Fediverse

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What is the Fediverse?

Main article: What is the Fediverse?

The Fediverse (from "federation" and "universe") is an ensemble of federated (i.e. interconnected) servers that are used for web publishing (i.e. social networking, microblogging, blogging, or websites) and file hosting, but which, while independently hosted, can communicate with each other. On different servers (instances), users can create so-called identities. These identities are able to communicate over the boundaries of the instances because the software running on the servers supports one or more communication protocols which follow an open standard. As an identity on the Fediverse, users are able to post text and other media, or to follow posts by other identities. In some cases, users can even show or share data (video, audio, text, and other files) publicly or to a selected group of identities and allow other identities to edit other users' data (such as a calendar or an address book).

History

Main article: History of the Fediverse

In 2008, the social network identi.ca was founded by Evan Prodromou. He published the software GNU social under a free license (GNU Affero General Public License, AGPL). It defined the OStatus protocol. Besides the server, identi.ca, there were only few other instances, run by persons for their own use. This changed in 2011–12 when identi.ca switched to another software called pump.io. Several new GNU social instances were created. At the same time as GNU social, other projects like Friendica, Hubzilla, Mastodon, and Pleroma integrated the OStatus protocol, thus extending the Fediverse (though Mastodon and Pleroma have since dropped OStatus. In the meantime, other communication protocols evolved which were integrated to different degrees into the platforms.

In January 2018, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3)C presented the ActivityPub protocol, aiming to improve the interoperability between the platforms. This protocol was supported by thirteen platforms, and was the dominant protocol used in the Fediverse.

Communication protocols used in the Fediverse

Excerpt of common protocols and platforms in Fediverse (2021)

These communication protocols, which implement open standards, are used in the Fediverse:

Fediverse software platforms

The software spanning the Fediverse are free software. Some of them vaguely resemble Twitter in style (for example, Mastodon, Misskey, GNU social, and Pleroma, which are similar in their microblogging function), while others include more communication and transaction options that are instead comparable to Google+ or Facebook (such as is the case with Friendica and Hubzilla).

The following software platforms span the Fediverse by using the listed communication protocols:

Platform Name Type ActivityPub diaspora* OStatus Zot
Aardwolf Social network Yes No No No
Anfora Image hosting In progress No No No
BookWyrm Book cataloguing Yes No No No
Castopod Podcast hosting Yes No No No
diaspora* Social network, Microblogging No Yes No No
Discourse Forum In progress No No No
distbin Pastebin Yes No No No
Friendica Social network, Microblogging Yes Yes Yes No
Funkwhale Audio, sound hosting Yes No No No
GNU MediaGoblin file, image, audio, video hosting Proposed No No No
GNU Social Microblogging Proposed No Yes No
Honk Social network Yes No No No
Hubzilla Content Management System, Social network,
Microblogging, Wiki, Blogging, Image gallery, File hosting
Yes Yes Yes Yes
Kibou Social network, Microblogging Yes No No No
Lemmy Link Aggregator, Social Network Yes No No No
Littr.me Link Aggregator, Social Network In progress No No No
lotide Link Aggregator, Social Network Yes No No No
Mastodon Microblogging Yes No Dropped No
microblog.pub Microblogging Yes No No No
Misskey Social network, Microblogging Yes No No No
Nextcloud Social File hosting Yes No No No
OStatus Social network, Microblogging Yes No Yes No
OLKi File/dataset hosting Yes No No No
Owncast Live video streaming In progress No No No
PeerPx Image hosting Yes No No No
PeerTube Video hosting Yes No No No
Pixelfed Image hosting Yes No No No
Pleroma Microblogging Yes No Dropped No
Plume Blogging Yes No No No
Prismo Link-sharing Yes No No No
Pubcast Podcast/Netcasting Yes No No No
pump.io Microblogging Proposed No Dropped No
Read.as News aggregator/Feed reader Yes No No No
Socialhome Website, Social network, Microblogging Yes Yes No Proposed
WriteFreely Blogging Yes No No No
Zap Social network, Macroblogging, Image gallery, File hosting Yes No No Yes

User statistics

A number of developers publish live statistics about the Fediverse on monitoring sites like the-federation.info. The statistics on these sites are an indication of usage levels, not a complete record, as they can only aggregate data from instances that use the NodeInfo protocol to publish usage statistics. There is no guarantee that all instances are known to these sites, and some instances may disable NodeInfo, or use software that hasn't implemented it. Some of these sites include data from any federated software that publishes it using NodeInfo, not just Fediverse software.