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shoeberto
Jun 13, 2020


What the HECK is this nonsense?

I haven't seen any other threads about this topic, and it's a fairly big passion area for me, so I though I'd try to put together an effort post to spread the good word of what I think is some of the most exciting tech out there right now.

So what is the fediverse? A very brief but solid summary can be found in this video put out by the Mastodon team:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IPSbNdBmWKE

Going a bit deeper, the fediverse represents an attempt to decentralize the web. A lot of really smart people recognized a long time ago that the web was becoming more centralized into "walled gardens" of services like Facebook, Twitter, etc. Obviously, those services offer valuable products in the way that they encourage connection and communities. However, because they are run by profit-motivated companies, they have incentives to lock you in to their specific service, one way or another; for example, a lot has been made of Facebook's attempt at harvesting data and manipulating news feeds, but they also are just so dominant in the social media space that it's very hard to convince people to walk away.

The controversy surrounding platforms like Facebook and Twitter created a lot of motivation to come up with open-source, self-hostable alternatives. But people knew they had to be smart about it. You couldn't just implement a self-hosted service where every instance would be its own walled garden; like other failed social media platforms, there'd be major hurdles to overcome in just gaining traction ("why do I need another social media account?"), and having a million walled gardens doesn't do much to incentivize people to leave platforms that already have all their friends.

Over time, it became clear that these open-source alternatives needed to be built with two core principles in mind: decentralization and federation. In short, the developers behind these projects came up with a set of protocols to be implemented in server software. Similar to something like e-mail, there would be no central server, just lots of individual instances talking to one another, creating a "federation" of instances that defined the network. Every server admin could have their own moderation rules and decide what other servers they want to federate with. You get the pros of running a small community server without having to sacrifice connecting with the bigger network. Pretty cool stuff.

I've heard of Mastodon/Diaspora/etc., is this the same thing?

Yes! Sort of. It's more accurate to say that those are *built* on the fediverse. Really the term "fediverse" has come to represent a central set of protocols that are used to implement decentralized/federated services. Since the protocol is quite flexible, many different types of specialized services can be built on top of it.

Here are some examples of services that are built using fediverse protocols:
Mastodon - Popular social media platform, similar to Twitter.
Pleroma - Mastodon-compatible social media platform.
PixelFed - Social image sharing, like Instagram.
Lemmy - Link aggregation, like Reddit.

There's many others, all in various states of completion/popularity. One site that tries to keep up with them is:
https://fediverse.party/


But what if I need a place to anonymously cyber with a hot e-babe in real time

I'm glad you brought that up! While not typically considered a part of the fediverse - it's a very different set of protocols - there is a great project attempting to make a decentralized, federated chat platform!

The project is called Matrix and it's been slowly gaining traction in recent years. In a lot of ways, it can be seen as a successor to IRC. Unlike IRC, it's not trapped in the 80s, and has a lot of great features like what you'd see in Discord or Slack.

There's a lot to Matrix - I recommend checking out the site if you're curious about the nitty gritty - but at a high level, it's organized a lot like IRC. There's the Matrix protocol for having servers talk to one another, and then there is server software that implements the protocol (Synapse being the most popular/complete one), and there are clients used to connect to the servers. Element, formerly Riot (and formerly Vector before that; they suck rear end at naming) is the premier client, which has a lot of Discord-y type features.

Matrix
Element

Despite the popularity of services like Discord, I think Matrix is something to really look out for. It's already been adopted by some big names, like Mozilla, and the parent company developing the Matrix protocol just acquired another chat service, Gitter, that they intend to migrate over to the Matrix platform.

I'm a big dumb babby that loves Facebook and Discord, why should I give a poo poo, stop trying to change me

Okay! That's fine. Just sell your soul to the man. Just give up on the dream of a true free internet. Take the blue pill and stay in the fantasy, you turd.

Jokes aside, I think there's a lot of enduring staying power to platforms that are open and based on protocols as opposed to ones that are closed and run by businesses. Think about it this way:
When was the last time you entered an AOL Keyword?
When was the last time you exchanged ICQ numbers?
How many Perforce repositories have you checked code out from recently?

