Describing Fediverse apps in ways people understand

Welcome to SocialHub @Tealk!

You address something that is a common issue on the Fediverse. The technologists creating and hosting the apps, and fedizens in general have trouble describing stuff in ways that the general public understands and finds appealing enough to actually use.

Part of this probably stems from an overly technical mindset and focus, and also emphasizing on a set of values (e.g. privacy, software freedoms, decentralization, open standards) that regular social media users don’t really care about.

So this is a great topic.

The SocialHub community is quite technical too, but we want it to become more diverse. Much needed are more people who help ‘productize’, do advocacy and ‘PR’ and all that important non-dev work. May I suggest we change the topic title to e.g. “Describing Fediverse apps in ways people understand”? Or “Creating appealing Fediverse app descriptions for mainstream users”.

Note that you can also post this to our Lemmy space and cross-post to ! to get input.

Right now I lack the time to delve deep into your descriptions, but it is something I may address in future on Fedi Foundation site (in draft) in future. Note also that e.g. @light of Fediverse Party has the same issue, and - given time and opportunity - might create a whole different site variant for the same audience you are trying to reach.

Quick peek at Friendica News item:

Friendica ist ein freies und quelloffenes verteiltes soziales Netzwerk. Es bildet einen Teil des Fediverse, einem zusammenhängenden und dezentralen Netzwerk von unabhängig betriebenen Servern auch Knoten genannt. […]

Here you have already lost the casual audience :wink: The bullet list afterwards is way too long, and it is a ‘business-like’ matter-of-fact summary of features. I would leave most of that out. You might describe in ‘popular’ language, without any technical term of feature-name, and then add some cool screenshots specially prepared to demonstrate some of the fun stuff you can do.

(Note: This description is okay as a status/project update on your hosting offering, but not to entice non-technical folks to join)


what exactly is that?

but i do not know this language xD

Lemmy is federated Reddit (so much better than Reddit :blush: )

Ha, I know what you mean… it is bit of a practice. The site has nice informal graphics and game-related topic. Just stick with that atmosphere and create loose, casual texts as well. Picture real-life conversation with friends and use similar style. Then hone the text a bit afterwards (remove the swear words if you use those :wink: )

“Friendica is … well, where you meet with your friends. Invite the people you’d like to have around you and chat right away. Friendica is like Facebook but friendlier and cozier. We’ll talk a lot about Rollenspiele in our community, but you can follow and connect to folks that are part of a much larger social network, called the Fediverse. Unlike Facebook there aren’t billions of users shouting and wanting to become ‘influential’, but instead you can reach out to selected people among about 5 million ‘fedizen’ and participate in many different communities. Each community has its own server, called an instance, and has its own rules and topics of interest. […]”

Well, this just written off the top of my head, and I never used Friendica, so… but you get the idea :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:


one problem i see is that we have mastodon as well as friendica and both services can be described relatively the same to the user, friendica has a few more features than mastodon but the main features are rather the same.

but many thanks for the text, sounds very nice.
I will certainly use parts of it

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Maybe you can create a single page where you describe all of the services in one overview, so you can refer to something already written and then highlight some of the differences.

yes the pages are already linked among each other, e.g. the word Fediverse always refers to the subpage that explains the Fediverse

with single pages it is easier to scale and i found the headder quite nice^^

The best way to explain it that I’ve found is “like email but a social network”. Everyone understands how SMTP federation works, even though no one calls it that. Everyone understands that the part of the address after the @ is the server that hosts the mailbox (and having your own, “non-standard” domain there surprises people sometimes). And, most crucially, everyone understands that you can send mail between different email providers. So you just have to build on top of that concept and say that you can access the entire network regardless of which server hosts your account, and you can follow anyone and get their posts delivered to you automatically.

So, it’s like email, but with built-in, automatic subscription management.


That surprises me a little I know a lot of people who don’t even know what the Windows key is or the Start menu.
They are overwhelmed with everything that comes after turning on the computer.

Well these kinds of people, usually 60+ years old, won’t understand a thing about the fediverse either way. I wouldn’t even try. They usually think that computers are made out of magic (how many transistors does it take to make something minimally magical btw?) and rely on their relatives to do everything for them. Someone bought them a computer, signed them up for everything they might need, and made shortcuts like “double click here for internet”. I feel sorry for them with current auto-updating, ever-changing software that they have to constantly relearn to do their usual stuff in.

My shortest description of Mastodon is that it looks like Twitter, but is distributed like email and that this allows for better moderation and a friendlier atmosphere.

In the above German description of Mastodon, I would say there is no need to mention the old 140 character limit of Twitter in the second bullet point. The third bullet point is not relevant for deciding whether you want to join. This is information you (may) need afterwards.

I made a list of bullet points to get people on Mastodon during Cryptoparties or Barcamps. Open Social Media - CodiMD

Stuff like the 3rd bullet point is included here because the aim is to get people ready to write their first Toot, but for people who want to decide whether to join Mastodon, I think I would mention how nice people are towards each other, that the system is made for meaningful conversations, rather than to pit groups against each other. Or get some brownie points for honesty by explaining that as Mastodon is small, it is not the best place for niche topics or finding old friends.

