It is, by far, the fastest growing social network in history, growing by over 20% in about a week.
And yet it doesn’t stutter much.
How could it be?
It is a network in the true Internet sense of the word. It is not only a network of users, but also a network of servers. Nobody owns it. Like email, it’s a set of policies and rules, not a place. A federation is different from a corporation. It may not be as shiny, but it is much more resilient.
It is inconvenient. You can’t start in ten seconds. This leads to less initial stickiness. This means that people who go through the learning curve are more likely to be committed and perhaps generous. In the early days of email, of Compuserve, of AOL, of the Web, of all the networks I’ve been a part of, these early adopters created a different kind of magic. It never lasts, but it looks great.
I started one of the first Internet companies in the 1990s, and new frontiers kept spreading. This could be the one.
Part of the strength of a network is its distributed nature. This is a plus when it comes to technology and innovation. This is a minus in terms of the speed of central contracts as well as the potential for abuse. Email never recovered from the open nature of inputs, which meant spammers, scammers and hustlers could do whatever they liked, and the defense was imperfect filters.
The deliberate decentralization of the Mastodon Federation seems designed to make these filters more natural and effective at the expense of a super loud amplifier in the middle. You can discover new voices and ideas, but there is no megaphone at work, just begging to be hacked by selfish behavior. It’s a bit more like life and a bit less like traditional social networks that generate controversy for profit
And finally—the culture of this federation is still being created. Many people who have just arrived will be authors of that culture, and if they understand how to be generous and kind, that will be created. Alas, as is often the case, culture is upon us, especially when commercial bias is removed.
I’m reposting my daily blog here, and may check in from time to time, and I’m interested to see how this peer to peer experiment unfolds.
If you’re a developer with chops in APIs, apps, and what’s going on in the Mastodon world, I’d love to hear from you for some future projects I’m noodling on. Simple form is here.