First things first, let’s give a broad definition of microblogging:
- a form of brief and frequent blogging posts called micro-posts. Those can contain various content formats including texts, images, hyperlinks, videos and audios.
- a way of communicating from one to many very quickly (broadcasting).
- used for short and fast interactions on topics which users are interested in.
- a must-have way of communication for any organisation to reach out and increase its visibility on the Web.
- hugely popular since 2006, and the main reason for the success of several Web giants (Facebook, Twitter).
- used a lot by journalists due to the real-time broadcast nature of microblogging, and by many celebrities and politicians as a way to rally and entertain their fan/supporter base.
- done by humans and bots, and it’s not always clear which is which.
- happening on platforms referred to as social media, among which:
- proprietary and centralised solutions such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.
- FLOSS and decentralised solutions such as Diaspora, Mastodon, Friendica, GNU Social, Pleroma, Movim, etc.
- regularly in the news for concerns over microblogging services provided by Web giants. Usually related to (the lack of) privacy, (dis)information and social media manipulation.
The difference between microblogging and social media
A social networking service, or social media, is an online platform which registered people use to build social networks or social relationships with other people who share similar personal or career interests, activities, backgrounds or real-life connections (source: Wikipedia).
Microblogging is the most successful and the most widespread way to enable and run social media platforms.
Social networks by Corporations
Popular social network platforms provide “free” services to their registered users. But are they really free?
In order to use those platforms, you have to register by providing a set of personal information. You also consent to giving permission to the platform to use, modify and sub-licence your content. This allows them to harvest your data, which is extremely valuable. In this era of Big Data, data is the new gold.
Today’s social networks are dominated by corporations. Facebook is the most successful, and also the one carrying the most controversies.
Walking off the edge
The Internet market, like most other sectors, is growing in a predictably skewed way, where the bigger companies are buying out smaller ones. We end up with a handful of giant corporations, hosting and holding the personnal data of most of the people. For example, Facebook reports 2.3 billion active users on its platform. Concentrating such silos of information in the hands of corporations is dangerous: for privacy, for a healthy Internet, for marginalised people, you, me, the society as a whole.
With the Snowden revelations on surveillance programs, Cambridge analytica and reports on social media manipulations 1, awareness on how corporations handle our life’s data has been raised multiple times. It is important for people to realise that another Web, decentralised, fair and even local, is desirable, and entirely possible.
Social media has become co-opted by many authoritarian regimes. In 26 countries, computational propaganda is being used as a tool of information control in three distinct ways: to suppress fundamental human rights, discredit political opponents, and drown out dissenting opinions 1.
Truth is, the Internet has never been so centralised, which means it has never been so threatened. When corporations are too big to fail and states are too shy to prosecute or regulate, then you have the recipe for abuse of position, manipulations on a global scale and privacy infringements left uncondemned.
The Fediverse: a new hope
So, if like us you think that microblogging can be invaluable if not in the hand of a few players, but in a globally decentralised and privacy-mindful way, we have good news for you: it’s already possible and it’s called the fediverse!
A decentralised and global social network
Without going into details, microblogging using FOSS solutions took some time (and efforts!) to develop, but eventually came through in a very promising way, with open standards for inter-communication.
Several FLOSS solutions have been implemented and licenced under AGPLv3. Among those, the most popular for microblogging are Mastodon, Pleroma, GNU Social, Friendica, and Misskey.
Communities and users can test and choose the solution they prefer. Users from one server can communicate with people registered on a different server, based on a different software, because they all implement the same standards. This way, you avoid vesting your data in the hands of one big player, yet have access to a global audience. How cool is that?!
So how does this work?
- A user is registered on a microblogging server (also called instance).
In an IT context, the word instance is sometimes used to describe a running copy of a software hosted on a server. For example, a Wallabag instance describes a server executing the application Wallabag.
In a federation context, an instance is a running copy of a federated software (such as Mastodon, Pleroma, GNU Social, etc.)
- From there he/she can interact with the other users of that instance directly.
- In most cases, that instance is federated, i.e able to reach out and actively exchange with other servers:
- to follow external users which your local users have decided to follow
- and to broadcast to external users following one of your local users
- The ensemble of information exchanged and published through posts (aka toots) throughout the federation of instances is called the fediverse.
The following video presents an introduction to Mastodon and the Fediverse. By the way, all federated social networking platforms essentially work in a similar way, Pleroma included.
Pleroma on Nomagic
As mentioned earlier, Pleroma is a federated social networking platform under FOSS AGPLv3 license. It is compatible with GNU social, Mastodon, Friendica, and others.
Nomagic has implemented its own instance of Pleroma to offer its users a microblogging solution with the ability to exchange on the Fediverse.
Pleroma is fast, consumes low resources and is compatible with the Mastodon API, which means mobile applications for Mastodon also work with Pleroma.
It’s still early days for us. So far we have been able to successfully test the following:
- Locate and follow users from the federated network
- Subscribe to a Peertube channel using our Pleroma account
- Comment on a Peertube video using our Pleroma account
To know more about Pleroma history you can read this interview, from 2018.
To each instance its rules
Each instance part of the Fediverse comes with its own rules and policies. This means that people can move away, from an instance to another one, if they want to.
Until recently this meant opening a new account, but account migration is now available on Mastodon, and hopefully will be implemented on other solutions later on.
On the other hand, not everyone on the Fediverse is worth exchanging with (well, except if you are into self-deprecation and impoverishment of the mind). Users can mute other users, and whole instances can be subject to blacklisting if they convey nothing but racism, mysoginy, etc.
This is the opportunity to remind our users that likewise Peertube, Matrix, and any other Nomagic services, users are encouraged to express themselves in a respectful and constructive manner, as per our ToS.
That said, we are thrilled to officially announce the availability of our microblogging service, using Pleroma .
Nomagic’s specific end-user documentation on getting started with Pleroma from your desktop and smartphone is available on our wiki (requires authentication).
On the Fediverse
- A presentation of the advantages as well as some of the initial challenges faced by the Fediverse
- Find stats and listing of self-hosted social networking services
- An in-depth early feedback on Mastodon and Fediverse from an ‘addicted’ Twitter user
- On what is Pleroma and how it compares to Mastodon
- An introduction on Mastodon, which presents concepts common to most of the federated mentioned on this page
On the current state of the Web
- Article from John Naughton on the fate of the Internet following Edward Snowden’s revelations
- Anil Dash on the Web we lost. He also gave a talk on it, available here
- IA used to produce beautiful Web trend maps showing the Web as Metro maps, each station represented by a domain, each line representing a particular segment of the Internet (online buying, social media, news sites, etc.). In 2018, they sadly acknowledged that the Internet as they knew it, with all its diversity reflected on people’s traffic and websites’ popularity, had become a thing of the past.
Moving away from Twitter
- A step by step guide to move away from Twitter
 see the report The Global Disinformation Order - 2019 Global Inventory of Organised Social Media Manipulation, available on www.oii.ox.ac.uk
Pleroma and Mastodon SVG icons belong to their respective projects (cf our Credits page).
The multi-colored Fediverse proposed icon is licensed under Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication