What is the Vision of the Fediverse?

Out of sheer curiosity and in hopes of some nice responses I sent a toot, asking:

"What is the Vision of the Fediverse?"

@mathewlowry’s question is related to the reason why I posted the above. Because I agree, and - innocent as it looks - the question on vision is a very important one, imho.

I came to ask this question following up to this topic I created:

So today I posted a follow-up to my original toot above, which got some very nice responses from various fedizens. Quoting below:

Thanks to all of ya who responded to my question thus far on:

“What is the #Vision of the #Fediverse?”

Some interesting takes, and also the observation that its personal and there are many visions.

Imho we need ask such questions more.

  • What do we like, want and need on the fedi?
  • Are we going there?
  • Do we have shared vision, common cause?

And things like…

  • Where might fedi be in 2 years time?
  • In 5 years?
  • Is that likely to happen?
  • What is needed to get there?
  • What’s missing?
  • How can I help?

The observation “there is no singular vision” by @skipfordj is a valid one.

  • But isn’t there shared vision besides that?
  • Should there be?
  • Maybe shared technology vision, such as in the #SocialHub slogan #SocialNetworkingReimagined?
  • Or a shared cultural vision, such as expressed in #UnitedInDiversity
  • What technology vision inspires the most progress towards getting the fedi we want?
  • And what shared vision allows us to have, retain and strengthen our culture and values, respect our diversity?

So why did I write this toot in the first place?

My observation is one where the #Fediverse technology adoption lifecycle is broken due to the lack of healthy substrate - people and processes to evolve the ecosystem as a whole, maintain open standards, ensure broad #interoperability.

That’s technical vision related. It hampers innovation and the imagination of what fedi can be.

It leads to risks for fedi as a whole. That fedi stalls, or will be exploited.

Probably worth reflecting that we had an email interop session back in the 90s. This was setup by Dave Crocker and the IETF to put developers for a number of major projects in a room; each with access to code and logs and an a test account on each platform. If you had an interop issue you walked over to the guy working on that platform and worked it out. Fediverse devs are a bit more widespread these days but you could have an online matrix chat or something to substitute for being in the same room. Ideally you would just communicate over the fediverse, but there’s historically an unfortunate and inexplicable aversion to dogfooding in this space.

The fedi will stall and it will be exploited. Whether you like it or not, 5 million people is an untapped market segment. This eventuality will only be a problem for projects that are based on a business plan and that didn’t do a proper risk management assessment. The fedi as a whole should not be affected - as it is an open protocol and doesn’t get to choose who plays.

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Very good questions and somehow good answers are vital to transitioning to a digital society that is not a clear and possibly irreversible regression. Yet good answers are very hard because, I think, the underlying choices and visions are so foundational, so deeply enmeshed in cultural, economic and political organization. We can project our wishes and views all we like but there is a stark recalcitrant reality out there. With that qualification, a few thoughts:

Starting with the easy observation, the fediverse in its current shape has missed the boat of making a positive impact. Being a copycat of what was (as we know ex-post) a very poor model and not being resourced enough to work out a fully fledged alternative that can actually scale / supplant the walled exploitative gardens, it is not leading anywhere. It did serve a tremendously important purpose: to prove that alternatives are actually conceivable and realistic. But that is not enough.

It maybe that for the “fedi” to come back with a viral implementation / adoption model that will make a difference it needs to jettison a lot of dead weight, maybe even the entire notion of digital “social networking” as we have come to know and despise. The question is how to shape the infinitely reconfigurable and fluid “digital realm” so that our heretofore only physically manifested human interactions can get “upgraded” without giving rise to degenerate phenomena. There are so many dimensions with critical open choices: localization versus various degrees of centralization / remoteness, “real” identity versus various levels of anonymity, the role and relevance of commercial activity (private sector actors), the role and relevance of public sector (state actors), to name but a few obvious ones.

If we think of the distribution of CPU’s and digital networks on the planetary surface as a substratum where an infinite possible software configurations determine information flow (which in turn feedbacks on real world outcomes), the question is what are the principles and technical architectural characteristics that ensure that the forms of “digital life” that develops is somehow a healthy ecosystem that improves our lot. This is the grand challenge for the fediverse. This is a not a “fringe” pursuit of some digital misfits and visionaries, it is central to pretty much everything important that will happen over the next couple of decades…

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Welcome to the SocialHub, @SeriousFun01 :wave:

I agree with the gist of this. It is understandable that with an open standard in hand the early adopters tested the waters creating better alternatives to existing walled gardens. They did and still do represent a valid approach that makes perfect sense, especially when looking at it from the perspective of each individual app. If as a developer you see a need, want to scratch an itch, then go for it even if your app is a copycat-done-better. That is fine, and there’s no need for scale or anything. That is optional, a nice-to-have maybe.

Where you are talking about a fully fledged scalable alternative, we come to the Fediverse as a whole. The untapped potential and opportunities it holds. And I think here (and you address that too in your second paragraph) the notion of “fully fledged alternative” is a dangerous one, as it points our minds in the wrong direction. We don’t need such alternative.

