Growing the Fediverse

By Johannes Ernst


If you owned Twitter, how would you grow it? I think you have basically two choices:

Increase tweeting and reading per user Increase number of users
  1. You can try to grow the number of users who use Twitter on a regular basis.

  2. You can try to increase the number of times each user tweets and browses others’ tweets.

Is that the same for the Fediverse?

Turns out the answer is a resounding No! We have far more options.

Increase tweeting and reading per user Increase number of users Increase the number and diversity of Fediverse apps New categories of use cases (4D! Yay!)
  1. Yep, we can try and grow the number of users who regularly use the Fediverse.

  2. Yep, we can try to increase the number of times each user posts and reads other people’s posts. (Except that we don’t actually want to do that so very much, otherwise the Fediverse would have to become addictive, and not wanting to be manipulated is one of the things that got us off the big centralized social platforms in the first place.)

  3. We can do more things than just “tweeting” in the Fediverse. Because unlike on Twitter, every Fediverse-enabled app can – and usually does – add new features that go way beyond just posting “What’s happening”. And there are so many of them already! PeerTube for video, PixelFed for photos, FunkWhale for audio, Mobilizon for events, OwnCast for streaming, Bookwyrm for reading, Micro.blog for blogging and more … and all interoperating on the same network. Each new feature like that grows the Fediverse, as I can now do more things, and will if it is easy enough. Each of those tools grows the use of the Fediverse with the same number of users and the same number of “tweets”. Practically, Twitter does not have this option.

  4. Which, together, enables entirely new categories of use cases that go way beyond of what a social media platform like Twitter has ever done (or dreamt of!), or what any one Fediverse app can do on its own. Many of those will turn out to be much more valuable and useful than mere sharing “What’s happening”. And they will be possible because all of those apps can be combined in various ways on the same, free, ad-free, manipulation-free, open, rich communications network called the Fediverse.

For this to work, however, we need to work to make the interactions between the various Fediverse apps much smoother than they are today. Yes, of course, ActivityPub lets us send notes and likes and comments and various other things around from one app to another.

But much more can and should be done, such as:

  • Seamless single-sign-on across the Fediverse apps that I’m using. So if I see a Mobilizon event shared on Mastodon, I want to be able to click “Yes, RSVP, I’m coming” and identify myself with my Mastodon-issued Fediverse handle. There is no reason why I should have to sign up for a separate Mobilizon account first.

    The same, of course, should be true about videos, music, bookmarks, and so many other things in so many Fediverse apps. (Before you get concerned, yes, you should be able to have multiple non-connected “personas”, like work and play, in the Fediverse, but we still need single-sign-on within the scope of a single persona.)

  • My social network should come with me when I use different Fediverse apps. So if I decide to start using Pixelfed, I should be able to instantly follow all the photo streams of all the friends I’m following somewhere else, such as on Pleroma or Mastodon. After all, if I’m interested in the photos that my friend Joe shares, why would I make a distinction whether he shares them through one app or the other? The Fediverse can do this if we want to; no other social network can do this.

  • And and and…

Imagine when data flows freely, data of many, rich kinds, across an open network, directly from your friends to you. Not just some social media data, but most data you care about! With nobody in the middle to manipulate you, or charge you, or advertise to you, or censor you … and no unnatural hoops that you need to jump through.

We got to work on that last bit, and on that note, I’m very happy that a Fediverse Developer Network is coming together with participation from many excellent Fediverse developers working on a variety of apps. Our goal here is to connect the people well who work on this, so their apps can connect well, too! It’s early days, but very promising.