🌐 Decentralized Internet
Centralized internet platforms became central, because they were so comfortable that they attracted the vast majority of users. There always has been concern about central platforms, but in recent time concerns went more in to focus also triggered by web3 hype. While web3 has the vision, it weirdly propagates concepts leading to the opposite. But there always have been de-centralized solutions. The alternatives are a little bit different and most of all lack the mass of other users. Backed by open standards they provide everything that is demanded from a decentralized version. And in this case, you gain even more than only a decentral service: the Fediverse
- A server is the smallest habital entity in the Fediverse. As a user, I choose a server for creating my account at. Once the account created, I can communicate with everyone on this and all other servers that belong to the same platform.
- A platform is the decentralized group of servers that provide the service
- A protocol is used to connect decentralized platforms
Users do not only communicate freely with users on the same server, but also with users from other servers of the same platform. The unique selling point of the Fediverse is that users consume also content from users from other platforms - seamlessly.
Imagine Twitter, Facebook, Instagram & Co were all part of one giant network. That's basically what the Fediverse is, except the parts are less well known, free software & federated replacements to those.
In the Fediverse you can use your "Twitter" account to interact with "Facebook" users, share "Instagram" posts, comment under "Youtube" videos, listen to "Bandcamp" music, follow "Blogger" blogs, take part in "Reddit" discussions and more.
The integration of different platforms stands on common protocols the platforms use for connectivity. There are different standards, the most popular protocol is ActivityPub. Some platforms support several protocols - and thus can access platforms from other protocol spheres. Servers creating platforms connected by protocols build a universal network known as the Fediverse.
The recent twitter acquisition made many customers aware of the decentralized microblogging service Mastodon. As usual, you need to create and account. But before creating an account, you first decide on a server the new account will be created on. That is the main obstacle, since you usually are not given a choice and it may seem to be hard to make a decision when you "just want to join". Here are a few tipps:
- Choose a server with high number of users - many users can't choose that wrong
- See, if there is a server with a dedicated topic or location you are especially interested. Maybe there is an instance dedicated to your city or area
- Have a look at the server rules. Those rules define guidelines, usually restricting illegal claims, but also degrees of permitted advertisement.
Which server you choose is not crucial. You can migrate to another server anytime. The choice of server determines the local feed you start with. In Mastodon you have 3 scopes for feeds:
- personal feed from your connections
- local feed of your server
- global feed the whole fediverse
The choice of server makes it easier to find interesting contacts, as people with similar interests will appear on your local feed. But you can just start and discover later where to move to. You recognize people from other servers when they have their servername attached to their username.
Social Media score is not relevant 🌞
Do you remember how weird it felt to "like" someone's content for the first time? Now we are used to it and move our focus to the most popular content, not the most relevant. A whole industry is built on top of the misconception of "like". Companies even run intranets based on "clicks" and "likes". In Mastodon the equivalent to a "like" is a "favorite". You give a posting a literal star. But you do not see immediately how much stars a post earned. You first need to open the post explicitely in order to find the rating almost hidden under the message.
I must admit, I was lost at first, when my compass fell dead and I could not identify content with highest score. You have to choose the content yourself. It is work at first, but I quickly got used to it - and quite enjoy my regained self-control. Yes, I probably miss a lot of content - but fear-of-missing-out disappeared entirely and is replaced by conscious consumption.
Potential: federated Intranet 🤔
The federated approach has potential for corporations that ecnourage collaboration, especially when the organizational structure is distributed. As any entity can setup their own server and connect it to any network, it is possible to create an intranet in image of the Fediverse. As company you would operate internal instances of alternatives to Twitter, Facebook, Linked, YouTube, MeetUp, Medium from the Fediverse. As servers can demand their own guideline , an division may establish rules according to their local requirements, for instance national law. Since all components are open source, company can ensure stability of their services by contributing to the projects. And it pays off, since a company would not have to re-invent the internet by creating one giant monolith platform. Employees would have 1 feed to access all content from all decentralized company services. It would feel like 1 platform when it is in fact a universe.
- List of platforms in Fediverse: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fediverse#Fediverse_software_platforms
- Fediverse Wiki: https://joinfediverse.wiki
- Join Mastodon: https://joinmastodon.org/
- Markus at Mastodon: https://mastodon.social/web/@noordsestern
- Stage Image: Rochus Hess, Attribution, via Wikimedia Commons
- Teaser Image: Eukombos, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
- Fediverse Image: Imke Senst,Mike Kuketz,RockyIII, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
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