Federated and alternative services: In the shadow of web stars
Social networks and advertising have also exploded in recent years. A recent wave of Twitter users deciding to migrate to Mastodon has reignited the debate about federated and alternative networks like Mastodon. The ability to keep track of what’s available in the shadow of the Internet’s gloves.
In the last article, we talked about Mastodon, an open source network that caught the attention of some Twitter users. Self-proclaimed “streaming professor” Adam Taylor is taking a leap from the past and returning to online socializing tools. Previously, you had to chat on various BBS (bulletin board system) or forums organized by various groups in various locations, usually sponsored by that community. This meant staying up late using Pidgin or Trillian to keep tabs on AIM, MSN and Yahoo instant messaging accounts to keep in touch with friends in various places. This meant that there were fan sites running their own shows and blogs spreading across Blogspot, Geocities and more. The real change has come with Facebook groups and Twitter circles where you’re constantly fed ads, your data is collected and sold, and the commercial companies that run them decide how to maximize profits rather than ensure quality. service.
Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter has led to a surge towards federated and alternative services, and thousands of users are finally trying out these solutions – the latest to be talked about, of course, is Mastodon. For Adam Taylor, this change is a good thing in itself. It’s not about converting anyone to another service to waste their time, it’s about everyone experimenting with smaller services and communities that might be a better fit. While we’re at it, let’s take a look at some federation services.
Pixelfed: Instagram clone
A great Fediverse service is Pixelfed, an Instagram clone with the same priorities and subversion as Mastodon. You can share photos and images, like, comment and reshare posts, use filters, add Stories (sigh), create albums, DM users, and more. There are also no ads, no data sales, and no algorithms.
Since it’s a federation, you can view, follow, and interact with Pixelfed posts and accounts with your existing Mastodon account. To create messages, you need to create a new Pixelfed-specific account, which is confusing for users. But your Pixelfed feed then becomes its own federated profile that you can follow on Mastodon to, for example, easily boost your Pixelfed posts and share them with your existing Mastodon followers.
Pixelfed is an Instagram clone in its free and open source version. (Credit: Pixelfed)
PeerTube: YouTube’s shadow
If you want to post videos, PeerTube is a great service for that. It’s decentralized, open source, and uses ActivityPub for federation – which means that instead of creating a massive, direct “YouTube competitor” (which hasn’t been a successful attempt historically: see VidMe, Vessel, etc.), separate -individual communities or organizations can host their own video sites for specific topics or communities. TILvids, a video site run by PeerTube and dedicated to entertaining videos (hence the acronym “I Learned Today” in the title), is a prime example.
This has many advantages, as it does not rely on a single person or organization, but is a control for organizations or groups that want to post their content without restriction and easier discovery through sites specialized in individual niches or communities. by the rules of the higher authority. Plus all the usual benefits of decentralization and federation described above. PeerTube uses the Bittorrent peer-to-peer protocol for video streaming, which helps reduce costs and bandwidth burden.
PeerTube is a free decentralized video hosting software launched in 2015. (Credit: PeerTube)
Owncast: an ad-free streaming service
Aside from on-demand videos, Owncast can be used to host your own live streaming service, with control over how things are run, ad-free (unless you include them), chat bots, and compatibility with most streaming software. For broadcasters looking to reduce their reliance on a particular broadcast platform, using Owncast is a great way to give viewers another way to support you without missing out on the action. It is often seen as an alternative to Twitch
Owncast is often seen as an alternative to Twitch for live streaming. (Credit: Owncast)
WriteFreely: an open source blog
For long-form writers, WriteFreely is a minimal, Markdown-based blogging service that can be as private or as public as you like with plenty of customization options. You can create your own personal diaries or publish blogs federated with monetization, comments (optional) and other services compatible with ActivityPub. You can also create or easily host your own blog on existing WriteFreely community servers such as Write.as. Best of all, it’s easy to run.
WriteFreely offers hosting for a community of writers. (Credit: WriteFreely)
Tumblr: a mix of blog and Instagram
Believe it or not, the blogging platform Tumblr is making a comeback after being sold to Automattic (the parent company of WordPress) in 2019. Although not currently a federated service, Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg announced and later confirmed that Tumblr will be bringing together ActivityPub. Once the blogging platform and Twitter can handle the new wave of user migration, they are working on interoperability with other federated services (like Mastodon).
Tumblr, launched in 2007, is a microblogging platform that allows users to post text, images, videos, links, and audio to their tumbllogs. (Credit: Tumblr)
“Fediverse”, this infinite space
This is a brief overview of the available federation services. Here are some other examples: BookWyrm for an interesting alternative to GoodReads, a Reddit-like link discussion service for sharing and discussing music, friendica, a direct friend management service, or Funkwhale.
Of course, as Adam Taylor reminds us, “there’s no need to take drastic measures or exit the service now, but exploring these decentralized options can only benefit you in the future. We can all benefit from a paradigm shift that moves us away from the user as a product and puts us in control of our online experiences. The Internet was once a fun place full of clubs run by people with diverse interests, but lately it’s been reduced to nothing more than big, monolithic office buildings run by corporations and billionaires. Let’s take back the internet and make the web weird again.”