Hello, Mastodon, hello ActivityPub!

If you possess at least one twitter account, you've probably heard about Elon Musk buying twitter for 44 billion dollars. This has triggered in many people the fear that Elon Musk at best massively underestimates what social media is about. People dread that in the course of this play being acted out he will ruin twitter to the point where sane, ordinary people cannot in good faith remain on the platform.

A subset of those, in anticipatory obedience (or to make a point, or because they're bored), feel like they need to already go somehere else to fulfil their social media needs.

In comes Mastodon.

The elephant is the mascot of Mastodon

The elephant is the mascot of Mastodon

Since I'm often a curious person myself, I couldn't help but get myself a presence in the so-called Fediverse.

What I learned is that Mastodon is but an implementation (here's its open source btw) of an open protocol called ActivityPub.

In the W3C's own words...

Now I am actually quite intrigued! Mastodon then isn't a replacement for twitter at all, in case that wasn't clear, but is the currently most popular implementation of an open protocol.

Socializing is an integral part of humanity. We have learned in the past years that big social media platforms have distorted socializing to the point that the term social media has aquired some pretty negative connotations. It turns out that there is an open protocol that can be implemented and which provides the basis for people to have an identity that they can use to interact publicly with other people. Of course it's hard to overcome the well-honed cynicism, aquired in countless battles against the filth that invades twitter, but, at least from its outset, this is a very good idea.

Sharing information is a universal need, we all use a number of alphabets to openly share content. This has been extended into the computer age by having an open standard to procide information in a structured way to the whole world. It seems just right to start using an open standard to fulfill yet another universal need, socializing.

It may feel rough right now, and probably inferior to twitter, but do you remember how the web felt like in, say, 1995? Now, imagine the usage of this protocol gains traction. For example, by browser vendors implementing the client parts of the protocol directly into the browser - or maybe even directly into the OS?

Personally, I'm not ready to leave twitter, but I have to say that it is fairly exciting to have stumbled across a social patform implementing an open protocol with some people actually interacting there.

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Frank Quednau 2022