The Fediverse for the Advanced
written by Paula on 2021-01-9; last updated 2021-01-12
This article is derived from the social media section of the How to Live Without Google and Other Evil Tech Giants article. I'll concentrate on one super-network called the fediverse.
Article 2: The Fediverse for the Advanced
- Moving Instances
- Software Projects
- Mobile Apps
Article 3 [coming soon]
The fediverse is a free & federated (decentral but connected) social super-network. To understand how it works, you need to understand these terms (though some of them have different names in different parts of the fediverse):
- An identity is basically your profile. It has a unique address and is hosted on one of the many servers, also called instances.
- An Instance is basically a small social network hosted on one server. Each instance can have it's own set of rules as for what content is allowed. You can also host your own instance. Each instance runs one software.
- The software used on an instance is essential for the user experience and possibilities. See the list below.
- Many software projects use the same protocol which enables instances to communicate with each other. Most software projects use Activity Pub. Some projects might not have full federation yet though if the protocol is not implemented well yet. More on that later.
- The fediverse (federated universe) is the sum of all identities, on all instances using any software, communicating with any protocol.
- E.g.: My main identity is @PaulaToThePeople@ClimateJustice.social. “ClimateJustice.social” is the instance my identity is on. The software it uses is Mastodon. Thanks to the ActivityPub protocol I can follow identities on other instances that use e.g. Mastodon, GNU Social or PixelFed software.
In Article 1 I taught you the basics of Mastodon. Now that you have a better understanding and some experience you might want to change instances. The good news: Moving from one Mastodon Instance to another can be done (almost*) without losing any followers or people you follow. The bad news: There is no such thing for the rest of the Fediverse and even if you move from Masto to Masto your posts won't be moved.
Moving from Mastodon to Mastodon
- Create the new account you want to move to if you didn't already. It doesn't have to be a new account.
- Log in to the account you want to move TO and go to Settings > Account > Moving from a different account.
- There enter the handle (@firstname.lastname@example.org) of the account you want to move FROM.
- Now login with the account you want to move FROM and go to Settings > Account > Move to a different account.
- There enter the handle and password of the account you want to move TO and hit “Move Followers”.
- Wait for the followers to be moved and you're done.
- The account you moved from will not be deleted but just deactivated and it will redirect to your new account. You can reactivate the account later on, but the followers will be gone (moved to the other account).
- You can merge two or more accounts by moving from one to another or by moving both/all to a new one.
- *Some followers from non-Mastodon instances won't move.
Moving from or to a non-Mastodon instance
Tip: Think hard if you really want to move or just create a second account.
These are just suggestions:
- Post on your old account that you will move to prepare your followers.
- Create the new account.
- Rename your old account to “profilename [old]“, “profilename [moved]” or similar.
- Create a post on your old account informing your followers that you moved. Display the handle of the new account prominently in that post and pin the post to your profile.
- Also put that message in the profile description of your old account.
- With your new account write an #introduction post and include some hashtags you used before.
- Wait a few weeks for your old followers to follow you again. In that time you can repeat point 4 one or two times.
- Go through your followers lists and manually inform the ones who didn't follow you again.
- Repost some of your better posts to your new profile. I did so using the hashtag #RecycledToot.
Microblogging (like Twitter)
Mastodon is the most well known software project in the fediverse. Many people actually only know Mastodon and don't know that it's part of something bigger. They might even regularly interact with people on other networks and have no idea. It is not only the most well known, but probably also one of the smoothest working software projects in the fediverse.
How it federates
Mastodon & Mastodon
Between different Mastodon instances you have full federation, which means you can interact with a user on a different instance just as well as with someone on the same instance as you. There are a few exceptions:
- every instance has to discover other instances first, before the users and their posts are displayed e.g. in the federated timeline.
- obviously if an instance moderator blocks another instance you can't interact with anyone there.
- if your instance hasn't discovered another instance yet you might not find a user on that instance just by the name. You'll have to enter the full handle or the url in the search field
- once you discovered and are following a user you might not see all their previous toots. If you enter the url of an old toot into your search field however you can discover that toot and from then on it will be displayed on the user's profile
- posts that you and your instance haven't discovered yet will not be shown in the federated timeline and won't show up under hashtags they use
- to discover more users and instances an instance admin can use activity relays or create a bot account that interacts with other instances automatically to discover them. If you don't want to be discovered by bots put #nobot in your profile description.
