It really does feel like the tide (in my tiny tech bubble) is turning from Twitter to Mastodon. And I’m here for it. You had to really screw Twitter up to make people walk away from all of their social connections, legacy content, and heard-earned followers and start something new- especially on a social network that actively works against your content being widely shared. But somehow Twitter pulled it off.
I’m enjoying the idea that a decentralized/federated social network can thrive, almost in spite of itself. I was just “sort of” enjoying it for a while, but I agree with Chris Wiegman that the new iOS app Ivory really feels like the perfect Mastodon client for me. I was never a Tweetbot user, but I can immediately feel the quality of this app (and the roadmap has all my must-haves, like hiding boosted posts that you’ve already seen).
With Mastodon, you sorta need a good client. The default Mastodon experience in the browser is ugly stuff. Which is fine. I’d rather the developers focus on protocols, not platforms. Social networks are all trending towards the same thing anyway (some part of it called the enshittification) so I’d rather get to that place where “social content” is simply another open protocol, like email. But like email, it’s going to be hard and ugly for a while.
That said, the preponderance of Mastodon clients does have one slightly darker side to it: it’s become relatively easy to sign into these other Mastodon clients with your real Mastodon account and try them out. I know that sounds good- and it is- but I was on my fourth or fifth before I started thinking about what I was doing. When I dug through Mastodon’s settings, I couldn’t immediately figure out where to manage all the authentication tokens- all the complete access- I’d granted. Luckily some friendly fediversians helped me out (again- the browser UI for Mastodon has some issues).
But it did get me thinking about how willing I was to just hand over my fediverse credentials to any developer with some beta software. Sure, I trust the team at Tapbot (makers of Ivory) and most of these other clients. Most of them are also open source so I could theoretically see the code (or at least tell myself that someone else is looking at it).
I guess my biggest concern was my own willingness to just hand over access without really thinking about it first. I’m a smart, privacy-minded individual. Is this how far I’ve come??
I stumbled upon a Mastodon thread theorizing about large corporations moving into the fediverse. If the network effect grows, of course it’s inevitable that big money will follow. But the commenters on the thread were pretty arrogant that these large corporations could never corrupt the purity of an open source social network. They seemed entirely confident that the system was resilient enough to handle it and that these large corporations would be running away with their tails between their legs. Maybe.
I thought about all the beta Mastodon clients I’d thoughtlessly given account access to already. I thought about all the technical friction points of the fediverse that will eventually be solved by private companies looking to profit (Ivory included).
But mostly I thought of that other open protocol, email. Email is resilient and it’s open. But not all email. As I thought about this, I was logging into my gmail account, one of the most popular yet invasive email platforms around. The protocol remains, but the platforms rise up to scoop the less tech-savvy, those (apparently like me) who just want a nicer UI.