With all of the talk of this decentralized platform called Mastodon I decided to set up an account myself. I went with the indieweb.social “instance” as I have an interest in reviving the independent web. You can find me at @firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mastodon is not a centrally controlled social media platform, rather it’s a network of federated servers that all communicate with one another. You plant your flag on one of them and you’ll have access to all of the users on all of the other federated servers. To some degree this reminds me of how the bulletin board system (BBS) network FidoNet has worked for decades.
But Mastodon has a few weak points. First, can their federated network scale at the volume of Twitter with hundreds of millions of users? That remains to be seen.
A big problem I see is that if your instance goes *poof* so do you. Migrating to a new instance without losing your identity requires the old one being available to release you to the new one according to this post. If your originating instance disappears one day it’s not clear if you have a way of importing your presence elsewhere without having to start over.
I’m also struggling with automating ingesting my content from elsewhere into Mastodon. For example I’m using Zapier to automatically post my YouTube content and blog posts to other platforms, but Mastodon doesn’t work with Zapier at the moment.
My advice for those looking to “cut the social cord” is to get a blog with an RSS feed. You can control it, own it, and because RSS is still largely the connective tissue of the modern internet it’s relatively easy to link it to other things.
That’s why I set up blog.Lon.tv as my base of operations. Everything from here feeds into other stuff like my email newsletters, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. You can learn more about this effort from a video I did a few months ago.
It’s funny how we really solved this federation problem back in the early 2000’s with content management systems and RSS. It’s how podcasts work to this day. And yet we’re still trying to reinvent the wheel every time a centralized platform has a crisis. There is no need to reinvent the wheel IMHO – we just need to make it easier to get started and federate!