From P2P Foundation
Jump to navigation Jump to search


"The Fediverse (a portmanteau of "federation" and "universe") is the ensemble of federated servers that are used for web publishing (i.e. social networking, microblogging, macroblogging, or websites) and file hosting.

On different servers (instances), users can create so called identities. These identities are able to communicate over the boundaries of the instances because the softwares running on the servers support one or more Communication protocol|communication protocols which follow the Open Standard.[1] As an identity on the fediverse, you are able to exchange private messages or other data with other identities or to follow posts by other identities. In some cases, you can even show or share data (video, audio, text and other files) publicly or to a selected group of identities and allow other identities to edit your data (i.e. a calendar or an address book)." (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fediverse)


In 2008, the social network identi.ca was founded by Evan Prodromou. He published the software GNU Social under a free license (GNU Affero General Public License, AGPL). Besides the server, identi.ca, there were only few other instances existing, run by persons for their own use. This changed in 2011/2012 when identi.ca switched to another software called pump.io. Several new GNU Social instances were created.

At the same time as GNU Social, other projects like Friendica, Hubzilla,[2] Mastodon and Pleroma[3] integrated the OStatus protocol, thus extending the fediverse.

In the meantime, other communication protocols have evolved which are integrated to different degrees into the platforms. In January 2016, the W3C presented the ActivityPub protocol, aiming to improve the interoperability between the platforms. As of 2018-08, this protocol is supported by thirteen platforms (see the table below).


OpenWeb Governance Body

The body is made up of three different, balanced groups:

1. Stakeholders

One for each instance – if you want a voice, you can run an instance and register it. This is clearly the voice of the #fediverse, as they are the people running it.

2. Users

The Stakeholders are then balanced dynamically by the same number of Users who are interested in the process. They are chosen by lottery from the registered accounts. You have a choice to register or not your account as a possible Member of the Body.

3. The Affiliate Stakeholders

These have to be ratified through the body to become members.

A few examples below:

  • Fediverse Codebases (e.g. pixelfeed, mastodon, peertube)
  • Fediverse Events (e.g. group meet-ups, conferences)
  • Fedivers Support Organizations (e.g. ActivityPub Rocks, Fediverse party)
  • ActivityPub Standards Crew (e.g. wc3) "



Actual spreading

The statistic service the-federation.info states for the 6th of December 2018 following data about the fediverse. The statistics do not reflect the whole fediverse. [4]

  • Number of instances (servers): 3,952
  • Number of identities: 2,382,670
  • Number of posts: 201,681,558
  • Number of comments: 4,764,706


Beyond the Fediverse

Michael Kwet:

"The foundation for a commons-based social media system was laid in the establishment of the Fediverse – a set of interoperable social networks based on free and open-source software. Fediverse platforms include Mastodon (akin to Twitter), PeerTube (akin to YouTube), and PixelFed (akin to Instagram).

The Mastodon social network, which has more than four million registered users, is the most polished example to date. Its feature set resembles Twitter: you can post to your wall, “like” and “share” other posts, follow user accounts, and so on.

However, there are a few crucial differences.

For one, there is no central server or administrator through which all user activity, data, and membership flow. Instead, you join one of many servers, called “instances”, which host and transmit user data. Each instance sets its own terms and conditions: it might ban hate speech and pornography, or focus on a shared hobby or interest.

To open an account, you simply sign up with an instance. Let us say you pick the username Alice at an instance called instance123.social. Your social media handle would be: @[email protected] Alternatively, you can pay to host your own instance and set the code of conduct to your liking.

The Fediverse uses shared communications protocols like ActivityPub so that users can interact across platforms. For example, a user from Mastodon can post a comment or follow a user from the PeerTube social network without ever leaving Mastodon. This is similar to email, where you can send messages from a Gmail account to a Yahoo account.

With Twitter, you have one timeline that displays posts and activity from other users. With Mastodon, you can pick from three timelines. The first is your home timeline that displays content (such as wall posts or videos shared) by the people you follow. The second is a local timeline that displays content from members of your instance. The third is your federated timeline, which displays content from other instances. Each timeline provides a different way to interact and discover content.

To make sure the experience is safe and enjoyable, Mastodon builds in a variety of content moderation policies. Individual users can filter out other users and instances that they do not want to see or interact with. Instance moderators can also filter out other users or instances. For example, if another instance is loaded with white supremacists, then you or your instance administrator can block that instance.

The ability for individuals to create their own instances, interact across networks, and set their own code of conduct undermines the centralised ownership and control model of Big Social Media. And because the server software powering Mastodon falls under a strong Free Software licence, the public can modify it to make it work as they wish.

For example, some developers created Glitch, a modified version of Mastodon which has its own set of features built in. In Glitch, you can set your posts as local-only so that they will not show up in outside instances.

The open sourcing of the network software also creates direct accountability to the public. If the Mastodon developers tried to, say, place banner ads inside their platform, an outside developer could take the code, strip out the ads, and release an ad-free version to the community.

