Last Week in Fediverse – ep 73 (and 72)Welcome back after

Last Week in Fediverse – ep 73 (and 72)

Welcome back after a week hiatus. This week’s edition also covers some of the news of the week before, but since I was offline for quite a bit of that week I probably have missed some things. New papers, plugins and scraping drama, lets dive in.

The News

I’m starting with this interesting paper on ‘Decentralized Social Networks and the Future of Free Speech Online’, as it provides a hook for the next news item, down below. The paper discusses, among other things, how the free speech values of knowledge and autonomy show both promises and pitfalls for decentralised social networks, as well as the phantom of centralisation.

Maven is a social networking app that is in the process of adding ActivityPub. The way Maven implemented ActivityPub in practice meant that lots of older fediverse posts were ingested and appeared on the Maven network, without any link-back or indication that these posts and accounts were not Maven accounts but fediverse accounts. This predictably did not go over well in the fediverse. WeDistribute has a larger writeup of the situation. Mainly this is a type of situation that has happened many times before in the fediverse and will probably keep happening, until there are structural changes.

What stands out to me about the situation with Maven, is that it was originally reported that Mastodon private messages were also leaked and visible on Maven. This news got later retracted, as the Mastodon team did a deeper dive into the situation and found out that this did not actually happen. I have two thoughts here:

  • Mastodon private messages already have a bad reputation, and this is further demonstrated by this most recent episode with Maven; when (incorrect) rumours started going around on the feeds that there might be a massive security leak regarding Mastodon’s private messages, most blame seemed to be shifted towards Maven, not Mastodon! This is definitely not great from the perspective of Mastodon itself, if people’s reaction to it is a collective shrug that the system of private messages is bad anyway, and that Maven is the problem actor here.
  • In the paper linked at the top, the author says: “Even though the structural feature of decentralized networks significantly limits the reach of fake news and the potential of manipulation, we cannot say that the new technology only affects epistemic values in a positive way.” What makes the situation with rumours of Mastodon leaking private messages so interesting to me is that the original posts that contained the rumours got significantly more engagement than the corrections. So it seems to me that the structural feature of decentralised networks that ‘significantly limits the reach of fake news’ can also work to limit the reach of corrections to fake news as well.

Ghost has announced that they’ll use Fedify, an ActivityPub server framework, for their implementation of ActivityPub into their newsletter publishing platform. Fedify is a relatively new framework, but has seen consistent work and improvement by developer Hong Minhee. Hong is using Fedify themselves to build Hollo, a federated single-user microblogging software. While there have been ActivityPub frameworks floating around in the fediverse for a while, they have not seen usage yet in major platforms, and Ghost using Fedify is a big endorsement of both Fedify as well as using ActivityPub frameworks for development more broadly.

In other news

An extensive academic study of ‘The Failed Migration of Academic Twitter‘. The researchers state: “Our findings indicate that majority of the academic researchers moved to Mastodon failed to maintain their posting activity and follower engagement. These results underscore the importance of not only transferring accounts but also migrating social connections to ensure the success of social media transitions.”

Castopod has released version 2.0, which includes plugins as the stand-out new feature. Plugins allow software to be easily expanded by third party developers, but so far, only PeerTube really makes significant use of plugins in the fediverse so far.

Talking about plugins, Newsmast has some major updates regarding their work on Patchwork, their system to extend functionality of fediverse servers. There are a lot of fascinating and new ideas in the post on how to move the fediverse forward.

Mastodon posted their monthly engineering update, Trunks and Tidbits, for May 2024. The news that got the most attention is that Mastodon is experimenting with an OpenGraph tag for your fediverse account in source links. This means that if you post a link to another page on Mastodon, Mastodon can surface the connected fediverse account, as demonstrated here.

Quiblr is a custom front-end for Lemmy, and they announced a private, on-device ‘For You’ recommendation feed. Together with SoraSNS, who has had a fine-tunable ‘For You’ feed for the microblogging side, these projects show that you do not need to run a centralised platform in order to build custom For You algorithms.

Lemmy’s latest release (v.019.4) includes a variety of new features, with Local Only Communities being the standout new feature. Local Only Communities mean that the community won’t federate, and can only be viewed by users who are logged in to the local instance. Developer Dessalines also says that this is a first step towards fully private communities.

The Links

  • An overview with 60 academic documents about the fediverse, organised by type and subject.
  • Bonfire is looking for a few Elixer developers that can help them with feedback and bringing the project closer to launch.
  • Opt-in search that focuses on real-time posts.
  • TechCrunch and Lifehacker both cover the bridge between the fediverse and Bluesky.
  • Minutes of the Forum and Threaded Discussions Task Force monthly meeting.
  • Anuj Ahooja writes about how publishers are turning towards the fediverse.
  • Towards Federated Key Transparency, a blog about E2EE in the fediverse, and more specifically the Public Key management part.
  • Talking about E2EE, Evan Prodromou (which recently got a grant to work on E2EE in ActivityPub), wrote a comparison of different integration models for E2EE in ActivityPub.
  • Mastodon is working on implementing grouped notifications, the final feature before the release of the 4.3 beta.
  • The most popular fediverse posts of the last year. Almost all of the most popular posts were made in July 2023, which fits with the data, that month saw a massive spike in active users, and the fediverse has been on a downtrend since.
  • Owl-blogs is selfhosted simple blogging software that recently added ActivityPub support.
  • The Decentered Podcast interviews Jesse Karmani, who is building private image sharing with the Frequency app.
  • “Want to build your audience? Consider the fediverse” – writes Digital Content Next.
  • Phanpy is experimenting with adding public posts that discuss trending links, and before the feature even became available on the dev environment, Moshidon already managed to implement it.
  • Development update for PieFed.
  • Notes on running a local Mastodon setup in Docker.
  • A proposal for live online account portability between two ActivityPub servers.
  • Pixelix is a third party client for PixelFed that is now open source.
  • Fediverser is a project that supports an even smoother migration from Reddit to Lemmy, and they recently got an NLnet grant to work on the project.
  • Fediverse software updates for this week, as well as the previous week.

That’s all for this week, thanks for reading!


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