On the Fediverse and FediFriends

Tue 28 November 2023 by R.L. Dane

You may have seen me mention The Fediverse or "FediFriends" in previous posts. Now, I anticipate that 100% of my readers are already in the Fediverse (or within a rounding error of 100% 😄), but just in case someone doesn't know, the following is a succinct description and discussion of the Fediverse:

The fediverse is a loose cooperative (or federation) of independent servers which can choose to communicate with each other (or not — in the case of bad actors or chronically under-moderated instances). These servers do not operating a single type/brand of software, but rather run many different services that all share information via the "ActivityPub" standard. There are federated equivalents for "X" (Mastodon), Facebook (Friendica), Instagram (Pixelfed), YouTube (PeerTube), and others, and they all interoperate using the AcitivtyPub protocol. This means that you on your account on an "X"-like server can view your friend's content on their Facebook-like server, and actually comment on their posts and interact with them as if you were on the same server. The best super-simple analogy that I have heard is to compare the fediverse to email: You can have a gmail account and communicate to your friend on ProtonMail. There are no artificial walls and silos, and although all of the various email hosting companies use several different types of software to run their email services, they're all able to communicate with one another because all of these various services are largely compliant with the SMTP protocol for sending mail.
The negative side of email also translates to the Fediverse: your email account might get flagged as spam by another server, causing you to be unable to communicate with your friend on that server. Similarly, your account or instance (Fediverse parlance for "server") may get blocked by other servers, and similarly to email, there are blocklists that get distributed which can sometimes make communication more difficult than otherwise (but for the added benefit of blocking many bad actors). When an instance gets blocked by many other instances (for spam or hate speech, for example), it is considered "de-federated." In addition, instances with a good reputation that communicate with many other instances are considered "federated," or perhaps "well-federated." A defederated instance is still technically a part of the fediverse, but as it will be blocked/ignored by most instances, it's on more of a sub-fediverse of servers that are of generally very poor quality content and a high tolerance for nonsensical or even hateful drivel.

FediFriends is a term I use (but didn't coin) to describe the friendships/relationships forged within the fediverse. These relationships seem to have more gravity than those on a site such as reddit, and while it's far less common to have "in real life" friends on the fediverse, the content of posts and comments are generally of far greater substance than the typical Facebook memes and sh??posting. This of course varies by community, and there are instances that exist just for sh??posting, but they tend to not get federated much. For the most part, fedizens communicate on subjects of real mutual interest. Admittedly, much of the communication on the fediverse is between those with an interest in UNIX-like operating systems, Programming/I.T., Free and Open Source Software, and the fediverse itself, but there are still many communities clustered around other subjects, such as Amateur Radio, art, music, philosophy, education, writing, photography, gardening, and even knitting and weaving. (Many thanks to the friends that suggested viable communities within the fediverse in reply to my post asking for suggestions.)

In addition to this, it's worth noting just how friendly fediverse folks are! With no algorithm to reward antisocial behavior (*Looks up to heaven in profound thanksgiving) like on "X" and Facebook, people are rewarded organically by ordinary conversation and interaction. People are rewarded for the most part the same way they are in real life: for being social, friendly, and supportive, as my FediFriend Dave put so incredibly succinctly in his post last night:


I like the Fediverse. Here you can speak into the void and the void returns supportive messages. Usually.

Other times it tells you to try Linux.

Nov 28, 2023, 05:36