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The Fediverse Explained: Social Media’s Next Form

Ever since the restructuring of Twitter (now known as X), the concept of the fediverse has stormed into popularity. Users have been looking for a new kind of microblogging platform that is safe from server crashes, censorship guidelines, and post viewing limits.

Illustration of Misskey, Hubzilla, Pleroma, Pixelfed, Friendica, Funkwhale, GNU Social, Peertube, Mastodon, and Diaspora in the fediverse.
The many realms (so far!) in the fediverse.

Here is everything you need to know about the fediverse.

What is the fediverse?

We’ll start with the basics. The “fediverse” — a combination of the words “federation” and “universe” — is a network of social media platforms that work together.

Consider that you cannot contact X (Twitter) users from your Instagram account. To connect with users from a different platform, you need to join and use that particular platform. The fediverse aims to change this kind of limitation.

With its connected platforms, the fediverse gives power back to organic content and the users for as much connectivity as possible. The social media platforms in the fediverse are not just interconnected, but also ad free, community owned, and independently moderated.

Think of the fediverse like a democratic country with distinct states. Just as the United States are made up of 50 states, with citizens that follow both the country’s laws and the laws of their current state, the fediverse is made up of different social media platforms.

Fediverse users (or citizens) are native to one social media platform but are free to travel to or interact with users from other social media platforms, making meeting people and venturing out to new horizons easier than ever.

All users have to follow the rules of both the fediverse and the platforms that they visit, not unlike the federal laws and state laws in the US.

Map of the United States of America and the American flag.
The fediverse is like the US, where every state is different but part of America.

For example, if you, a Californian, wanted to travel from California to New York to visit a friend, you would be leaving your home state to visit someone that resides in another state, but not leaving the country. You could even choose to move to New York permanently as long as you followed the laws there.

This is much like how the fediverse works. You can move to any server or platform in the fediverse if you follow its rules.

What’s the difference between traditional social media and the fediverse?

What makes the fediverse unique is a word many people have been trying to avoid: decentralization. But this has nothing to do with monetized pictures, cryptocurrency, or confusing tech-jargon. Decentralization for social networks is simply taking company leaders like Bill Gates and Elon Musk out of the equation and making you the boss!

Decentralization means removing the power that large social media corporations have in what we see, hear, and say.

In the fediverse, you can wave goodbye to complex social media algorithms that are designed to make you buy or keep scrolling.

The key difference between the fediverse and traditional social media is that the fediverse gives you complete control of who you want to talk to, what you want to see, and how you want to see it — all privately and with your data safe.

How does the fediverse work?

The fediverse is essentially a bunch of servers that are used for publishing content on the web. The servers use the ActivityPub protocol, which is a system of rules that give the fediverse its decentralizing capabilities. For example, amassing 1 million followers on X (Twitter) is an impressive feat, but your followers cannot migrate with you if you decide to move to Instagram.

The ActivityPub protocol’s open standard allows for servers to be made by any user and gives users access to view, post, or share information to any server that also uses it. Each of these servers is called an instance, which is like a virtual room filled with people that have similar interests, lifestyles, and opinions.

It’s important to note that no such server has power over another — each fediverse instance is independently moderated. This interconnectivity gives users the ability to not be tied down to one instance because of their identity, content, or followers. It allows users to bring all their influence with them to another instance, keeping the power in their content and not the instance itself.

Are there other social protocols other than ActivityPub?

Yes! There are many social protocols that achieve decentralized social networking, but ActivityPub is the only protocol that has been endorsed by the World Wide Web Consortium, a group that sets the precedents and standards for the internet.

Bluesky’s AT Protocol is similar in terms of federation and portability of identity, allowing users to connect or migrate to other servers also under the AT Protocol. The main difference is that instead of simply removing algorithms designed to entice you to purchase products or keep you scrolling, the AT Protocol lets you choose what kind of content you can discover and how you discover it.

Another social protocol that has gained traction is called Nostr, which stands for “Notes and Other Stuff Transmitted by Relays.” Inspired by AI and blockchain, Nostr sends and verifies data safely with each user’s 63-character key for high security and efficiency.

How did the fediverse start?

The fediverse was started in 2008 by a software developer named Evan Prodromou with a microblogging site called StatusNet, which uses the software GNU Social with the O Status protocol. This protocol was supported by major social media players at the time like Google Buzz and Diaspora, which led to a large and robust network.

GNU Social was originally created as an easy way to build microblogging sites that were able to communicate with others, as the early 2000s was arguably the peak of competitive websites, unlike the web dominated by huge media and tech companies today.

StatusNet set the standard for federated microblogging, allowing for users from any federated website to send and receive status updates to another. This was later improved on and eclipsed by its successor, ActivityPub the foundation of the modern fediverse.

The ActivityPub protocol was implemented to address user privacy concerns, censorship, and ad spamming, which were not such prevalent issues back in the day. It achieved this by enabling social media without a single point of failure — i.e., a server crash, data leak, or attack from hackers that would cause unexpected shutdowns and leave users in the dark.

The fears of single-point failure became evident as Twitter experienced major outages in 2008, and by 2016, distrust in the centralized, top-down control of social media companies led to the implementation of the ActivityPub protocol in the development of an alternative.

Enter Mastodon, a crowdfunded and ad-free microblogging social network, which implements the ActivityPub protocol. Sporting the largest user-base in the fediverse, Mastodon is seen by many as an alternative to Twitter. While large social media platforms are susceptible to trying to turn a profit, caving to pressure from shareholders, and spending copious amounts of resources to keep themselves afloat, Mastodon is the exact opposite.

As Mastodon has no primary instance, its traffic and moderation are carried out by each respective instance, keeping issues segregated instance by instance so that one colossal failure cannot bring the whole network down. Similarly, all federated instances in Mastodon have the ability to block content and communication from other instances.

