Another footnote for this blog post is that I used the 300,000 number because that is what is used as justification for concerns about effective centralization.

As the mastodon.social frontpage will reveal to you, there are only about 22,000 people here on a monthly basis. But I didn't want to make the blog post about that. That's a whole topic in itself.

@Gargron I believe that the Mastodon project should actively encourage decentralization in terms of user distribution.

@Gargron are you ever going to stop saying mastodon network
have you realized its dumb yet

@Gargron have you considered an onboarding, where you enter all your details of sign-up, but are automatically redirected to a different server with pre-filled credentials…?

@rugk I've prepared the ground for it with the sign up API, but it would take a lot of manual curation to make that a not-awful experience, i.e. you can't just rely on the full server list

@Gargron yes, i agree, also for privacy reasons of course, if you send mail and password to a randomly choosen server – you have to know that server is reliable. 😃

@rugk
And then, of course, are the assholes, like Banco Santander, who send passwords on plaintext through email. Noice!
@Gargron

@rugk @Gargron I think this would be awful for many reasons: the URL is part of my identity I want do know and chose it. I have no idea on which server I end up. Can I trust the admin? Does they respect my privacy? Can they maintain a secure and stable service? Where are the data located? Will the server still exists in a few months?... A things I want to know and chose - 1/2

@rugk @Gargron I know I repeat myself, but for me the number one feature to foster decentralization is to support account migration with all data, including my bidirectional contacts. Only if I can freely switch between servers without losing my history and even more important my social network I will feel comfortable trying out small instances, run my own instance, etc. - 2/2

@bjoern @rugk @Gargron however, also consider you might want a backup in case an instance goes down or so

@Gargron How difficult is it to download your data from one Mastodon instance and upload it to another?

I signed up with dot social because choices are hard, but if I could easily migrate I would probably move, especially if I'd be able to move again if necessary

@lesbianhacker @gargron It's easy enough to migrate. Once you have an account on another instance (or a second account on the same instance) you can export lists of your follows, blocks, and mutes from your original account and import them to your new one

You can't force others to follow your new account (they'll have to do that on their own) and your toots won't transfer over but those usually matter less than you'd think

@violet @Gargron

Why make that decision for people instead of letting them make that decision for themself, though?

I can see how it might create a bit of overhead for admins who will want to make sure their new users aren't migrating things that violate their ToS, but it should be possible to make that choice instead of having it made for you

@lesbianhacker @gargron I twas more to the point that other sites (like twitter) allow you to change your handle without affecting any other part of your account. On masto, you have to make a second account and hope that your followers make the jump with you

It usually works out fine but there are cases (like a follower who takes a month or two off the platform during your migration) where followers can get lost in the cracks

@Gargron purely anecdotal view, but the experience on joinmastodon is a bit blocking, one example: "I am an artist who speaks Welsh". I get one instance, and neither of them is .art or .wales. Maybe there should be two separate pathways; choose by topic OR choose by language, or make that logic OR not AND. Separately I think having to self-define (and there is no "nothing in particular") might be turning folks away. (I know you don't have to choose one, but many first time visitors might)

@jaz @Gargron i feel OR is a bit too broad if you have a specific thing in mind. But some kind of ranked search a bit more fuzzy then a straight AND would be great. What _is_ there, anyway?

@zladuric @Gargron there's a bunch of categories, intances can pick two on instances.social, then there's languages and afaik instances can pick as many as they want, and a few seem to have just picked all langs as "main" meaning they show up for a lot of AND searches.

@zladuric @Gargron I also think we could do more to surface regional instances, and language isn't a great proxy for this. I see instances for specific cities, states, countries, and there's no real way to find those outside of fediverse.party/en/portal/serv - I believe people would jump on a region-generalistic as much as a topic-specific.

@Gargron Well put!

What if you'd basically copy the "Sign up" part of joinmastodon to mastodon.social's front page, and you don't sign up on that instance unless you explicitly select it?

@Gargron Wouldn't it be possible to offer an automatic pre-selection of a server when user is subscribing? "Sorry, mastodon.social registrations are closed but we selected another server with same interests (General Purposes)."

This would avoid the second issue you mentionned.

@Gargron I read this comment yesterday that I think is pretty interesting:

> The best answer to the UX issue of "where do I sign up?" is to make it so that asking the question makes no sense at all.