It's been my experience that good, solid, open platforms win out over time. Companies come and go, get bought and sold; leadership changes hands, strategies head in new directions, controversies break out. Open platforms tend to be more driven by passion and community than profits, which gives them a much different, more organic growth pattern that takes time. It's my personal opinion that federated tech is really getting close to a point of maturity where we might see them hit critical mass in the next few years. At the very least, right now, it's nice to have alternatives to the shitshows that are all the other big services.

Has anyone else taken the journey INTO THE FEDIVERSE? Are there any great goon-run Mastodon or Matrix servers I'm not aware of? Do you want to be my friend on Mastodon? Please validate me on the internet, I deleted Facebook 8 years ago, none of my friends or family have spoken to me since and I live in a cave, help????
(you can find me on Mastodon at: this link on the internet)

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kujeger
Feb 19, 2004

OH YES HA HA

I've been running my own matrix server for a while which, ironically, I mainly use to bridge facebook so I don't have to use Facebook's own poo poo to talk to my friends and family. It's pretty neat, although I wish there were better non-electron clients available


I haven't used anything like mastodon, but my impression from the sidelines has been that a lot of the activitypub using services and whatnot have ended up having their own dialects of varying compatibility. Is that (still?) the case?

shoeberto
Jun 13, 2020


kujeger posted:

I haven't used anything like mastodon, but my impression from the sidelines has been that a lot of the activitypub using services and whatnot have ended up having their own dialects of varying compatibility. Is that (still?) the case?

I don't do dev on the projects, so my understanding is very rough, but I believe the AP protocol is standard but the "verbs" for updates are implementation specific and require coordination across projects. So like, if Mastodon has a "user posts comment" type action that's broadcast via AP, other AP-based subscribers will get the message, but it's up to them to decide if they want to do anything with it. Similarly any extra data broadcast in that update may or may not be honored by a recipient.

I do remember some conversations around Mastodon implementing some verb that Pleroma didn't and there were philosophical differences about why, and some issues with "breaking federation", but that was some time ago. At a glance, following the different projects, they're pretty cool about finding compromise for the health of the broader network. I believe you can even follow PixaFed accounts via Mastodon etc due to the attempts at compatibility.

Canine Blues Arooo
Jan 7, 2008

when you think about it...i'm the first girl you ever spent the night with



Grimey Drawer

What problem is this actually trying to solve? (I have theories, which we'll get into...)

I know you don't mean this literally, but the web is already hugely decentralized, or at least the end points are. Individual services are not of course, but I host my website out of a NUC in my house. Any computer can be an accessible end point on the web so if the crusade is to 'decentralized the web', then we've already got that...except where we don't.

The actual Internet-scale concern would not be the end points, but the infrastructure to those end points which a small number of companies control. Sure, fighting the man by not letting facebook sell your data is great, but if the idea is to preserve the Internet from major companies, then you'd have to start building out your own very expensive infrastructure.

Even reducing this to just 'Well, Facebook and Google suck' still doesn't make this a strong selling point. Not everyone hosting an instance is going to be a competent network or system admin, and while yes, the network is decentralized, the individual instance certainly is not, and instead of giving your data to Facebook, you are giving it to some random dude, who probably has substantially shittier security around his infrastructure than a FAANG company might. So, what happens when random dude gets bored and just pulls the Instance down? Restart somewhere else?

As far as I can tell, this is the kind of service that attracts the same kinds of people that sacrifice their first born to the altar of Bitcoin: The kinds of people who wear tinfoil hats, tend to be openly racist, and just want a place to share child porn, hoping they've found another way to dodge the police.

Canine Blues Arooo fucked around with this message at 07:50 on Oct 6, 2020

shoeberto
Jun 13, 2020


Interesting perspective. Obviously this is all very much a matter of personal philosophy, so here's my take on some of the stuff you mentioned:

quote:

The actual Internet-scale concern would not be the end points, but the infrastructure to those end points which a small number of companies control. Sure, fighting the man by not letting facebook sell your data is great, but if the idea is to preserve the Internet from major companies, then you'd have to start building out your own very expensive infrastructure.
To me, the idea is more to maintain the connectivity that major platforms provide without having to participate in their business practices, which I personally find to be deeply unethical. When I was on Facebook, I did legitimately like the social features, but I also don't like the idea of my online activity being harvested by the same company that's been responsible for so much horrible poo poo. Obviously, as far as actual data center providers go, the big hitters are going to remain AWS, GCP, Azure, and Linode/Digital Ocean somewhere in there, and this doesn't really do anything to address that. I think offering more competition in that arena is a very different type of project to take on. But I think these technologies offer something very powerful to solve the specific problem of offering viable alternatives to the major social platforms of Facebook/Twitter/etc.