What platforms are in the fediverse?

Major platforms that are part of the fediverse include:

  • Diaspora: A microblog solution which users are able to download and gives users full ownership of their data.

  • Friendica: Ad- and sponsor-free social media alternative that allows contact integration from other platforms outside of ActivityPub (X/Twitter and Tumblr).

  • Lemmy: A self-hosted link aggregator and forum similar to Reddit with user voting that brings posts to the top of the site.

  • Mastodon: Federated microblogging alternative to Twitter with interconnected instances for effective traffic management.

  • PeerTube: Video hosting alternative to YouTube that allows P2P load sharing to prevent server strain.

  • Pixelfed: Image hosting alternative to Instagram that is fully chronological, with user data not stored on a central server.

  • Pleroma: Microblogging software compatible with other major fediverse software.

  • WordPress: Free and open-source website publishing software for quick and advanced website creation.

Platforms that are coming soon to the fediverse include:

  • Tumblr: A microblogging site focused on art creation, image sharing, and self-expression.

  • Flipboard: A news aggregation site for personalized newsfeeds and curated content.

What are the benefits of the fediverse?

  • Open: The fediverse is open sourced, meaning that its code is available to the public for improvements and development. This allows for the fediverse to be continuously updated to ensure the technology does not become outdated.

  • Separate points of failure: Having multiple potential points of failure allows for security breaches to be contained efficiently within an instance. As every instance is only in charge of its data, this spreads out sensitive information so one major breach does not topple the whole system.

  • Data ownership: Traditional social media requires you to sign over your data before being able to start using its services. Your every move can be observed and watched to push advertisements and sponsored content into your feed. Thanks to the open nature of the fediverse, you can choose instances that restrict data collection so you can own your personal data.

  • Privacy: Similar to data ownership, users can choose to keep their information private. Traditional social media outlets make a considerable percentage of their profits selling personal information to other companies. The fediverse gives the user the choice of instances that align with their personal privacy preferences.

  • Lack of censorship: Banning. Blocking. Shadow-banning. Hiding. The list is endless. Censoring ideas that do not align with a company’s interests is a tale as old as time, and social media platforms are no exception. In the fediverse, you can enjoy social media without the fear of being silenced by large and powerful organizations. This allows for organic competition, ultimately improving the social media experience.

  • Interconnectivity: There is arguably more diversity to be enjoyed within the fediverse. You can meet users with similar interests and identities that can be connected to other communities in the fediverse. This makes for prime networking and collaborative opportunities for a reach that traditional social media just doesn’t have.

Seven people using phones and tablet with overhead emojis representing social media reactions.
The fediverse allows for an interconnected network of all mediums, for anyone to join, from any device.

What are the problems with the fediverse?

  • Moderation: Social media platforms essentially sell moderation. However, due to the fediverse’s open format, moderation is at a minimum, which leads to a variety of controversial content or agendas. Moderation takes time and resources to finish, and the more freedom users have, the more content needs to be moderated. Thankfully, instances can also blacklist other instances and users, so users can self-moderate to an extent.

  • Difficult to use: The beauty of mainstream platforms is that they spend millions of dollars and hours on optimizing the user experience, enabling smooth navigation and ease of use. The opposite can be said for the fediverse, where users may have trouble navigating due to the lack of learning materials and a directory of instances.

  • Unreliable: There are also downsides to having your data in the hands of your instance, as weak security from a smaller instance may result in the easy theft of your information. With these instances also comes the risk of them shutting down. Platforms with more than 240 million users like X (Twitter) are unlikely to be shut down overnight. The same cannot be said about smaller instances, which could lead to losing access to the data saved on that instance.

How do I join the fediverse?

Learning to use new platforms and technology may seem like a hard task, but joining the fediverse is very simple. Here is a step-by-step guide to joining the fediverse:

  1. Pick an instance you want to be a part of. The instance can be from any platform in the fediverse, but it has to follow the Mastodon Server Covenant.

  2. Create an account with a username, email, and password to join that instance.

  3. Log in to your account. Your fediverse handle will look like an email address as follows: @username@instance.domain.

  4. View posts from other instances at any time from the “Explore” or “Live feeds” tabs in Mastodon. Everyone in the fediverse will be able to interact with you by searching for or responding to your handle.

Migrating instances after your first choice is easy, but to do that you have to leave your current instance. This process will change your fediverse handle, as your instance domain will change. Note that there is a 30-day cooldown period, which means that you can only migrate instances about once every month.

What does the fediverse have to do with VIVERSE?

VIVERSE incorporated the ActivityPub protocol early into its development and is set to enter the fediverse in gradual phases. For the first part of 2024, VIVERSE will focus on phase one: integrating with Mastodon.

Soon, VIVERSE accounts will be able to connect with users in the fediverse, allowing everyone to share Worlds, Avatars, and so much more — opening both VIVERSE and the fediverse to new opportunities and adventures.

With VIVERSE’s well-moderated, secure, and easy-to-use features, we hope to introduce a mature and stable platform into the fediverse that maintains the freedom of social media while also giving users a uniquely immersive way to meet new people — the best of both worlds!

While traditional social media targets you with aggressive algorithms, the fediverse wants to preserve the spirit of social media — fostering connections without the limitations of platforms — while also advancing privacy. It will link the future of the internet with the sense of freedom many enjoyed in days of old.

VIVERSE has a similar goal, but with a wider scope: Creating a world where not just one platform is connected to many devices, but multiple platforms are connected across every device. Not a replacement for the physical world, nor a completely digital world, but a place in which anyone can create and grow with the combination of virtual reality, augmented reality, and physical reality.


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