If you're used to centralised networks like Facebook, you may be wondering why Mastodon and the Fediverse are spread across thousands of sites. Why not just have a single site where people sign up?
There are many important reasons, but maybe the most important is this:
Networks on single sites tend to be bought by bad people when they get popular 😠
It happened to Instagram (bought by Facebook), it happened to Whatsapp (bought by Facebook), it happened to YouTube (bought by Google). It can happen to ANYTHING built entirely around one site.
No matter how much you trust the people who run a site, when someone offers them billions of dollars they may just take the money.
Decentralised networks, where there is no central site, are much more resistant to buyouts.
No one owns the global email network, thousands of indie players like @Tutanota and @protonmail are able to offer alternatives, and if one provider behaves badly you can switch to a different provider.
Just like email, the Fediverse is decentralised, so it is extremely difficult for anyone to ever buy it.
But there are also other reasons why decentralising makes sense for the Fediverse. Maybe the next most important reason is the ability to choose our own rules.
Each site (or "instance") on the Fediverse can decide its own rules for acceptable behaviour. This makes dispute resolution much more civilised, as people who disagree with an instance's rules can move to a different instance (or even start their own).
It also makes a lot more sense than having a massive megacorporation trying to make yes/no decisions on the entire world's disagreements.
Instances can also choose to block other instances. The worse an instance behaves, the more other instances will block it, until eventually the worst-behaved instances are just talking to themselves.
The Masto developers summed this all up well in their official video:
Third reason why it's important for the Fediverse to be decentralised is decentralisation protects it from catastrophic failure. If one part of the Fedi goes down, it doesn't break everything else.
The Fediverse is made up of thousands of independent instances. Every instance runs separately, usually on separate servers. Even the largest instance only has a fraction of the Fedi's total users.
Additionally, different instances may use totally different software (Mastodon, PixelFed, PeerTube etc) written by totally different teams, so software bugs will probably only affect a fraction of the Fedi at any one time.
By being so diverse and spread out, the Fedi minimises the impact of any technical problems.
Centralised networks are much much more vulnerable because they aren't diverse, they put all their technical eggs in one basket. That's why we regularly see Facebook down, Instagram down, Whatsapp down etc.
@feditips the network is resistant to buyouts, but individual servers can be bought. if a server serves a large populations of users, those users will be impacted in turn (e.g. freenode). the best defense is full decentralization! :-)
It's definitely great that we aren't being run by corporations. But single instance communities can still be at risk of selling out to corporations.
For example, the Internet Movie Database was originally a community project, but it got bought out by Amazon within just a few years because it got popular 😔
As long as the Fediverse stays decentralised though, there's much less risk of this happening.
Actually, according to wikipedia, it became a private company before Amazon purchased it.
Though I agree communities or nonprofits can be "Captured" in many ways, but if the code is opensource and can be forked, we can easily move onto a different platform if needed.
And yes, decentralization helps prevent a lot of issues as well.
@geotechland IMDb became a private company. #Wikipedia is secured from such events, because:
* Wikipedia is published under the CC-BY-SA licence;
* AFAIK a dump of the entire Wikipedia can be downloaded anytime as few huge files;
* the software of Wikipedia, #MediaWiki, is published under some free licence (possibly, GNU GPL, not sure).
But (I suppose) if Wikipedia would be sold, the sold thing would be its name. And it would be a real problem, because most readers would know the old name only.
Very happy to be resilient. Might even get a shot at self-hosting an instance :) Me being dumb could be a risk though ;)
Still @kakure has a point. Recently I had an account on fediverse that was completely deleted because the instance went down forever. Unfortunately there just isn't a way to upload the contents anywhere else. Without a previous warning and backup, the content would be lost forever. Which is normal on the internet, but still wish for a workaround.
@jcast Actually, there is a migration protocol, but each user has to do that individually, that is why a timely notice is important.
Regardless, to guard against external failure, you should host your own instance. It is not hard and enables heavy personalisation. Check out https://fediverse.party/en/miscellaneous for the plethora of software you can use, I am pretty happy with Pleroma, featurewise a superset of Mastodon and easier to set up.
https://bonfirenetworks.org/apps/bonfire.html also looks promising but is not ready yet.
Thanks will look into that. Currently using GNU social on a private instance, not federating.
The problem with migrating accounts on Mastodon is that AFAIK the contents are lost in the process, only followers, followed accounts and basic info are kept.
So data portability is not fully implemented yet. I was trying to figure what the blockers to this process are.
@feditips I'm personalyl a bit less concerned about a server being bought out but rather losing basically all content when 1 idiot screws up and takes down an entire platform...
@luka Yes, both because caching is a good practise and because content gets places into ones "inbox".
Activitypub is actually not much different from mail when it comes to fundamental architecture.
@feditips Absolutely agree. I read somewhere that Activitypub is like XMPP. There is one single standard and anyone can follow it to develop an app. It is possible to buy an app, but not a whole standard. It creates a chance for healthy competition.
Even though Email is flawed but many things have been fixed to increase its security. But the standard remains the same. This characteristic has made it survive till this day.
We just have to use it. Fediverse is the future!