If only it were so, the ones I mean are between 20 and 40

Uh. I guess it depends on the country then. In Russia 100% people in that age range have a basic intuitive understanding of how email works, at least. Many also know how to reinstall Windows. Maybe it’s just this mentality of “I bought this thing and I’m on my own with it now”. People in countries that didn’t have as much socialism usually use customer service much more often, yet Russians (me included lol) prefer to fix everything themselves and only seek outside help if they can’t figure it out or don’t have the tools.

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The mentality here is that if I buy it, it has to work the way I want it to.
And if it doesn’t work that way, it gets thrown out the window.

I have adapted some texts thanks for your help but there is still some work to do.


You ask a question dear to my heart :wink: Earlier this year I contributed to an answer.

At the time I (was / tried to get) involved in a series of three webinars introducing the Fediverse to people across the European Commission - some of them technical, most of them not. I suggested a very simple “line to take”, which I presented to the other organisers in slidecast form (unlisted, pls dont share).

The organisers of the webinar confirmed that the picture I presented was accurate and took some of my ideas on board. However, since then I’ve discovered that the rosy picture presented in my video about the fediverse is not actually true.

Around 7minutes into the video I’m waxing lyrically about how the Fediverse represents an evolution from a few walled gardens to a “landscape of open gardens” where users are not locked in, thus promoting innovation and avoiding a ‘one size fits all’ approach to content moderation, etc.

Turns out that isn’t true, if this user is correct. Can anyone confirm this? @Sebastian said it is “a long story”, but I didn’t really understand the details.

Moreover, to communicate this to non-specialists we don’t need the details. What we do need to do is not overpromise.

I believe you can take your followers with you if you migrate your account between Mastodon instances, but not Masto 2 Pleroma.

Agreed on not overpomising. But it may be that are more nuanced version is enough. All the potential is there, but currently the Fediverse is stil in its infancy and comparable to the early web. Many people experimenting, trying new things out, organic growth and not yet well-regulated standards bodies and a host of specs to build off.

This early stage can also be sold as a plus: Be part of the excitement, experience the unique culture, contribute your part to the whole. And accept that not everything will work smoothly from the early start. The added nuance should set the expectations accordingly.

I’d drop the word “open” here since some are closed, single-user, or non-federated whilst others aim for growth over all.

Another way to put “avoid a ‘one size fits all’ approach” is that the fediverse and those on it seek diversity in all dimensions (software, communities, connections, content-types, moderation strategies). This I see as the key strength of the fediverse.

I would communicate with the non-specialists by addressing the problems they have. For me, Twitter/FB shouldn’t be arbiters of truth and banners of accounts. They should provide more tools to place moderation in the hands of users. My dream here is a web of trust and it’s much closer to happening on the fedi than on centralized social media.

A number of projects offer migration options within their own platform. Migrating seamlessly to different platforms is a bit harder but we’re starting to collect descriptions of various project dump files and build translators for some of the important ones. I suspect other projects are doing the same. The export ability ranges from CSV exports of your followers to syncing all your online identity data + content + files to multiple servers in near realtime.

Many thanks for these comments, @aschrijver, @weex & @macgirvin. It’s all useful, as a friend asked me to suggest a subject for a Rapido at Global Forum next March, and I suggested the Fediverse. However next year it’s in Oman so it’s no means certain that I’ll go.

Moreover, by the sounds of things the Fediverse is not ready for primetime yet. But if I or someone else would make such a presentation to such an audience (2019 participants pdf), I think it’d be along the lines of: “this is happening, here are the benefits, and here’s what’s needed to give it a boost”.

So what, I wonder, does the Fediverse need to give it that boost? Who is best placed to provide it, and how?

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I have asked that question too in the past, but I have since adopted a more nuanced perspective as to the answer I would give. Was Facebook ready for primetime in its early days? Or Twitter, Google Search, Github? The entire early web? When was the theshold crossed, and how much was luck involved and the unique circumstances that allowed that to happen? Why did some make it and so many others not?

And then consider “primetime”. What does it even mean? Ready for billions of people to adopt? Or readiness for production-use? If the latter, then fediverse has well reached that goal.

If you want to make a popular social networking application, then there’s nothing in ActivityPub et al that withholds you from doing so. Whether your app reaches its ambitious goals is probably more dependent on many other factors, such as user experience, productization, PR and marketing. Your app should be able to reach great heights while not even interoperating with other apps, and giving you full freedom to how you extend the protocol.

What is unique to ActivityPub and has never truly existed before, is that the standards offer social primitives that allow much broader interoperability between a wide variety of different apps. This is where the frontier of discovery is, and things are still very immature. But should you be a true early adopter of the broader vision and untapped potential of the federated social fabric that might possibly arise, then there’s good chance you be one of the players that is able to directly influence direction in desirable ways as well. Just like Mastodon is able to right now, in the microblogging space.

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