Skip to content
This day’s portion

Some thoughts on the fediverse and Mastodon

I’ve been fairly active in the fediverse today. On the whole, I’ve enjoyed it, and it feels like something is brewing. I reckon around 10% of my Twitter world has some form of Mastodon presence, and people are definitely posting there.

As everyone is posting something on Mastodon, here’s my twopenneth…

  • The initial choice of an instance seems very important. Most instances cater for a specific interest, political perspective etc. This could be both limiting and liberating: on one hand, what if I make the wrong choice; for example, if it turns out I’m more interested in web development than politics. On the other, my identity is set at this point and I get to be part of a world I’m interested in – off I go.
  • What if my instance gets blocked through no fault of my own?
  • There’s something ironic about being free to join any server and finding “likeminded” folk, and then being pigeonholed by your server choice. A [handle] name expresses nothing beyond whatever handle you choose, but says a lot more. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.
  • What’s to stop some Mr big/a bunch of venture capitalists setting up a huge, well-resourced, “neutral” Mastodon instance that becomes the new, de facto Twitter? Include cross-federated search. Seems worth speculating a few million on…
  • Is federation a panacea for Twitter’s ills? In some ways I think it is: without a single, shared space, it’s a lot harder to spread disinformation without being cut off from the social sphere. Small is good in this respect.
  • But… Mastodon is essentially a Twitter clone: there are follower counts, retweets, likes etc. I can already see the same web development hierarchies forming across instances on Mastodon, through what’s being boosted, #followfriday lists etc. This has made me appreciate’s approach to the psychology of social media: it’s a far more democratic space because I have no idea how many followers anyone has. And I predict for that reason it won’t benefit as much from Twitter and Facebook’s demise.
  • Also, you’ll still be performing the check-my-phone-every-two-minutes-for-boosts-and-replies dance that you did on Twitter. This is still insane.
  • The Guardian should set up an instance.
  • I’ve read a couple of articles that say it’s somehow “lazy” to moan about the difficulties of joining the fediverse. I think there’s some truth in this: it’s really not that difficult to set up an account and find people to follow. However, I think this also downplays the strengths of a single platform. How do talented journalists and academics find their audience or even establish a career without Twitter? How do I find them if I need to know which Mastodon instance they’re signed up to? (Cross-federated search again…) Convenience is not a sin in and of itself.
  • I still think it’s better for me (and philosophically) to post to your site and then syndicate to social media, whether that’s Twitter, or Mastodon. However, I feel less grubby replying on or Mastodon (nothing to do with who’s responding, just the platform owners).

Are you using Mastodon? What do you reckon? It does feel like something new is happening out there. And how long before it all collapses in on itself?