quote:

Even reducing this to just 'Well, Facebook and Google suck' still doesn't make this a strong selling point. Not everyone hosting an instance is going to be a competent network or system admin, and while yes, the network is decentralized, the individual instance certainly is not, and instead of giving your data to Facebook, you are giving it to some random dude, who probably has substantially shittier security around his infrastructure than a FAANG company might. So, what happens when random dude gets bored and just pulls the Instance down? Restart somewhere else?
A few thoughts...
1. Instances can be added to the network by anyone who can spin up a VM and follow the README, so in theory you can have numerous small instances, each with their own independent set of rules and regulations, beholden to their users. I think you could have a nefarious admin, but who would want to stick around on that instance if they're doing something like targeted ads? I think one of the main advantages of this design is that users do have a lot more choice; you know with 100% certainty that Facebook is microtargeting you with information to make them rich, maybe there's a 1 in 100 chance that the admin of your furry vore instance wants to do something shady like that, and even if they *do*, there's probably another furry vore instance out there that's not run by assholes.
2. Security concerns are a fair point, but I think Wordpress might be a good analogy here, in that keeping your software reasonably up-to-date and avoiding being low-hanging fruit is probably going to keep you safe from the vast majority of attacks, just due to the sheer number of instances out there. Maybe that's a rationalization, but the biggest sysadmin fuckups I've seen have been PEBCAK-type "oh maybe I should have backups" rather than proper attacks.
3. The "I got bored and took it down" issue is actually something that developers have tried to account for by implementing account migration between instances. So as long as the admin isn't a dick and just drops everything, you can properly move to another instance and just keep going. Still requires good faith behavior on the part of the host, but I think that's something that gets filtered for over time.

quote:

As far as I can tell, this is the kind of service that attracts the same kinds of people that sacrifice their first born to the altar of Bitcoin: The kinds of people who wear tinfoil hats, tend to be openly racist, and just want a place to share child porn, hoping they've found another way to dodge the police.
So I won't lie, there are a lot of freezepeach type instances out there. In fact, at one point, the developer of Gab realized he was a poo poo developer and just forked Mastodon for Gab 2.0 or whatever, leading to a poo poo load of instance blocks to keep hate speech from being propagated across the network.

That said, really most of the traction has been from people who feel like the mainstream services have let them down. Not in a "I want to say the n-word because muh first amendment" way, but more people who have been subjected to targeted harassment for whatever reason, and seeing the moderation teams on Facebook/Twitter/etc do absolutely gently caress all. The LGBTQ presence on Mastodon is HUGE from this sort of stuff. You also see a lot of people who are just generally exhausted from constantly seeing these big platforms mired in controversy and dealing with the internal ethical conflict of wanting to be Where People Are but *not* wanting to contribute to the company's bottom line. These aren't the crazy "BITCOIN IS GOING TO BURN THE GLOBAL FINANCIAL MARKETPLACE TO THE GROUND AND BUILD A GLORIOUS TECHNOCRACY IN ITS PLACE" type techbros, really just every day normal people who wanted a viable alternative. And for a lot of us, having small, community-run and moderated instances has given us just a small reminder of what the web was like before the place became dominated by The Socials, when it was still fun and not everything was curated by an algorithm.

chaosbreather
Dec 9, 2001

Wry and wise,
but also very sexual.



Decentralisation is enormously important and I believe it in whole-heartedly. But decentralisation is also far less efficient, from both usability and cost perspectives. I would very very much like ActivityPub to be A Thing but even though I am pretty great at writing software and consider the internet to be my actually true home town I don't have a mastodon account because I am not really a 'joiner' who self-identifies as something straightforward, like 'gay' or 'a fan of a band' or 'a nazi' and it seems like that's basically what the situation is vis a vis servers. I'd run my own instance like you, but I don't want to pay cash money to make tweets even less people read than my twitter account.

