Fediverse has flaws, big flaws.

Example: basing any decentralization of the Internet on a centralized structure like DNS is problematic.

Yet, I'm going all in on the Fediverse. Here's why. blog.peerverse.space/why-im-al

First, let's talk about alternatives to ActivityPub.

SMTP, XMPP, SIP—the Fediverse could have been built on these protocols. They've been battle-tested. They're well-documented. They work.

SMTP, XMPP, and SIP could be great standards to build a social network upon. I hope someone does it.

But where are they now?

Lots of folks are rediscovering the value of SMTP, especially as big corporations realize that newsletters outperform Facebook in terms of engagement. Good for email!

But just like social media, email has become centralized.

Google dominates email. As of 2019, Gmail had 1.5 billion users. If Gmail were a social network, it would rival Facebook.

As far as decentralization is concerned, email is not in good health.

XMPP is probably the best messaging technology today—better than Matrix, Signal, and Telegram. This is why Google, Apple, etc. continue to build tech on top of XMPP.

But do you know anyone in your social circle that uses XMPP clients?

XMPP seems like a protocol companies use to build centralized messaging apps upon. Federated XMPP apps have comparatively little adoption.

Now let's consider SIP. I remember lots of clients back in the 2000s, but widespread use was little. Why? Because of Skype.

There's still hope for SIP via Jitsu, but most people use something like Zoom—and Zoom is centralized.

To sum up:

1. SMTP: popular but centralized
2. XMPP: Good, lacks network effect, used for building centralized apps
3. SIP: Good enough, has stuck around, might have a second Life

Either centralized or doesn't have a good network effect.

But what is decentralized and has a wide enough network effect? What collective protocol(s) have momentum?

The Fediverse!

Earlier this week, I wrote about how easy it was to build a network effect with a new Pixelfed instance. I'm experiencing interactions that rival when I had an Instagram account. Did I get lucky? Am I an edge case? blog.peerverse.space/my-pixelf

But also, let's consider this Mastodon (@atomicpoet) account and compare it to my Twitter profile.

On Twitter, I have 8,600+ followers. On Mastodon, a little over 300.

Yet, I get more interactions happening on Mastodon.

I've spoken to other people who have recently joined the Fediverse. They report the same thing. The Fediverse may have a smaller userbase, but more interactions.

This means the Fediverse has something important: momentum.

The Fediverse is a collection of messy, badly documented protocols.

But also: the Fediverse is actually decentralized and has momentum.

I have my gripes but acknowledge the Fediverse has big advantages.

Let me confess something. For the past 5 years, I've been working on technologies to decentralize the web. There's been progress. I think what I'm working on will be better than current Fediverse apps. But they're not ready yet.

The tech I'm building isn't ready. But what can we all use now? Mastodon, Matrix, Pleroma, Pixelfed, Peertube... I can go on.

Let's decentralize now instead of waiting for something better to come along in the future.


@atomicpoet Even if something better does come along in the future, activitypub is an open protocol (and "something better" would also be). You still wouldn't have to choose.

You could have a client that supports both activitypub and SIP, or a mastodon server that publishes to both activity and SIP, or some other bridging solution.

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