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A reminder that Mastodon and the Fediverse do NOT use cryptocurrency, blockchains, NFTs, tokens, coins, mining, web3 or anything like that.

Masto and the Fedi run on traditional servers and use a sustainable network federation model somewhat similar to e-mail (that's why Fediverse addresses look similar to e-mail addresses).

Also a reminder there are no venture capital firms or other investors either. No one owns the network, each server is independent. Masto and Fedi server running costs are paid by their owners, sometimes with donations from users.

No one is getting rich from the Fediverse, it is all volunteers with some getting donations and a few getting modest grants from foundations. Please remember this when you interact with admins or developers.

(There might be some individual users who post about cryptocurrency/blockchain, but the infrastructure this place runs on doesn't use it at all.)

Tl:dr - Decentralisation does NOT mean cryptocurrency/blockchain

@feditips Some time ago I asked a question about the environmental impact of fediverse, including of course Mastodon, and although I did not get an answer on that moment, one of my main doubts was if the blockchain was used. This clarification reassures me.

@_Nohemi_Sofia_

Yeah, there's no blockchain or artificial scarcity or mining or anything like that here.

Fediverse (including Mastodon) is all traditional servers with owners who want to keep their electricity bills as low as possible, so they are incentivised to reduce energy use rather than expand it.

There will still be an impact from any kind of server, but on traditional servers it's not artificially high. No one is incentivised to waste energy on the Fediverse or Mastodon.

There's a project called @greenfediverse which is trying to encourage people to move to servers powered by renewable energy, that might be worth checking out too?

@feditips @greenfediverse I had no idea of its existence, I will check as soon as possible, thanks for the information! it helps me a lot :blobcomf:

@feditips @_Nohemi_Sofia_ Mastodon also does a lot less computing work than commercial social networks. There are no algorithms analyzing user behaviour or trying to optimize advertisement sales. So there’s some energy savings there.

@ashfurrow @feditips now, that's a really good thing to hear about. I really like the concept of federated networks, although I'm just learning about them, and knowing things like this is always very helpful to me.

@ashfurrow @feditips @_Nohemi_Sofia_

This is a great point I've never thought about for the Fediverse. You also don't have racks of idle servers drawing constant charge waiting for peak time to make sure you can keep up with demand. And with home solar a thing, it's possible the admin is using renewables.

@ashfurrow @feditips @_Nohemi_Sofia_ that's debatable. fediverse copies each posts hundreds of times, up to a few thousand if you're popular enough — each server stores a copy (also has to verify the signatures, etc). whereas commercial social networks only have to store each post once (not counting backups). same for profiles, etc.

if fedi grew to twitter scale, it would use a lot more resources than twitter does. networking, cryptography (to make sure the post is actually yours), etc.

@17 @ashfurrow @feditips that will be something really interesting to search about 👀

@feditips @ashfurrow @17 @_Nohemi_Sofia_ Not necessarily true, given that Twitter and Facebook’s servers are highly redundant and replicate their messages internationally.

Also, in terms of power consumption, moving data around is far, far less intensive than the gratuitous cryptographic transactions that underlie most blockchains.

@17 @ashfurrow @_Nohemi_Sofia_

Fediverse servers don't copy the whole of the rest of the Fedi. They only copy posts and people that their own server interacts with, which will only ever be a minority of the Fedi. On small servers this will be a tiny minority of the Fedi.

And commercial social networks like Facebook, Twitter etc are duplicated in vast data centres to allow fast local loading, plus all the massive overheads for user tracking, advertising etc etc which don't exist on Fedi.

"cryptography (to make sure the post is actually yours), etc."

I'm not sure what you mean by this? Verification of a post happens by checking the origin server has that post by that user, like checking if a website exists at a particular address.

The Fedi has no blockchain or anything like that.

@ashfurrow @feditips @17 @_Nohemi_Sofia_ There is cryptographic verification of posts as an optional part of the spec as an alternative to dereferencing the original copy.