The fact that signing up kind of invites a yawning existential angst is sort of against it as a product, is what I'm saying.

Mr. Crow
May 22, 2008

Snap City mayor for life


Canine Blues Arooo posted:

As far as I can tell, this is the kind of service that attracts the same kinds of people that sacrifice their first born to the altar of Bitcoin: The kinds of people who wear tinfoil hats, tend to be openly racist, and just want a place to share child porn, hoping they've found another way to dodge the police.

This is a pretty boomer take dude. There are very real people in very bad countries that use these 'kinds of services' to avoid being thrown in a concentration camp. take a look at some peoples experiences with tor

Watermelon Daiquiri
Jul 10, 2010




lmao i know someone who (was) rather active in the fediverse and boy the drama she was talking about... apparently there was something recently somewhere in there (i have zero idea how much it percolated out through everything) about wanting to cancel someone for saying zionists were the uebermensches of the jews or something??? idk it just seems hilarious on its own to see people try to make their own walled gardens to replace walled gardens.

Bieeanshee
Aug 21, 2000

Not keen on keening.


Grimey Drawer

Mastodon is my go-to example for why engineers shouldn't do UI work, both from its godawful end-user configuration and options layout, and the defensiveness that erupts when people point that out.

BONESAWWWWWW
Dec 23, 2009




Hell Gem

Personally I think the concept of the federated internet and the work people have done is really interesting. I also think it's important to different people for different reasons. Probably for most people, myself included, there's not much practical use there that makes it worth the "effort," either to understand or to get situated without an established community.

My favorite is Scuttlebutt, where you do your posts offline and they sync as you meet people in real life, along with people they have synced with. In this way, it grows in a more personal way. You can also sync online, too, if you choose.
Again, though... Concept is cool, adoption is low.

shoeberto
Jun 13, 2020


Watermelon Daiquiri posted:

lmao i know someone who (was) rather active in the fediverse and boy the drama she was talking about... apparently there was something recently somewhere in there (i have zero idea how much it percolated out through everything) about wanting to cancel someone for saying zionists were the uebermensches of the jews or something??? idk it just seems hilarious on its own to see people try to make their own walled gardens to replace walled gardens.
That is something I've noticed with some communities. Like, not that *specific* drama, but the small cloisters do bring up... well, the same issues we used to have back in the aughts with small message boards, where a group of people could just stir up a frenzy over weird drama.

Bit of a funny anecdote on that: There was an instances that briefly gained a LOT of popularity among leftist Twitter expats called bofa.lol. It sort of blew up overnight and its members were getting signal boosted all over the fediverse for a period of a few weeks. Wil Wheaton signed up for a Mastodon account at this time on an unrelated instance, and for whatever reason they brigaded him - I think over some accusations of him making transphobic comments in the past, which, when I looked into them, they seemed sort of overblown, but whatever. There was a pretty effective bullying campaign to push the guy off, mostly on the principle of keeping the fediverse "pure" from "shitlord celebs" or whatever, and of course the hordes of unemployed communists won the day, and the peeps on bofa.lol were HYPE, they celebrated with the Ewoks on Endor, etc etc

then like two weeks later there was a drama overload among the instance staff, everyone migrated offsite, and bofa.lol was shut down. It was wild.

(Ringing endorsement for Mastodon, I know, but I find these sort of emergent narratives fascinating when it's on the indie web)

Bieeanshee posted:

Mastodon is my go-to example for why engineers shouldn't do UI work, both from its godawful end-user configuration and options layout, and the defensiveness that erupts when people point that out.
Just curious, but have you used it since they switched to the single-column (Twitter-esque) UI? The OG UI was... yeah not great.


BONESAWWWWWW posted:

Personally I think the concept of the federated internet and the work people have done is really interesting. I also think it's important to different people for different reasons. Probably for most people, myself included, there's not much practical use there that makes it worth the "effort," either to understand or to get situated without an established community.

My favorite is Scuttlebutt, where you do your posts offline and they sync as you meet people in real life, along with people they have synced with. In this way, it grows in a more personal way. You can also sync online, too, if you choose.
Again, though... Concept is cool, adoption is low.
Yeah I think that's the problem of trying to reach critical mass. To me I see it as the next viable alternative to something like traditional message boards or IRC servers, though obviously for most people, the logical follow-up to those is Facebook Groups/subreddits/Discord. SA seems to be a huge outlier when it comes to message boards that are continuing to have strong communities in 2020.

