I’ve written before about how your fediverse identity, data, and administration are all tied to your instance, for both technical and cultural reasons. There’s an awkward corollary: functionality in the fediverse is also currently tied to your instance.

Signed up on mastodon.social? Great! You can microblog…but you can’t really do groups, long-form writing, live streaming, or much else. You can do those on Lemmy, WriteFreely, or OwnCast, but you’ll need an entirely separate account and identity for each one.

To be fair, this is the norm for consumer apps in general. Centralized social services all aim at their own specific niches. Consider Twitter, Reddit, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn. Facebook tried to grow to be everything to everyone, but it’s an exception. (It also takes a much bigger centralized team, with more coordination and resources.)

Still, considering the bold modern vision of decentralized social, it seems positively quaint for your instance to limit what you can do. This is one reason I’m excited about new protocol ideas that more aggressively decouple identity from servers, eg Bluesky/ATProto and Nostr. The present moment seems ripe for experimentation, at least for a while. Let a thousand flowers bloom!


35 thoughts on “

  1. @snarfed.org I’m really impressed by the speed of development on #nostrIn just weeks they created Audio Spaces, then now LivestreamingIt keeps coming and coming at a rate I’m not seeing anywhere else.I’m biased against #crypto but hell the rythme From ideas to release on Nostr is very very fast, also very chaotic (in the sense anarchy of you can do it? then just do it kind of vibe)

  2. @snarfed.org I’m not impressed by either of these protocols given the initial audience of these two platforms. Ex-Twitter influencers for Bluesky and libertarian cryptobros for Nostr vs queer minorities for ActivityPub.Server-managed identity is also what enables effective moderation throughout the Fediverse and what sparked the successful FediPact campaign regarding Threads.

  3. @snarfed.org There are things like Bonfire and iirc Streams which are sort of do-it-all platforms, and I think with the ActivityPub Client-to-Server API (used by only *oma iirc), different apps can use the same account to do diverse things.One of the great advantages of the Fediverse and ActivityPub is that different approaches can, do, and will exist, to pretty much everything; some servers and apps will be specialized, while others will be general purpose.

  4. Yes! That’s all true in theory, but sadly not in practice. Bonfire and Streams look great, and broad, but neither implements all existing functionality. And if you don’t want to juggle multiple accounts, you need a server that implements everything, since your fediverse identity is tied to a single server.

    Also, clients and servers can’t add functionality to each other, they can only constrain it. Both sides need to implement a given feature before you can use it. Client rendering and authoring depends on it, as does server side logic and processing. (Blindly storing and serving unknown activities and objects isn’t enough, nor is “generic” client rendering.)

  5. @snarfed.org The idea of a multi-product, cumulative identity in which you use one login to spool up any number of federated services is one of those things that seem obvious to me, but also has tons of edge cases and difficult requirements that are obvious the moment I think about them for a second.Those are the challenging UX issues, because users want the functionality the way they think it’d work in their heads, but they won’t think about the implementation challenges.

  6. This is probably the main reason I haven’t (yet?) joined the whole federated social network experience thing: you need to choose a platform (and an instance) wisely, especially if you think you’ll want to be going on five or ten years from now. I need something that suits me now, and it should be versatile enough to suit me in the future (whatever that may hold). I end up thinking I need my own instance, and I need to be able to heavily customize it when needed, and wait, I already have one, it’s my website! It’s been working for me for years, through redesigns and rebuilds, and it will likely keep working for me, evolving with me.
    I view Fediverse as a welcome half-way solution for those who don’t want to be siloed on the centralized services but, for a variety of reasons, don’t feel like running a personal website. I don’t think I’m ever going there myself.
    Which is why Bridgy Fed is one of the most important projects in the Indieweb space for me right now.

  7. Pingback: Threads Adopting ActivityPub Makes Sense, but Won’t Be Easy – F1TYM1

  8. Pingback: Michael Tsai - Blog - Threads and ActivityPub

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