@mark @feditips @17 @_Nohemi_Sofia_ yeah, but like, that’s cryptographic in the sense that HTTPS is cryptographic. The extra overhead there is negligible IMO.

@feditips @ashfurrow @_Nohemi_Sofia_ that's true. but imagine fediverse scaled as big as twitter. likely tens of thousands of servers. none of which use even half their resources under normal operation. but, once you have followers on 100 of those instances (definitely reachable), each of them copies each of your posts + all the instances in a relay if yours uses one. now someone with followers on 80 more instances boosts the post, so what happens?

1/

@feditips @ashfurrow
- each of them verifies the http signature on the request that user's instance made (it doesn't work by checking if the post exists; see tools.ietf.org/id/draft-cavage. but overhead is normally lower than for another request).
- then yeah they visit the link your booster sent out in the Announce (unless json-ld signatures are involved)
- each goes to your instance and fetches your profile (including the pictures!)
- everything goes into databases on 80 more instances

@feditips @ashfurrow now imagine a boost chain. 50 boosts is normal now, thousands of boosts would be on a twitter scale. how much redundancy and how many extra requests?

now twitter uses gcp and aws for at least some of their resources, so they can scale those on demand. fediverse is not gonna have that luxury. a server with 0 users online still has to process incoming posts and be ready for its users to come back online. which at the very least means streaming posts in real-time.

@feditips @ashfurrow besides, putting a post/star/boost in the db isn't just that. you need to increase the post counter, last active time, stuff like that. push them into tag timelines as well. oh, and sidekiq stores a separate home tl for each user, which is why you can't scroll it further than ~5 days.

any interaction between two users gets recorded in friendship tracker, used to recommend new users to you. yeah, no ads, but is it that different?

@feditips @ashfurrow and i forgot the disclaimer: this is purely speculative, not saying i'm 100% correct. but i'm fairly sure that federation overhead is bigger than that for centralized redundancy and ads.

@17 @ashfurrow

"any interaction between two users gets recorded in friendship tracker,"

I don't think that's the case?

My understanding is the recommendations are based on how many people follow particular accounts on that server.

Mastodon and the Fedi tend to deliberately avoid algorithms.

@feditips @ashfurrow there was a relatively big controversy about this one. here: github.com/mastodon/mastodon/b. definitely an algorithm, even if it doesn't contain neural networks.

@17 @feditips here is a really interesting discussion of Mastodon’s inefficiency and it’s effect on other sites, if you’re interested in trade offs: github.com/mastodon/mastodon/i I find it fascinating.

@ashfurrow @feditips it's interesting how they only talk about link previews and not other aspects of federation. but i guess those are cheap, compared to one request to an instance per one request to the target. also, there's a website to visualize the preview fetches (dunno if it still works, though): midnight-productive-sunset.gli.

@ashfurrow @feditips oh yeah, it does work. case in point: i only have 15 followers, yet my post has been copied to >270 instances in seconds.

@17 @feditips I’ll push back again here, because Twitter pushes tweets out to its CDN edges. It has to because Twitter “needs” to be immediately available, where the Fedi gets to be “eventually available” instead.

To me, it’s a matter of comparing a network built for profit to one built for people.

@ashfurrow @feditips i don't know how it works for twitter, but i imagine it's a limited number of tweets cached on a limited number (less than 270, at least) of edges?

also, mastodon must've made around 500 requests for this. 2 to you and feditips, 15 to my followers, 1 to the relay, ~270 from the relay to other instances, ~270 from the instances to that website. assuming my profile itself is well-federated.

twitter would've made 1 request to prefetch, then n requests to the edges

@17 @feditips lol I think you’re discounting how many requests Twitter is making by a wide margin 😂 why are you so adamantly defending them? it feels like you’re shilling for Twitter, honestly

@ashfurrow It’s not about defending anyone. Federating content has many advantages, but it has downsides as well. Why not admit it?

