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Fediverse: Decentralised social media, owned by the people that use it?

After Elon Musk bought Twitter the discussion about free speech and controlled social media has increased.

Should companies like Meta and Twitter be owned by a single person?

Should they have control over what can be said publicly?

Are they the right people to control free speech?

What are Decentralized Social Networks?

Decentralized social networks operate on independently run servers, rather than on a centralized server owned by a business. Mastodon is one example of a decentralized social network.

Decentralized Social Media Platforms Aren’t New, They Just Aren’t Popular

But they might hold the key to addressing the problems we have with social media.

We are well aware of the role that technology giants have played in politics, social issues, and even our mental health.

We understood how Facebook sold our data to Cambridge Analytica to influence voters

Decentralized control — No central authority (person, server or company) dictates the rules. It removes the power vested in large corporations and authoritarian governments to regulate social media.

The combined market cap of five big tech companies — Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Alphabet, and Facebook is $8 Trillion — almost equivalent to the GDP of four big countries such as France, Italy, Brazil, and Canada. It’s insane.

When most nations saw a steep decline in their economies, record-high unemployment, and looming health crises in 2020, these tech companies added $1 trillion to their revenues.

Why decentralised social media?

It stops anyone from buying the Fediverse out. There is no single network, so there’s no single thing anyone could purchase. If the people running a Fedi server do something bad, users can move their accounts to a different Fedi server without losing their followers.

This discourages server owners from doing anything bad in the first place and gives users lots of options if the worst happens. It lets anyone start their own server, even non-technical people. The simplicity of a small server means it only costs about $6 per month from a managed hosting company (which does all the technical stuff for you ). 

It means each server can make its own rules, so if there are disagreements, people can move to a different server with different rules, or even start their own server with rules they write themselves.If one server goes down, other servers keep working. Problems on one server don’t bring down the whole network.

There is a decentralised alternative for each of the big tech platforms available today.

Facebook — Minds, Diaspora, MeWe
YouTube — Minds, LBRY, D.Tube, PeerTube
Reddit — Aether
Twitter — Mastodon
Instagram — Karma (Mobile-only app)
WhatsApp — Signal

What is the Fediverse?

The Fediverse (or “Fedi”) is a collection of thousands of independent social media servers that talk to each other seamlessly. This means that the millions of users on these servers can interact with each other as if they were on a single social network.

The most popular type of Fedi server is called Mastodon (or “Masto”) and works a bit like a calmer, more friendly version of Twitter. Click here for a cute animated video about Mastodon that explains the basic principles of a federated social network. You might also want to watch this short video about the Fediverse that emphasises the importance of common technical standards.

There are many kinds of Fediverse servers, often with a specific purpose such as photo sharing, video sharing, live streaming, book clubs etc.

Who owns the Fediverse? Is the Fediverse owned by a corporation or venture capital firm? Can it be bought out by Google/Facebook/Elon Musk?

To the last two questions: no and no.

No one can buy the Fediverse or Mastodon because there is no single thing that could be bought. The Fedi is made up of thousands of independently owned and run servers, which makes it extremely difficult or impossible for anyone to buy the network.

Most Fedi servers belong to unpaid volunteers, or non-profit community groups and co-ops. The running costs are covered by the server owners themselves and donations from their users. There are no investors, no venture capital firms, no ads, no trackers.

Companies can start their own Fedi server if they want to, anyone can, but all they would control is their own server. They would have no control over the thousands of other servers out there.

The Fediverse is built on free and open-source software, made by many independent groups, and the software copyrights are licensed in such a way that no company or organisation could ever take control of them.

Who gets to start their own server?

Anyone. You don’t need tech skills, and you don’t need much money either.

If you use a managed hosting service, the price starts from around 6 euros or 6 dollars a month and the service will handle all the technical stuff.

Once your server is set up, you can follow people on other servers and they can follow you. You don’t have to do this though, it’s much easier to just join someone else’s server, but it’s there as an option. Many people enjoy growing their own servers.

You can find out more info on running your own Fediverse server over on my other site GrowYourOwn.Services and there’s a long-form Mastodon server tutorial there too.

Recommended reading:

Mili Ponce

Former Computer Engineer, Tech, EdTech and eCommerce Entrepreneur, Keynote Speaker on Digital Marketing and Entrepreneurship, Social Media Strategist, eCommerce Business Mentor, Trainer, Writer, Blogger, Mother, Daughter, Dreamer.

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Fediverse: Decentralised social media, owned by the people that use it? Reviewed by Mili Ponce on Tuesday, November 08, 2022 Rating: 5
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