At the day of writing this page, the CEO of Tumblr is well into a 36-hour public meltdown over the fact that anyone could possibly take issue with him being a bigot. This is mere days after Reddit announced their intention to sell all of their user data to generative AI shitheads and months after they shut down their API. This is also maybe a year and a half after technofascist moron Elon Musk bought Twitter, gutted it's already inadequate moderation, and redubbed it "X." The internet as we remember it is over. The frog has slowly been boiling for almost a decade now, as brugeoning social media sites learned how much money there was to make in algorithmically serving content to either radicalize you or just make you plain miserable. Now more than ever, we can't afford to make long-term homes of these platforms.

    Enter federation. This is the idea that instead of single corporate-owned platforms that are effectively closed silos, you have numerous home-grown platforms that are all interoperable. Many people make the mistake of thinking this is a new and untested idea. This is incorrect. Federation is not new. As a matter a fact, it predates the entire concept of social media, FidoNet was doing this with BBSes back in 1984. You can be forgiven for having not heard of it, but perhaps you have heard of something similar for direct messaging called e-email.

    That's right! You already have an account on a federated platform. You've probably been using it for your entire life. Unfortunately we as a society traded a full network in favor of essentially handing Google and Microsoft a duopoly, but the concept is tried and true and you already have extensive experience with it. Modern federated platforms are just using the same paradigm for social media use cases.

    One thing that scares people about federation is that anyone can spin up a server in their basement, but both users and servers have the ability block other users and entire servers (yes, a user can block a server!) and there are established communication methods between admins that makes sure those small pockets remain islands with no access to you. When setting up a server, the admins can select whether they are open by default or closed by default, hand selecting any other servers to federate with. This model also has other benefits like preemptive spam prevention- as of writing Mastodon just cleaned up a spambot wave in a fraction of the time it's taken platforms like Tumblr to do the same. The benefits of using a federated platform far outweigh any negatives.

Ready to jump in? Here's a quick list of some of the best federated platforms and what niche they fill:

Old New
Twitter Mastodon Akkoma GotoSocial
Tumblr Misskey FireFish
Reddit kBin PieFed
Facebook Friendica
Instagram PixelFed
YouTube PeerTube

    Everything on this list uses a protocol called ActivityPub, which is like the SMTP (email) protocol. You can create a Mastodon account and follow people on Akkoma and Misskey and Pixelfed and even post in magazines (threads) on kBin and Piefed. You may want multiple accounts to try different platforms out but you only need one to have access to the entire network. There is constantly developement going on, too, and new platforms are breaking ground every day. Some existing web platforms like WordPress or Flarum even have federation plugins and more integration on the way! Software to replace corporate IMing like Discord is in it's infancy too (although on the other hand there's always trusty musty IRC).

    Some corporations are also taking their first steps into the fediverse, Jack Dorsey's BlueSky and Facebook's Threads in particular, but just about everyone on the fedi has preemptively blocked them and staunchly opposed to workarounds. We do not want a repeat of what Microsoft and Google did to email here, so please stay as far away from those platforms as you can.

    There's an old saying, "build it and they will come." The fact of the matter however is that you can't solve social issues with technology alone (or often at all). We have the tools we need to bury the corporate internet today, but what we need is the collective will to now relocate there. It can feel daunting, but every individual who moves over makes the fediverse that much more viable and weakens corporate platforms by that much as well. You don't need to do it all at once either, I'm still trying to untangle my internet prescence myself, but any progress no matter how small is progress. The groundwork for a better internet has already been laid, we just need to step together now.