the instance’s owner decides to stop running it. Then you have to start over on a new instance.

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                        The whole other thing is there’s no clear way to use your own domain without running it yourself.

                        I have ~7 years commercial experience with that stack and it definitely requires substantial operations knowledge.

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                          So there may be a business opportunity for someone to make a service that does “you point your domain at our server and we run Mastodon for your domain”, then? :)

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                      I think this goes to show, the user experience is the most important thing. Normal users generally don’t care about the tech stack.

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                        I signed up to see what it’s like, and I’m greeted with a dialogue that, in order to post, has a button labelled “Toot!”

                        I can’t shake the feeling that this is could be really, really weird.

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                          The explanation I was given is that birds tweet, while mastodons toot (like elephants, and other proboscideans). Apparently “trumpet” was also considered as the verb, but dismissed as unwieldy and possibly too grandiose.

                          I do note that the contemporary canonical reference on animal onomatopoeia agrees that “the elephant goes toot”.

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                            uh, how about “Post”?

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                              Toot is fine you bikeshedders :V

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                          If it has no ads and no tracking, what is its sustainment model?

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                            Their “Third party links” section in their terms indicate that this instance might do advertising in the future. For now I believe it’s running of patreon money.

                            The question is also answered directly in their FAQ

                            How is Mastodon funded?

                            Development of Mastodon and hosting of mastodon.social is funded through my Patreon (also BTC/PayPal donations). Beyond that, I am not interested in VC funding, monetizing, advertising, or anything of that sort. I could offer setup/maintenance services on demand.

                            The software is free and open source and communities should host their own servers if they can, that way the costs are more or less distributed. Obviously it’d be hard for me to pay the bills if literally everyone decided to use the mastodon.social instance only.

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                              That is quite a reasonable way of supporting something like that. I definitely missed it on their site.

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                              Are those the only two options for something on the internet these days?

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                                apparently it’s either that or being a pushover ;)

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                                  I certainly did not want to imply a false dichotomy. But when those things are not present, it is certainly warranted to ask what it is considering it is so prevalent. In some cases it could be just burning through VC money in an effort to raise user base and then a switch.

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                                    Yeah, I agree - it’s an important and appropriate question for anything like this.

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                                    No, but whoever’s hosting the servers is going to want their money.

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                                  So… laconi.ca, again?

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                                    Mastodon is a re-implementation of GNU Social / the OStatus protocol. It gets a lot of news now, but the federated network it has been part of has been there for years. For some active servers, look at https://social.guhnoo.org/.

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                                      Neat. Now, who to follow?

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                                        All aboard the follow train - https://mastodon.social/@mulander

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                                          followed :P

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                                            Followed. I just set up https://mastadon.social/@munyari

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                                              I wondered why this link wasn’t working for me until I saw “mastadon” should be “mastodon” :P

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                                                I, too, am on this network, at https://icosahedron.website/@mjn

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                                              Something that I think would fit the federated model well, if @jcs wanted to do it (or let someone else do it with the domain), is if there were a lobste.rs server. In addition to being able to follow individual people who use any federated server, the client also supports viewing a global firehose (all federated servers) or a local firehose (just this server). The latter, on smallish servers, can provide a kind of IRC-like community, while also interoperating with the broader Twitter-like usage.

                                              I think people are still working out what the social configuration of a federated system would look like, though. Some tech exists, but a lot is still up in the air.

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                                                I’m https://mastodon.social/@stevelord if anyone wants to follow me. Mostly posting AVR development and security stuff.

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                                                  I’m there at @NinetyNine.

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                                                    I’m there at pnathan.

                                                    My Twitter tends to be a blend of liberal retweets, bad jokes, and occasional tech remarks.

                                                    I also have some kind of other gnu social account I forgot somewhere, but it wasn’t interesting enough there…

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                                                      tedu - I would follow your openbsd updates as a mastodon stream.

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                                                        Heh. With a 500 char limit, it’d end up being a toot storm anyway. And how did they manage to require rails and node? That’s two stacks I don’t have installed (plus postgres).

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                                                          haha, lobste.rs is fine.

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                                                            It’s just a new Gnu Social implementation, you can just use that. You’ll have unlimited characters there, too :)

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                                                              Not a big deal, but they make it strangely difficult to find out what the requirements are for gnu social. Basically “run this git command to clone the repo, then hope you can find the directions inside.”

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                                                          These foss, federated social networks are great and all, but how do we get people to use them? My friends aren’t going to jump ship from Facebook or Instagram, they’re too invested in them. Why move to / add a social network that only one or two people you know use?

                                                          I’m thinking they’re going to have to come up with a really compelling feature set if they want people to switch. Mastodon (and GNU Social) just seem to be Twitter clones right now. (Not inherently a bad thing!)

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                                                            Take a page from Microsoft’s old playbook:

                                                            • Embrace: Make a client that posts and reads the proprietary social network and the replacement in a single, unified view.
                                                            • Extend: Add features the proprietary network hasn’t or, better, can’t. (Like iOS adding ad blocking - an ad company like Google can’t block their own business.) Keep a better pace (XKit for tumblr), better customer support (every Twitter client), or some other marketable advantage.
                                                            • Extinguish: When you have a critical mass of community, break compatibility. Make your next feature incompatible with the proprietary network.If your network is better, people will stick with you instead of the proprietary.

                                                            If you swap “proprietary” and “open”, this is what Google did with XMPP. Their chat was based on it, eventually they added video calling and other features, and then two years ago they made an excuse and turned off federation. Everyone stayed in the walled garden.

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                                                            Is there a reason I can’t just browse it without logging in? (Or at least, I don’t see a way of doing it.)

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                                                              you can browse without logging in at Gnu Social instances, which are on the same network. See https://pleroma.heldscal.la, for example.

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                                                              The different instances I’ve seen include mastodon.social mastodon.xyz icosahedron.website

                                                              You can follow people from anywhere, please add to the list!

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                                                                Side note: registrations on the first node at mastodon.social are now closed.

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                                                                  This just made front page of the verge. So mainstream

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                                                                    Doesn’t seem to work from the Tor browser bundle