The current Fediverse model is mostly decentralised, but there is room for improvement. Server administrators still possess the authority to surveil users and impose content moderation decisions on instance members. This means users have to trust the server administrators they interact with. To address this feature, Free Software developers are creating peer-to-peer technologies that fully distribute power and privacy down to the end users.

The LibreSocial network offers a glimpse of how this can work. There is no need to trust server administrators because the peer-to-peer architecture eliminates them altogether. Instead, the social network is operated by the community of end users through the LibreSocial software. The network is free and open-source, easy to use, and allows for customisation of the user experience – such as how to visualise a user wall, or social games – through the use of plugins that anyone can create or download.

While LibreSocial is still in a testing phase (which will soon be open to the public), the developers have built an impressive model for a fully decentralised social network." (https://www.aljazeera.com/opinions/2020/5/19/to-fix-social-media-we-need-to-introduce-digital-socialism)


Communication Protocols Used in the Fediverse

These communication protocols which follow the Open Standard are used in the fediverse:

Fediverse software platforms

The software spanning the fediverse are all free. Some of them vaguely resemble Twitter in style (for example, Mastodon and GNU Social, which are similar in their microblogging function), while others include more communication and transaction options that are instead comparable to Google+ or Facebook (such as is the case with Friendica and Hubzilla).

The following software platforms span the fediverse by using the listed communication protocols:

Platform Name Type ActivityPub DFRN Diaspora
OStatus Zot
Aardwolf Social network Yes No No No No
Anfora Image hosting In progress [8] No No No No
CloutStream Professional Social network Yes No No No No
diaspora* software Social Network, Microblogging Proposed [9] [10] No Yes No No
distbin Pastebin Yes No No No No
(f. Friendika; orig. Mistpark)
Social network, Microblogging Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Funkwhale Audio, sound hosting Yes No No No No
GNU MediaGoblin file, image, audio, video hosting Proposed [11] No No No No
(f. StatusNet; orig. Laconica)
Microblogging Proposed [12] [13] No No Yes No
(f. RedMatrix; orig. Friendica-Red)
CMS, Social Network, Microblogging, Wiki, Blogging, Image gallery, File hosting Yes No Yes Yes [2] Zot
Littr.me Link-sharing Yes No No No No
Mastodon Microblogging Yes [14] No No Yes No
microblog.pub Microblogging Yes No No No No
Misskey Social Network, Microblogging Yes No No No No
Nextcloud File hosting Yes [15] No No No No
Numaverse Microblogging, ETH blockchain Yes No No No No
Osada Social Network, Microblogging Yes No No No Zot/6
PeerPx Image hosting Yes No No No No
PeerTube Video hosting Yes No No No No
PixelFed Image hosting In progress [16] No No No No
Pleroma Microblogging Yes No No Yes [3] No
Plume Blogging Yes No No No No
postActiv Microblogging Proposed [17] No No Yes No
Prismo Link-sharing Yes No No No No
Pubcast (f. Metapods) Netcasting Yes No No No No
pump.io Microblogging Proposed [18] No No Dropped [19] No
Read.as Feed reader Yes [20] No No No No
Socialhome Website, Social Network, Microblogging In progress [21] No Yes No Proposed [22]
Write.as / Write Freely Blogging Yes No No No No
Zap Social Network, Microblogging No No No Noa Yes Zot/6


  1. Mastodon User Guide 2017-04-09 dead-url
  2. 2.0 2.1 gnusoc · master · hubzilla / addons access-date=2018-07-17
  3. 3.0 3.1 Pleroma access-date=2018-07-17
  4. Welcome to the new social web The Federation - access-date=2018-08-18
  5. DFRN2 author=github.com/friendica/ access-date=2018-08-18
  6. Zot/6 author=Mike Macgirvin|access-date=2018-09-14
  7. Zot Protocol author=project.hubzilla.org|access-date=2018-08-18
  8. Implement mastodon API endpoints#23 access-date=2018-12-10
  9. Support ActivityPub #7422 access-date=2018-08-18
  10. Let's talk about ActivityPub access-date=2018-08-18
  11. Move federation code to ActivityPub spec #5503 access-date=2018-08-18
  12. Support ActivityPub #256 access-date=2018-08-18]
  13. title=Plugin access-date=2018-08-18
  14. ActivityPub support #1557 access-date=2018-08-18
  15. Nextcloud introduces social features, joins the fediverse access-date=2018-12-10
  16. We can't wait to join the fediverse. access-date=2018-12-10
  17. ActivityPub support #97 access-date=2018-08-18
  18. ActivityPub support #1241 access-date=2018-08-18
  19. OStatus #8 access-date=2018-08-18
  20. Long-form ActivityPub-enabled reader access-date=2018-08-29
  21. Federation - ActivityPub support is work in progress access-date=2018-09-16
  22. Implementing Zot author=Jason Robinson date=May 19, 2018