Ever since I’ve gotten into self-hosting and making videos about it, I’ve heard people talk about Pleroma, ActivityPub, and other decentralized social media-like protocols. It sounds excellent at first, adopting new standards to re-create the centralized social media experience of Twitter, Facebook and other “walled gardens”, but after a while I realized that it’s not quite for me.
The problem with the Fediverse
The Fediverse is a simple concept: A few standardized protocols (ActivityPub, Diaspora, and the older OStatus) are used by individual servers to communicate information with each other, to allow for one massive decentralized network. However, this system has some fundamental flaws.
The biggest single flaw is that servers can still ban you! This has happened before (just look at Mastodon) and it’ll only keep happening unless people realize that any form of decentralized system that still relies on a centralized host (ie. the most popular Pleroma instance) isn’t going to prevent censorship.
In the end, the real problem with the Fediverse is that it still requires the end-user to use a single web client, which can enact censorship. You might think this can be mitigated by simply switching to other, more free-speech friendly websites, but the most popular ActivityPub/Diaspora instances can just block that one, effectively cutting you off.
Older standards are better!
A far better standard for social media communication is RSS, which is what you’re likely using right now to read this blog post. Because RSS subscriptions are handled directly between the individual user and server, it means that no intermediary server can censor them. This is so much better than any Fediverse social media.
“B-but MUH REPOSTING / LIKING / DISLIKING!!!”
Social media is the devil. While I can understand wanting to keep up with your friends’ blogs and art feeds, I will never understand people’s fixation with online “socializing” in this manner. You don’t need to be constantly retweeting and liking posts to survive. Luckily, most people seem to agree with me on the incredibly detrimental effects of social media addiction, which restores a lot of my faith in humanity.
Also, if you want to communicate with anyone in a decentralized manner, you can always be using XMPP or Matrix to message them. Both are effective at offering secure, decentralized communication for individual and group chats, and I think we’ll see far more adoption of both of them with time.
At the end of the day, social media itself is awfully structured. Even if the Fediverse was completely censorship-free, it’d probably just become like Reddit: A hivemind powered by upvotes and downvotes in perfect balance so that Keanu Reeves and Big Chungus memes can reign supreme over what was meant to be a platform for proper discussion. RSS feeds and personal websites are and will always remain the most direct, simple and free way to communicate ideas and knowledge on the internet, and I can only see this becoming more and more important as the Fediverse continues to gain traction.