A single centralized instance can scale almost linearly with the number of users. Fediverse in its current form scales quadratically, with the increase in the amount of content produced also comes an increase in the number of instances this content has to be distributed to.

It feels like you are denying reality, honestly.

@17 @feditips

@17 @feditips it’s a lot of “ifs” IMO and the biggest one is “what if fedi got as big as Twitter?” My complaint here is that it’s not trying to get as big as Twitter, and it won’t.

If I understand you, you’re making an argument that fedi’s energy use doesn’t scale as efficiently as Twitter’s. I don’t disagree. Maybe federated networks are inherently less efficient than centralized ones. I think that spending energy for fault-tolerant decentralization is more worthwhile than ad sales.

@ashfurrow @feditips oh, i definitely agree with that. i just don't think that fediverse is so good for the environment. it's not the goal, and with a decentralized network, it's hardly achievable. whereas e. g. facebook claims to be carbon-neutral and 100% renewable.

@17 @ashfurrow

I don't understand where you get this "hardly achievable" from.

You said "facebook claims to be carbon-neutral and 100% renewable."

If that was true (and FB's track record makes me doubt it), the only way it could be is by FB using renewable energy for data centres.

But the Fediverse can run on renewable energy data centres too. @greenfediverse is cataloguing these so that people can move their accounts to servers that run on renewables.

A federated network gives people the choice to actually move to greener providers.

It even allows people to run a server at home on their own renewable energy sources.

@feditips @ashfurrow @greenfediverse because anyone can run a server, but far from everyone cares about climate. you can't force everyone to use a "green" instance.

@17 @ashfurrow @greenfediverse

If you're on the Fediverse you can choose to use a greener instance.

If you're on Facebook you have no choice at all. FB may or may not claim to be green, but you're trapped by the network effect either way.

I honestly don't see what point you're trying to make?

@feditips @ashfurrow my point is that fediverse can be many good things, but not all of them. people talk about how it's good for the environment, for privacy, etc. it is simply not true, but it doesn't have to be.

decentralization is not a solution to all problems one may encounter while creating an online space, but it's arguably a solution to the main one: governance. misinformation (however sincere) about other aspects of it sort of undermines the network.

@17 @ashfurrow

(sigh)

You're complaining about misinformation, but then in the same post completely misrepresenting other people's views.

You're claiming this thread was about "Fediverse being good for the environment".

No one said that. Read the thread right from the start.

Here's a direct quote of what I said in my first reply:

"There will still be an impact from any kind of server, but on traditional servers it's not artificially high. No one is incentivised to waste energy on the Fediverse or Mastodon."

This is a thread about how the Fedi doesn't use blockchain or proof of work.

There is no incentive for anyone on Fedi to waste energy on artificial scarcity. People running a server are incentivised to use as little energy as possible, because they have to pay the electricity bill.

No one was saying it didn't have an impact, they were saying it had less of an impact than systems built around artificial scarcity.

@17 @ashfurrow

Here's the really long answer to this:

I agree that, like for like, centralised single instances are the most energy-efficient way to deliver content.

Unfortunately in the real world it is never like for like.

All popular social networks which run on single instances have eventually been bought out by (or turned into) major corporations whose only legal duty is making money for their shareholders.

If they have to choose between the environment and short term profits, they feel obligated to choose short term profits.

Even worse, centralised social networks make spying on users and political manipulation far easier. This tends to favour wealthy interests who claim global warming is a hoax, who want perpetual (unsustainable) growth etc etc etc.

In this situation, the least worst option environmentally seems to be something like the Fediverse, where we are freer from manipulation by megacorporations but still incentivised to run energy efficient servers.

@feditips that's not what i was replying to. it was @ashfurrow's claim that fediverse does a lot less computation than centralized social networks. i do not think that statement is true, and it is also why i discussed hypothetical situations with mastodon scaling to twitter size — otherwise, comparing a platform that serves hundreds of millions mau to one with around half a million is pointless. i never said a single word about blockchains.

@17 @ashfurrow

Hey, I was writing this reply to your other recent post but it disappeared!

