This overview of the decentralized social ecosystem is structured by protocols, applications, and topics. The protocols and applications sections contain summaries of existing projects.
Funkwhale is a community-driven project that lets you listen and share music and audio within a decentralized, open network.
Recent events surrounding social media have made many people think about leaving the currently dominant platforms. If you are looking for alternatives, you’ll inevitably come across the term ‘Fediverse’. But what is the Fediverse and why should you use it?
In this first in a series of FAQs, I’ll try to answer questions that a total beginner might have. In later installments, I’ll answer more questions about the technical details and about Pleroma specifics.
I hope this will help you along on your way to the Fediverse!
The Web is a key space for civic debate and the current battleground for protecting freedom of expression.
And yet, since its development, the Web has steadily evolved into an ecosystem of large, corporate-controlled mega-platforms which intermediate speech online. In many ways this has been a positive development; these platforms improved usability and enabled billions of people to publish and discover content without having to become experts on the Web’s intricate protocols.
But in other ways this development is alarming. Just a few large platforms drive most traffic to online news sources in the U.S., and thus have enormous influence over what sources of information the public consumes on a daily basis. The existence of these consolidated points of control is troubling for many reasons. A small number of stakeholders end up having outsized influence over the content the public can create and consume. This leads to problems ranging from censorship at the behest of national governments to more subtle, perhaps even unintentional, bias in the curation of content users see based on opaque, unaudited curation algorithms. The platforms that host our networked public sphere and inform us about the world are unelected, unaccountable, and often impossible to audit or oversee.
At the same time, there is growing excitement around the area of decentralized systems, which have grown in prominence over the past decade thanks to the popularity of the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. Bitcoin is a payment system that has no central points of control, and uses a novel peer-to-peer network protocol to agree on a distributed ledger of transactions, the blockchain. Bitcoin paints a picture of a world where untrusted networks of computers can coordinate to provide important infrastructure, like verifiable identity and distributed storage. Advocates of these decentralized systems propose related technology as the way forward to “re-decentralize” the Web, by shifting publishing and discovery out of the hands of a few corporations, and back into the hands of users. These types of code-based, structural interventions are appealing because in theory, they are less corruptible and resistant to corporate or political regulation. Surprisingly, low-level, decentralized systems don’t necessarily translate into decreased market consolidation around user-facing mega-platforms.
There are several requirements that, I believe, are absolutely required of the alternative social media platforms to satisfy these principles:
User exportability. Platforms should permit users to export a complete and unadulterated copy of their user data from the platform and host it elsewhere. Moreover, public user data that is edited by the user in one place must be brought current with all other copies made elsewhere as well, in a timely fashion.
Data exportability. The user’s data must be easily exportable in a common, easily machine-readable format, according to a widely-used standard. This is an absolute minimum. Not many actually support this yet. This isn’t enough, though, because you need to be able to export your followers, too, and to do that:
Interoperability. The social media platform must be made as interoperable as possible (at the user’s option). So I should be able to subscribe and follow someone who is posting on his own blog, or Mastodon, or Gab, or Parler. I should be able to post and read from any of these networks, and the data should appear in a timely fashion in all the rest.
Data inalienability. If the user’s data is not actually served from outside of a platform—which should be possible—then it is treated by the platform as if it were. The platform is merely holding the data on behalf of the user, as a service. The platform must not treat the data as “theirs.” This is still a rather vague requirement, but it has specific consequences. One of them would be that the platform is absolutely not permitted to delete or edit a post from your data, although they can of course opt not to post it on the platform. Twitter and Facebook violate this principle when they fail to retain copies of posts that they delete.
Today we are releasing a major new version of PeerTube, our alternative to centralized video platforms like YouTube.
But instead of continuing to rant, I’d now like to now point out what I think should change about web3:
We should stop building key-management plugins and start thinking about a standardizable web API. We must stop training our users to install shitty browser plugins!
We need to make light clients work as soon as possible and become independent from third-party services like thegraph and Infura.
We need to improve our client libraries (ethers.js and web3.js) by dramatically simplifying them and making them bug-free (god damn it!)!
We need to take advantage of some of the blockchain’s fundamental properties. Most data is immutable so let’s start caching things.
And finally, I think we should stop focusing all of our attention on bumping the web’s version number. Maybe we should reconsider writing more backends. We should promote more work on permissionless networks like Open Gas Station Network that allow developers to upgrade a user’s experience. And, we should start thinking of a machine network of blockchains more often. In many ways, web3 was just a cool demo. But let’s come up with something better. Just imagine what happens once there’s a deeper integration of money into computer systems!
Google’s sudden outage last week illustrates how dependent internet users have become on centralized Web 2 oligarchs. A decentralized Web 3 is an idea whose time has come.
What do you do on Twitter Dot Com? You scroll down and look at other people’s shitty posts. Sometimes you even press the buttons on them. What do you do on the fediverse? You scroll down and look at other people’s shitty posts. Sometimes you even press the buttons on them.
It’s the same feedback loop and it creates a very similar feel and environment. After all, that loop is exactly what Mastodon and Pleroma were designed to replicate.
Hypercore comes with a secure transport protocol, making it easy to build fast and scalable peer-to-peer applications. Think lightweight blockchain crossed with BitTorrent.
Hypercore currently serves as the foundation for a diverse range of P2P applications, including chat apps, filesystems, databases, and even a browser for the distributed internet. And the whole thing’s MIT-licensed, so you can use it as you like!
Future online social networks need to not only protect sensitive data of their users, but also protect them from abusive behavior coming from malicious participants in the network. We investigate the use of supervised learning techniques to detect abusive behavior and describe privacy-preserving protocols to compute the feature set required by abuse classification algorithms in a secure and privacy-preserving way.While our method is not yet fully resilient against a strong adaptive adversary, our evaluation suggests that it will be useful to detect abusive behavior with a minimal impact on privacy.
IPFS is here. IPFS is a de-centralized file and webhosting protocol founded on ideals of freedom and openness. The Library Genesis collection is live on IPFS as of today, accessible via https://libgen.rs and https://libgen.fun. IPFS is like BitTorrent but has a single global swarm, and it’s accessible on the web. You can learn about the IPFS project from IPFS.io or Wikipedia.
IPFS is the next technical revolution in peer-to-peer networking, allowing people like you to share books with readers who request them. IPFS is the next best weapon in the fight against domain take-downs and internet censorship.
We can now each become a founding shelf for a free, global library. Let’s start.