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    From my perspective, this is a straw man argument. I’m referring to this:

    In the decentralised dream, every user hosts their own server. Every toddler and grandmother is required to become their own system administrator.

    and this:

    In other words, there is an average of 642 users per [Mastodon] instance. Already the federation fantasy is feeling shaky. How could one system administrator maintain close friendships with over six-hundred people?

    I feel I am someone who has bought in to the idea that federated systems are better, but I do not recognize Alyssa’s arguments. I think she has erected a caricature of the arguments for federation (a straw man) so that she can knock it down.

    Email is a good example of a federated system, not a proprietary walled garden owned by a single corporation. The benefits are:

    • No single point of failure. If your email provider goes out of business, you do not lose access to email. You just need to migrate to another provider. In fact, with email, you can transfer all of your email history to another server, and you can purchase your own domain name so that your email address doesn’t change when you switch providers.
    • You have a choice of providers. If you don’t like Google’s privacy policies, you don’t need to use gmail. You can use Protonmail. You can run your own server. This freedom of choice goes both ways. If you want to use a large, popular provider with a huge user base, you are free to do that as well.
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      The big difference here is address portability.

      If you own your domain, you can point your email to any host and use POP or IMAP to move historic messages across to the new provider.

      Neither Mastodon now Plemora support multiple domains. In practice, accounts are not portable.

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        Yes, you are correct. There are multiple issues opened about this in the Mastodon repo on github. There seem to be many ideas on how to fix it, but no consensus. One observation is that the OStatus protocol itself might need to be changed for a proper fix.

        OStatus seems to be obsolescent, and in the process of being replaced by ActivityPub. The latter has a proposal for “Decentralized IDentifiers” or DIDs which will permit account portability. https://w3c-ccg.github.io/did-spec/ It’s based on blockchain, and multiple implementations seem to exist or are in progress.

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      The author uses the word ‘decentralized’ when they seem to need the word ‘distributed’ instead.

      I find this image useful: Centralized, Decentralized, Distributed.

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        Mastodon may not have lived up to its federated fantasy, and judging it by its own meter stick of decentralisation, it failed.

        Excuse me? I am on an instance with about 2k users and primarily follow/interact with people on instances with between order of 10 and order of 10,000 users. Things are snappy and all these servers are cheap enough to run taht a few users donating a few bucks a month makes them sustainable. That’s federation working its magic.

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          Sure, but the point that the author makes re: Mastadon is that something like three servers host over 40% of the users. That’s not really the decentralized dream that was sold.

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            That’s the action of those admins not following a good hygiene on federation and most federation platforms not allowing for account mobility.

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          great writeup!