Last Week in Fediverse – ep 63


The President of the United States posting into the fediverse is not something I expected to happen so soon, but here we are. A new photo sharing app in development, and analysis of the different communities in the fediverse. Let’s dive in.

Joe Biden is now posting into the fediverse

The official US president Threads account, @POTUS, has turned on the fediverse connection, allowing people in the fediverse to follow the account. Besides the POTUS account, the @whitehouse account and the Spanish version @lacasablanca have also turned on federation.

Threads’ work on federation is still in open beta, as only people in US, Canada and Japan are able to use it. Federation is only one way currently, people using fediverse software can follow accounts on Threads, but not the other way around. Comments made in the fediverse on Threads posts are also not send back to Threads.

The official accounts are remarkably early adopters of the feature, as last week I reported that the total number of Threads accounts that have turned on federation is likely just north of 3000. Being able to follow the president of the United States from your fediverse account changes the dynamics of the fediverse in a variety of ways. It alters the dynamic of discussions on whether instances should block Threads or not. For some people it will increase the perceived cost of not federating with Threads, while for others it can help sharpen the focus of what type of posts they do not want to be part of their community. It makes conversations with other (government) organisations about joining the fediverse easier; as “even the POTUS is a part of the fediverse” is a good sell that is hard to beat.

The news

Vernissage is a third party client for Pixelfed for iOS which celebrated their 1-year anniversary this week. As part of the moment the developer announced that Vernissage now has become it’s own fediverse platform, focusing on being a platform for photographers, with photos at the center. The official instance is available at vernissage.photos, but as the platform is still in testing phase it is closed for registrations for the moment. The platform is already federating, with the global timeline showing photos from Pixelfed. Vernissage.photos is completely standalone from the Vernissage client for Pixelfed, and the developer says that it is possible that the name of the client might change in the future to avoid confusion. Vernissage is open source, available here.

Newsmast has published a new report, with research on the communities on the social web. The report, Mapping The Fediverse, indicates the fediverse is more than talking about Linux: “People often think the Fediverse is about tech. We’ve not found that,” says Michael Foster, Co-Founder of Newsmast. “Around a million people participated in knowledge-sharing over the last six months, in a broad range of Communities, from Pets to Politics.” The entire report is worth reading, and gives a good overview of the fediverse. The fediverse has a very ‘long tail’ of people who post for a relatively smaller group of followers, and who are fine with their posts not gaining a large visibility. The fediverse seems to have a much bigger section of this group of people than Bluesky, for example. But as impressions of the communities of a network are often based on the most popular and viral posts, it is especially easy on the fediverse to not fully appreciate this long tail of people. Talking about Newsmast: Tedium wrote an article about Newsmast, and placing them in the context of real-time news in the social media era

Darnell Clayton writes how Flipboard, not Threads, may become the largest fediverse instance. Sharing your content on Flipboard to the fediverse is opt-out, while it is opt-in for Threads. This difference in approach, in combination with a low uptake of any opt-in system, might just mean many more Flipboard accounts than Threads account will be part of the fediverse. Flipboard also published a blog this week, explaining what it means to have a federated Flipboard profile.

Some governments have experimented with the fediverse by setting up their own Mastodon or Peertube instance, but I think that this (WordPress) website of a Dutch government organisation that has started using the ActivityPub plugin is the first case of a government organisation joining the fediverse via WordPress. This Phanpy link showcases that the website is now visible via the fediverse.

A paper on detecting toxic speech by focusing on the conversational context of posts, titled ‘Decentralised Moderation for Interoperable Social Networks: A Conversation-based Approach for Pleroma and the Fediverse’. Finding the context of a conversation is harder in a decentralised network, since not all instance have the same complete overview. Scientific analysis of the fediverse has mainly focused on Mastodon so far, and this paper expands on that by viewing Pleroma as their own social network within a the larger social networks of the fediverse.

The newly formed Working Group for the forum/link-aggregator part of the fediverse has had their first meeting, and voted to be the Threadiverse Working Group, that will create a Task Force as part of the SWICG. It is a collaboration project in a way that has not really happened in the fediverse before. I’m very interested in how this will develop; the dominant way of creating fediverse software so far has been hobby projects that sometimes scale up slightly, now this is intersecting more and more with existing organisations with complete products who are expanding their product to include fediverse integration. This creates both space and need for more cross-product collaboration, something that is highly valuable and needed within the fediverse.

The links

  • Ben Pate, developer of the upcoming Emissary platform, demos how Emissary can be used to build federated music service.
  • WeDistribute spoke with micro.blog creator Manton Reece about Indieweb, federation, and personal blogging.
  • Write.as gives a short update on the current priorities: better fediverse integration, the ability to import posts, and a revision to drafts.
  • For the protocol-people: Ryan Barrett and @nightpool published a draft report for the SWICG about ActivityPub and HTTP Signatures.
  • The monthly update for Forgejo, with some more information on their work on implementing federation.
  • Development work on Catodon is halted, as the lead developer has other IRL obligations and the project has not managed to find a co-lead dev.
  • Last week I wrote about the work on @Oliphant’s blocklists being halted, in favour of the upcming FediCheck. @Oliphant gave another update on the current status on the transition.
  • Skeb is a Japanese art commission platform that has started to integrate together with Misskey.
  • GoToSocial’s latest update adds support for account moving, hiding your follower count, and custom themes.
  • Upcoming link-aggregator platform Sublinks has put out of moderator survey.
  • Threads has an internal blocklist of which fediverse servers it will not connect with. The Fedibird.com instance was on that list, and got itself removed after reaching out. As Liaizon Wakest says in the post pointing this out, it is interesting to see playing out.
  • Podcastindex.org has a bridge to the fediverse, allowing you to follow all the indexed podcasts from your fediverse accounts. This work has been going on for a bit, and it is getting more traction now.
  • This week’s updates to fediverse servers and clients.
  • An update on the current state of moderation tools available in Piefed.

That’s all for this week. If you want more, you can subscribe to my fediverse account or to the mailing list below: