6 reasons the Fediverse is better than regular social media

Jan 18 2021

Social media sucks. Platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are designed to turn your precious free time into money. What we see as a nice way to stay in touch with our friends, in reality are just many hits of dopamine stimulating precise spots in your brain, leading to you spending more time on the platform consuming ads.

But what if I told you that there is a huge ad-free social network out there, not governed by a central authority, full of great people and completely free to use? This place is called the fediverse. Well, it's not really a place, it's many places.

What is the fediverse?

At its core, the fediverse is a mesh of interconnected nodes on the internet, all communicating in the same language. Every instance on the fediverse implements the ActivityPub protocol, which allows it to talk to other instances on the network. The phrase "Fedi" comes from "federated", meaning that content on the network is shared and accessible by anyone.

There are many different software projects for the fediverse out there. If you like the concept of Twitter, you could take a look at Mastodon, a microblogging-platform for the fediverse. There's also PeerTube, a federated clone of YouTube (PeerTube recently released support for peer2peer live streaming support, like what?! 🤯). You like instagram? Pixelfed got you covered. Of course, there are many other services worth mentioning, so feel free to dig around a bit! As mentioned, the great thing about the fediverse is that all of these services are connected with each other. If I signed up for an account on a mastodon instance, I can subscribe to your posts on Pixelfed, and vice versa. If I want to get notified about your videos on PeerTube, I can just go ahead and follow your account and comment on your videos.

"This all sounds great, but why should I bother?"

Let me give you 6 reasons why the fediverse is far superior to all other social media platforms out there, and why you should consider signing up for an account on one of the many instances of the fediverse.

Reason 1: It's decentralized

Regular social media platforms like Facebook have a single point of failure. If their servers go down, your content goes down with it. Content on the fediverse on the other hand is scattered around many instances, which means it is very resilient. If your instance dies, you can move to a new instance. This goes hand in hand with the next reason.

Reason 2: It can't be censored

You probably heard that the Twitter-account of Donald Trump recently got compromised by the owners of the platform. I don't want to engage in any political discussions, but the main flaw with this is the violation of freedom of speech. Even if everything someone says is controversial nonsense, it is still in his good right to express his thoughts.

On the fediverse, a scenario like this would certainly not happen, given its decentralized nature. Some instances still moderate their content, meaning that if someone posts inappropriate content, it might get blocked. The twist here is, if that person disagrees with the rules of the instance, he is free to join another instance.

Reason 3: Free as in freedom

There's this saying, criticizing modern software projects:

"If it's free, you're the product"

This is not true in all cases. "Free" can be understood in two ways.

"Free as in beer" means that something might seem free at first glance (E.g. Free beer at Oktoberfest), but in the end you often leave with less than you came with. In the case of beer, you often buy another beer after the first free one. Therefore, even though you think you've saved the money for one beer, in reality bought an extra beer. In the case of proprietary software, it's a similar story. While you think that a service is free, you give up your privacy and get monetized with ads.

"Free as in freedom" on the other hand means that you won't get "screwed over" like this. Most, if not all of the software for the fediverse is free and open source software (FOSS). If you don't like how a certain feature works, you are completely free to change it. You can look at the source code and propose changes to the main project, or launch your own spin of that product.

Since everyone can openly look at the source code, it is audited by many people, including security experts. This vastly improves the security and stability of the product. If the developers would do shady things, they will most certainly get called out by people, as soon as that code enters the main repositories. Proprietary (closed sourced) platforms like Facebook and Twitter can not be audited. The owners can do whatever they want, including spying on their users, or collect and sell the data of their users.

Reason 4: It respects your privacy

Since the software on the fediverse is audited by a lot of people, you can be almost 100% certain that joining an instance will not collect any of your personal data. If you are still concerned about your privacy though, you can still be part of the network by launching your own instance, with your own rules. There are tutorials out there, explaining how you can set up a small instance for a very cheap price on your local network.

Reason 5: It's all about the community

I used to spend a lot of time on "regular" social media platforms. From personal experiences, these platforms are all about promoting yourself and building up your follower count. Connecting with your friends is of little importance. In the eye of some people, you are not worthy to talk to if the amount of followers or likes-per-post didn't exceed a certain threshold.

It has now been about 5 months since I created my mastodon account. Talking to people on the fediverse is a completely different experience compared to Facebook or Twitter. Almost everyone I talked to is a polite, grounded person, willing to engage in constructive and fun discussions. I met many people who disagree with my views, but instead of leaving a comment saying that this post sucks, all of them took the time to express their alternative opinions. Every member of the fediverse wants to drive the network forward, which is reflected in their posts.

Reason 6: There's an instance for everyone

Whether you're into Gaming, Painting, or Spanish dancing music, there is an instance for you. If it isn't, you are free to create one and promote it to people of that niche. You won't loose the social aspect by launching your own instance, since you are still available to other people on the network. If you just want to get started with the fediverse, I recommend that you check out one of the many lists of mastodon instances. If you like instagram and want to stay in a familiar environment, take a look at Pixelfed, and join an instance from the list they provide.

I myself am a person who cares a lot about free and open source software, therefore my choice of instance was fosstodon.org, a mastodon instance geared towards awesome like-minded people.

Note: This post has generated some interesting discussions on Hacker News.

This is post 005 of #100DaysToOffload.


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