Hope it is okay to post as reply here instead:

Fair enough. It is a complex topic and difficult to disentangle issues. You might be right and in that case it would make social media options very difficult indeed.

I'm optimistic about decentralised scaling though, as email has scaled very well over the decades, and that has a social element through mailing discussion lists, attachments, relays etc. But we'll see.

It is good you bring this up, as it doesn't get discussed enough anyway, and it is important for developers to consider energy use regardless of which solution is "least worst".

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@17 @ashfurrow @_Nohemi_Sofia_

There are already about 4000 servers on Mastodon alone, with millions of users.

When you follow someone, your server only starts noticing posts made by that account from that moment onwards, it doesn't backfill old posts.

Fetching someone's profile just fetches their name and profile image and cover image. It's not a large amount of data.

The only way a post appears on a server is if someone on that server followed that account before the post was made, or if someone they followed boosted that post.

@feditips@mstdn.social @_Nohemi_Sofia_@koyu.space @greenfediverse@chaos.social

———————————No Misskey?———————————
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@_Nohemi_Sofia_@koyu.space 👀

Its a differwnt software to interact with the Fediverse, such as Mastodon or Plemora.

Here's the github:
https://github.com/misskey-dev/misskey

I have actually never heard of koyuspace
🤔

@Froggo koyu space is, as I understand, another instance in mastodon. Everything is pretty chill, I like it.

thanks for the info, Misskey seems interesting 👀💕

@_Nohemi_Sofia_@koyu.space ah, it seems that the software running on the instance is a fork of mastodon/glitch-soc.

@Froggo I'm not entirely sure what that means due to my lack of software knowledge, but I think you're right, I'll look into it later anyway. There isn't a day here that goes by without me coming out with a considerable list of things to investigate, good thing I like to learn jsjs

@_Nohemi_Sofia_ @feditips

Although Mastodon and stuff don't use blockchain or anything like that, I still think mastodon and probably other fediverse stuff could be more optimised to lose less energy, typically a mastodon instance uses a lot of memory space. But yeah, nowhere near as cryptomining and stuff

@_Nohemi_Sofia_ @feditips a lot of fediservers are also hosted in germany (including the reference servers by the Mastodon gGmbH) and due to the high electricity cost in germany it is usually cheaper to power data centers, and therefore servers, with renewable energies. My instance runs exclusively on hydropower for example.

(Apart from backup generators, and that infrastructure, ofc)

@fpvogel @feditips that's a very good thing! and I had no idea that electricity was expensive in Germany, I guess some good things come out of that, at least

@stemy @feditips a lot of the underlying tech is good. the hype, fomo, fud cycles are far from good.

@feditips really wish people would understand that decentralisation doesn't need any blockchain bullshit, and infact decentralised systems like email, BitTorrent, and IRC (back when there was a single global network) came long before blockchains were even just a dream

@Reiddragon @feditips if anything, the wasteful cost of "mining" actively promotes centralization in blockchain projects. In the bitcoin scam-currency world, there are really only a handful of large players involved in mining and unregulated banks; no one else can compete with stolen electricity and bribed local officials.

@brion @Reiddragon @feditips

You could argue personal transportation is wasteful, yet it empowered an economic revolution that benefits us all, and is now moving to renewables.

You could argue porn is wasteful too, but people want it, and demand for it brought down the cost of bandwidth dramatically for everyone

Understand that crypto mining means a demand for the cheapest energy possible. Contrary to popular headlines, 74% of Bitcoin mining is already renewable.

coinshares.com/bitcoin-mining-

@lrvick @brion @Reiddragon @feditips My position here is that there usually is a cheaper way to accomplish most, if not all, of what a platform needs. No need for a full-on Bitcoin-style network to run a p2p social network.

I also advocate for making networks such as ETH naturally nudge its users towards decentralization, esp wrt how easy / practical / (maybe) rewarding it is to run a full node. Today's ETH is either terrible or ok-ish at this.

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