Using Fediverse: Federated alternatives to ‘walled garden’ social media platforms

What the hell is Fediverse?

Fediverse is simply an informal name for interconnected web services. It uses open protocols (ex. ActivityPub) to share content (i.e posts, photos, videos, etc) between servers/instances.

You can think of it like Twitter or Facebook but anyone can host their own Twitter/Facebook on their servers and the content is shared between every instances of Twitter/Facebook.

Why would you want to use Fediverse?

Twitter or Facebook are walled garden platform. They hold total control on it and can pose any changes that they want to it.

They can control which posts you see, what you can write or contribute to it, who can use it and also how your content is spread around the platform.

Meanwhile Fediverse takes a more decentralized approach, you can use any Fediverse instances or start your own.

But, how do you filter out bad content (i.e spam, gore, etc)?

It is the instance’s admin/moderators job to decide to allow or block content from other instances. User filters also exist, so you can also make your own filters.

Doesn’t that defeat the purpose?

No, you’re not forced to be on that particular instance. You can easily pack up and move away to another platform which you’re comfortable with. That is the beauty of fediverse.

Unlike walled garden platforms which have absolute control, with federated service, you can move and generally don’t have to worry about “being out of the blue”, your content is still being spread around the federated network1.

This sounds good, how do I join?

Deciding which type of platform

Fediverse is just a blanket name for a collection of different web servers which are interconnected and share content of each other.

This “content” can be widely different from small text posts (like Twitter) to video streams (like YouTube).

Here’s a list of popular Fediverse servers:

NameCore functionDescription
MastodonMicro-bloggingPopular micro-blogging platform in Fediverse. Boast a similar interface to Tweetdeck. As of writing, it is still number one in both user and instances count
PleromaMicro-bloggingPopular alternative to Mastodon. Never used it personally but it seems to be fairly popular
GNU SocialMicro-bloggingAnother alternative to Mastodon.
PeerTubeVideo sharingPeer-to-peer video sharing platform which uses WebRTC/Torrent to seed/transmit content across the network. Fairly new.
WriteFreely (previously write.as)BlogPopular blogging platform which utilizes ActivityPub to spread content.
PixelFedImage sharingImage sharing platform which takes inspiration from Instagram and Flickr.

Worthy mentions:

NameCore functionDescription
WordpressBlogPopular blog / website platform. By default, it doesn’t have any support federation but can be enabled via a plugin
NextcloudGeneral cloud (File storage mainly)Like wordpress, it doesn’t have federation by default but can be enabled with an experimental extension

Finding a good home

Now that you’ve decided which type of platform you want to get into, you just need to find a good home.

Fediverse instances typically have themes, preferred languages, rules, code of conduct, etc. Also, do note that not every Fediverse instances are open for registration or invite-only.

I generally suggest that you just find which platform your friends are on or even better, if you have a close friend which hosts their own instance, why not join them?

Of course, if you don’t like that you’re not in total control, you can always start your own easily.

If you don’t have any friends (sad) or don’t have the capacity to start your own, you can find one on websites like fediverse.network or joinmastodon.org.

On joinmastodon.org, you can filter by themes and languages. There’s also small description in the lists too which can help you give a better idea on what the instance is about.

Generally, I suggest avoid going to the “huge” instances (like mastodon.social). Mainly because I would like Fediverse to be actually federated and not concentrated on a single instance (like matrix.org).

Joining

Once you’ve found a good home, don’t forget to read the rules or ToS (if any) before registering. This is just good attitude to have so you won’t get banned from the instance in the future.

After you’ve registered, don’t forget to say hi and find interesting people on the platform2!


  1. Obviously, this is assuming you’re not in a naughty instance which doesn’t do any moderation. ↩︎

  2. The “Federated feed” is very helpful for this and I always find interesting things that other people are doing. ↩︎