For me personally, there are just some really hard pills to swallow about trying to engage with people online in the current state of things:
- I deleted my Facebook account for very good reasons and have no interest in making a new one.
- Discord has zero support for clients other than the official one, which is a heavy Electron app; and as far as I can tell, they're very much a VC-funded startup, still trying to figure out their monetization model, and presumably are going to be acquired in the next few years by a Facebook or Google or Amazon.
- Most independently-run message boards are running off phpBB or vBulletin or some other message board software that haven't had a significant upgrade since before the iPhone came out, and there seems to be no real will to update to anything more modern, so there's just this weird slow death that seems to be happening.

I dunno. I guess I'm just sort of pining for what the web used to be and hoping stuff like Mastodon and Matrix can fill the niche. I get that most people will take the convenience of Facebook at the cost of privacy (and manipulative "engagement" practices), but it's just not something I'm willing to live with.

corgski
Feb 6, 2007




I hosted a pleroma instance for a short while and I will never do it again. Updating blacklists to block out the nazis and "free speech" was a near daily task and once I ran across a stupidly long list of child porn-hosting mastodon/pleroma instances that needed to be added to my blacklist I said gently caress it and made my instance whitelist only, defeating the entire supposed goal of the fediverse. A few months later I pulled it offline entirely because it saw gently caress all traffic and I didn't have the time or energy to moderate it, nor did I want the liability of people potentially using it to distribute disgusting things.

E:

shoeberto posted:

- Most independently-run message boards are running off phpBB or vBulletin or some other message board software that haven't had a significant upgrade since before the iPhone came out, and there seems to be no real will to update to anything more modern, so there's just this weird slow death that seems to be happening.

I think that's a case of don't fix what isn't broken. I'm active on a handful of forums that are regularly active and the format works fine for focused discussion. Social media fills a different niche and it might have wiped out some of the forums that were just chat spaces but it's really not hurting communities that have other things to focus on besides yelling about politics and pictures of the kids.

corgski fucked around with this message at 07:58 on Oct 13, 2020

shoeberto
Jun 13, 2020


corgski posted:

I hosted a pleroma instance for a short while and I will never do it again. Updating blacklists to block out the nazis and "free speech" was a near daily task and once I ran across a stupidly long list of child porn-hosting mastodon/pleroma instances that needed to be added to my blacklist I said gently caress it and made my instance whitelist only, defeating the entire supposed goal of the fediverse. A few months later I pulled it offline entirely because it saw gently caress all traffic and I didn't have the time or energy to moderate it, nor did I want the liability of people potentially using it to distribute disgusting things.
How many users did you have? Just curious, I haven't run into those sorts of issues personally.

I've had friends come and go to my instance over ~2-3 years - I can't say it's ever really "taken off" in that way - but it is my daily driver, and I find the general admin maintenance burden to be pretty small aside from regular backups/software upgrades and the occasional spambot. I hear about white supremacist/free speech/whatever instances from my follows but they don't really seem to percolate into my actual federated timeline.

The Gadfly
Sep 23, 2012


shoeberto posted:

How many users did you have? Just curious, I haven't run into those sorts of issues personally.

Same. The worst I've seen so far are bronies posting their stupid porn.

corgski
Feb 6, 2007




Like 100 people or so, so not a ton but enough that I didn't personally know everyone on the instance. It just wasn't worth the hassle of playing whack-a-mole and keeping up with all the new blocklists.

HamAdams
Jun 29, 2018

yospos


Mastodon seems like a neat idea, I'd like to find a small and cool instance to be part of and just interact at that level.

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shoeberto
Jun 13, 2020


HamAdams posted:

Mastodon seems like a neat idea, I'd like to find a small and cool instance to be part of and just interact at that level.

You're welcome to join mine!
https://straylight.expectnomore.net
It is small, because I am the only person actively using it.
It is decided not cool, because I am the only person actively using it. But I have a lot of cool follows that get brought into the federated timeline, so if nothing else you can poke around and see what's happening on the fediverse, and hop instances from there as you desire.

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