After the metaverse it is time for the fediverse, the next digital bubble

Meta lays the groundwork for the launch of the fediverse. The term refers to the possibility of different platforms, such as social, becoming more integrated by communicating with each other and allowing users with the same account to use them. The American giant realized its part in the broader initiative by opening up the publication of posts on Threads from Mastodon (and vice versa), one of the alternatives to X-Twitter. Threads itself has, in the last few hours, debuted ‘trending now’ topics in the US, inspired by the most popular topics of its rival X. The fediverse is the set of federated servers used for web publishing and file hosting that, although hosted independently, can intercommunicate with each other.

Meta’s announcement came during FediForum, an online event to give developers opportunities to show what they are working on in the context of the fediverse. In a web presentation, Instagram developer Peter Cottle showed how a feature called ‘fediverse sharing’ will arrive on Threads, allowing content to be shared with a single click across various social networks. As of today, the initiative is only in its infancy, with the feature in a closed preview phase. The fediverse, or at least the one currently being talked about, communicates via shared digital protocols

How it works

The one used by Threads, which is based on Instagram’s existing network, is known as ActivityPub. Cottle also confirmed that users will have a five-minute window before publishing posts to make any changes. The reason for this is technical: Threads cannot guarantee that a post subsequently deleted from its app will be deleted from federated platforms. Now, the narrow circle of users who have access to the fediverse experiment can follow Instagram boss Adam Mosseri and a handful of other users, reading posts that are published on the Meta-owned social and Mastodon.

It all sounds nice and perfect if it weren’t for the fact that at the heart of the fediverse are several problems. One of the biggest complications is the hassle of keeping one’s entire network functioning, secure and interruptible. Not hosting advertisements requires an immense economic effort, more so since the fediverse is maintained through donations and thanks to the patience and very strong conviction of the communities and members that make it up, which to date appear to amount to around four million users worldwide.

After the metaverse it is time for the fediverse, the next digital bubble
After the metaverse it is time for the fediverse, the next digital bubble

Mind the censorship

The fediverse, which is made up of many platforms, was created to try to guarantee freedom of communication and an absence of censorship operated from above, but in truth, both theorems are not possible and cannot be fully applied for obvious reasons. The moderation within Mastodon, divided by social and local networks, rightly takes care to control as much as it can both the outgoing links in the various posts and, albeit subjectively, the content and language. It is, therefore, not impossible for the staff to send a notification asking those who posted on the federated network to change an outgoing link or other: a request made to avoid the moderators having to apply censorship directly. But is Mastodon, which is the name,e of its software, really born to replace X, as many say?

No, the Fediverse was not born to replace other social networks, nor is it a clone of X: it is very different, very structured, much more complex, and less intuitive, but with the great intuition of giving voice, space, and independence to small communities. On a media level, considering the twists and turns of a few months ago in the world of microblogging, one would have thought that, given that many X users also have a Mastodon profile, a very good part would have taken off ‘the bird’ in favor of ‘the little elephant’, as Greta Thunberg also did publicly and explicitly. Will we be faced with a new web to be built and probably also experienced, given the success of virtual reality?

Free is not freedom

Everything will talk about freedom, but can this freedom really be guaranteed, or is it just cyber-optimism? The promise of the Internet has always been a free, accessible computer network for all, with inexpensive services, secure applications, and faster and faster performance. Then, looking closely, given the level of saturation and conflict the second generation Web has reached, and today, between paid visibility, authentication of all kinds and species, up to the requirement of a cryptocurrency wallet to access certain environments of the new network, as is the case with some Metaverse, the doubt arises that we are in an uneven, increasingly vast and perhaps dispersive network, not free and definitely not free.

Antonino Caffo has been involved in journalism, particularly technology, for fifteen years. He is interested in topics related to the world of IT security but also consumer electronics. Antonino writes for the most important Italian generalist and trade publications. You can see him, sometimes, on television explaining how technology works, which is not as trivial for everyone as it seems.