Mastodon & Pleroma & Gnu Social
These software projects work very similar to Mastodon, so federation works about the same – at least that's my experience from the POV of Mastodon. It might be a bit different from the other side. Pleroma, like some Mastodon forks doesn't have the 500 character limit, but the posts can still be viewed in full in the extended view. In the feed you'll just see the first ~500 characters and a “show more” link, which takes you to the extended view.
Other microblogging software:
Macroblogging (like Wordpress)
This very article is brought to you powered by WriteFreely.
How it federates
WriteFreely & WriteFreely
Not implemented yet. You can see posts by other users on your instance, but there is no federated feed yet.
WriteFreely & Mastodon
From WriteFreely you can see nothing else in the fediverse, but from Mastodon you can see WriteFreely posts. They will only be the title of the post + a link though. You reply to the WriteFreely post, but the person on WriteFreely will not be notified and comments won't show up under the post. On Mastodon you can follow a WriteFreely account so all their posts will show up in your home feed.
WriteFreely & other parts of the Fediverse
Afaik most Fediverse software projects that work with ActivityPub will be able to discover WriteFreely users and posts just like Mastodon.
Other macroblogging software:
Social Network (like Facebook)
How it federates
In theory Friendica is probably the software project that can federate with the most other projects in the fediverse, because it uses many protocols. The quality of the federation is sometimes not so great however.
With its many features Friendica can be a bit complicated. Also in my experience it is a bit slow. Maybe I just haven't been on a well-managed instance yet, or maybe the software just really is slow for now. Also some basic functions like following a user take 3 clicks instead of one and take you to a whole new page. Then you have to go back to continue where you were. This makes following a lot of users really time consuming.
Other Social Networks:
Photoblogging (like Instagram)
is an image-sharing service (so like Instagram), that is still under heavy development, but already works quite well. Communication to Mastodon works, but isn't great yet.
How it federates
From Pixelfed to the Fediverse
Not implemented yet. There is no federated feed yet. You can already follow other Fediverse accounts, but even then you won't be able to see their posts. Not even other Pixelfed instances.
PixelFed & Mastodon
You can discover PixelFed users and posts from Mastodon and interact with them just like you are used to with other Mastodon users. You might even think its just a Mastodon user who puts a picture in every one of their posts. The PixelFed user however will not be notified if you comment on their post. If they go to their post however they will see your comment and reply. On PixelFed you can upload up to 6 photos in one post and you can add filters and a location. On Mastodon you will only see 4 photos max, they will not display with the filter and there will be no location info.
I generally love PixelFed, but often updates make regressions imho. E.g.:
- now in the feed picture sets will have little dots on the bottom, destroying the elegance of the photo
- the devs seem to try to get people to only upload square photos, which I dislike a lot
- the post composition function changes a lot and often some functions are buried deep
Video Hosting (like Youtube)
How it federates
Peertube & Peertube
Full federation as far as I can tell. Except it seems like discovering other instances is quite hard, as I haven't yet found an instance that has a near to complete federated feed.
Peertube & Mastodon
From Peertube you can't discover other projects on the Fediverse yet, but from Mastodon you can see Peertube posts. They will appear with the title + the embedded video – no further text or hashtags. You can interact with the post as you are used to and the comments will appear under the video on the Peertube site. From Mastodon you can follow Peertube users and their channels, but in my experience this sometimes doesn't work even if you enter the url or the handle in the search field.
Audio Hosting (like Soundcloud)
How it federates
There is some federation between FunkWhale instances, but not with other projects in the Fediverse yet, as far as I can tell.
Events (like Facebook Events)
How it federates
There is no federation between Mobilizon instances yet, but you can discover Mobilizon users and events from Mastodon. On Mastodon a Mobilizon event will only be a post with the title of the event and a link to it though. You can interact with the post and comments will be displayed under the event. The goal is that you'll be able to add events from any Mobilizon instance to your calendar, but you'll probably not be able to RSVP from other software projects.
“Guppe brings social groups to the Fediverse” Basically a gup.pe group is like a Mastodon bot that boosts every post it is mentioned in. So you can follow a group and you will see every post that mentions the group. To use gup.pe you don't create a gup.pe account, but simply interact with the group. To create a new group just mention @[groupname]@gup.pe.
How it federates
Gup.pe works perfectly with Mastodon. I haven't tested it yet with other software.
- Fedilab, along with Tusky, is my favorite mobile app for browsing the Fediverse. You can switch between different identities on Mastodon, Pleroma, Friendica, GNU Social, Peertube and soon Pixelfed instances.
- Tusky is a bit simpler – both in a positive and a negative sense, but otherwise very similar.
- AndStatus is another multi-account app, that works with Mastodon, GNU Social, Pump.io and also Twitter.