Or stated differently, the Fediverse is about much more than just-an-alternative. It constitutes a complete paradigm shift, and that insight is vital. It relates to the “unique selling point” with which we should be able to attract the right people to evolve the technology landscape.

What Fediverse could provide is not some bolted-on digital experience that distracts you away from real life, and lure you into some poorly modeled social interactions (well, modeled for different purposes: monetization). No, instead it could provide seamless abstractions to the social networks we participate in in real life on a day-to-day basis. And: Social is everywhere!

I don’t think we need a “viral implementation”, at least not in the way I understand this concept. What we need is an adoption model where new domains are continuously being explored by people, and where their projects manage to get from invention and early adoption stages into more mature stages of the technology lifecycle. And crucially, in the process of getting there, retain the ability to interoperate broadly with other initiatives.

In all this we should entirely forget about the traditional social media platforms. They are irrelevant, and old-fashioned. The bad way of doing things. When we say “social networking” we should think of social-cultural phenomena that exist in the real world, and how we might support them with online technology. This is what is meant with the slogan “Social Networking Reimagined”.

With this mindset we should also create a clear distinction between all the technical work that is required to implement things, and the sociological aspects of the domains we model. I feel the biggest pitfall is that we always dive deeply into tech very quickly and then stay there. It is understandable, but does not lead to best outcomes. On both levels there’s tremendous complexity, and at sociological level there always will be, just like in real life.

Yes, I agree with this. I have adopted a slogan for myself that goes: Fediverse: Peopleverse!".

The exclamation mark is at Peopleverse, as that represents the ultimate goal: a fediverse for People. The Fediverse itself is just the technical stratum that makes this possible. Everyone hooking up their own work into this highly interoperable network will gradually shape a “social fabric”, the abstraction layer on top of which social interactions are modeled. That is the Peopleverse.

(Note that Peopleverse is entirely independent and should not be confused with Metaverse. That venture went off-the-track with the mere choice of the name given to it. No surprise here, as it is based on the same exploitative models we abhor so much)

I agree. Ultimately this is inevitable, unless the current fedi stalls and dies (which is the other scenario, but less likely outcome I think).

But however, this hasn’t happened yet. And right now we - the commons, free cultures, people with the right mindset - are still in control. We can still have influence on the conditions and environment in which this corporate takeover takes place. For instance we could ensure we are in a stronger position when this happens. Right now our position is weak, and we will be blasted out of the picture pretty soon.

Just like we came to resent what the corporate web has become, we might come to resent the Fediverse. And have wistful talks among a small group of people that still remember how things used to be and the promise it held. Just like with bulletin boards and the early blogosphere when someone says “I wished we still had the old Fediverse” then someone else would chime in and say “It still exists”, followed by a should shrug by the others present. The old fedi will exist. In the fringes. Where a few holdouts still enjoy it. The rest will eat Metaverse for breakfast :man_shrugging:

people with the right mindset - are still in control.

I find this statement absolutely terrifying.

I guess that means that the fediverse is still somewhat grassroots oriented. Hasn’t been totally corporatised.

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My vision for the fediverse is people running their own communities, without corporate or government interference. Ultimately, I don’t think there’s an alternative to that, since things organized in a very top down manner run into the sorts of problems that we see with BigTech platforms. There isn’t one set of rules or beliefs which can run the whole world, and yet that’s what the corporate systems try to do.

Yeah, indeed as @bashrc interpreted … where fedizens with their unique and diverse cultures still have a proper say in which direction the standards and ecosystem evolve. I don’t know why you are trying to put such a negative twist to my words. The context is right before that “the commons, free cultures”. Everywhere I am advocating “for the people”, humanity, the commons, freedom and diversity, if you hadn’t noticed.

Yes, wholly agree. I just hope that in this grassroots environment and communal organizing we manage to build and maintain the roads that bind us. The open standards that set all this off matter less and less if ad-hoc interop is the only way we manage to go forward, and the increasing complexity that that brings will grow the barrier for new developers to enter the fray.

I tend to question authority. Who bestowed this power on our masters, and by the way, who exactly are our presumed masters? I didn’t get the memo. Either it is an open protocol or it is not.

I question authority too. I see ‘open’ in the context of democratic technology. I see no presumed masters on the fediverse right now and also not advocating for them. Elsewhere I see dominating monopolies where steering of the tech is much less democratic. You might compare that to autocratic tech or describe otherwise, but AFAICS there’s a lot of authority there in the hands of the few.

You can endlessly stumble over people’s words, quickly take offense, give a cynical twist and a witty reply. It is a favorite passtime of many on the fedi, unfortunately, and it is frankly draining me. Can’t help it, sorry about that.

I’m only giving you my vision of the fediverse, which is the topic. It’s pretty simple - no masters. Nobody can stop anybody from using ActivityPub. If they can, then we have a serious problem.


Okay, I misunderstood/misinterpreted you then, and giving you hereby my humble apologies to that.

A post was split to a new topic: Howto dogfood the fediverse for fediverse development?