Right now, the single biggest barrier to having a "decentralized" Mastodon is that Mastodon is not *designed* in a decentralized way. Each Mastodon instance is actually a separate website, where both data and community are centralized within that site and its domain.

@trwnh What that comment hints at is distribution, not decentralization. Like having a global state with different access points, like those blockchain networks.

@Gargron I don't think it needs to be necessarily like blockchain, but you could have a distributed database of posts, yeah. Relays could be Groups, with their own moderation and community. More IRC-like or Usenet-like replication. But the first step would be location-independent addressing. Where you sign up becomes part of your identity, in a way that is not easily changeable.

@trwnh I don't know how you could change something so fundamental now.

@Gargron well it's really hard and also getting harder the more it isn't there. i'm pretty convinced that tying everything to domain names is a mistake that needs to be solved as soon as possible. activitypub ID shouldn't be the source of identity, it should be dereferenced to something else. two copies of identical data shouldn't be different just because they're on different computers.

@Gargron assuming a loosely semver scheme where mastodon 3 isn't fully backwards-comptible and contains network-level changes: you would need to start generating globally unique IDs and signing them with the actor public key, then let that change propagate through the network, then add UI in 3.0.0 to allow migration between servers. this is only possible with content addressing, because it's extremely expensive to regenerate IDs on thousands/millions of objects.

@trwnh @Gargron this stops being federation and starts being 'mesh social network'. What you want is a completely different type of social network and by design the fediverse is a bunch of nation-states, for better or worse.

---
since im soapboxing already:

Id honestly prefer allowing instances to decouple their local timeline and 'subscribe' to other local timelines, so that multiple instances could share one 'community' timeline. Preferably this could also be done at the per-user level where individual users could subscribe to certain timelines (with some moderation features ofc). Not sure how feasible in the AP spec this would be tho.

@oct2pus @Gargron data can still federate out of the "mastodon network" entirely as well, so it's still federation. on a user level no one should care how it works as long as they can continue to make posts and follow others. nowhere in the AP spec does it require absolute authority to the domain name; it simply requires that IDs be https uris on the domain namespace.

the problem is that every single implementation stops right there and assumes location = identity. they never fully dereference

@Gargron So to make a decentralized Mastodon, you need to decouple the data from the site/domain. And effectively, you need to decouple the community as well. People choose specific sites because the instance layer handles everything: service *and* community. What we have is essentially a bunch of centralized services that can talk to each other. Interconnected silos. A network of nation-states.

@trwnh @Gargron Hubzilla seems to be boasting a step further in that direction as "Nomadic identity". i.e. You can move your account without losing your toots or followers (IIRC).

Speaking of which, an inet-independent worldwide-scale SNS is my holy grail at the moment. The closest we get is Aether (essentially DHT'ed Reddit) and a particular Open Garden app (redflagged due to, ironically, privacy issues e.g. extraneous permissions.) There's also SSb, but that's focused on many small islands.

@Parnikkapore @Gargron i'm actually personally uninterested in full decentralization because servers are just a lot more convenient as essentially being user agents. and especially with activitypub the cool thing is that it's still just basic web stuff.

hubzilla has cool implementations but terrible advertising. "nomadic identity" is just content addressing + data replication, which isn't complex. we're halfway there just by passing around objects; we just need to be able to consistently refer

@Gargron Idea: joinmastodon.org automatically and seamlessly forwards the registration link to a curated set of general interest instances. Not perfect, but better than everyone piling on one. And the list can grow in time.

What do you think?

@aral This is on my 2.8 roadmap wishlist. All the building blocks are there, it just needs to be assembled.

@Gargron: Great! I hope to create a registration UI inside of Hyperspace sometime so that anyone can select and instance and register with it.

@Gargron @aral you could even use the country of the IP ;)address of the visitor (or the preferred language of the browser) to choose instance in one's country or language by default ;)

@vincib
Language of browser would be better than IP. Some of us use VPNs
@Gargron @aral

@Gargron "It does feel like the growth of the fediverse slows down when mastodon.social is unavailable." do you have numbers to back this up, or it just feels like?

@Gargron I can only guess that the active number of people coincide with people using the mastodon.social server to test it out, and understanding how Mastodon works, and then either leaving it altogether or finding a new instance to call home. Just saying decentralized creates a lot of confusion, and is something easier to learn by experiencing I think.

@Gargron Seems to me that if people have the perception that you "have to be on a certain instance" to "reach the right people", then that's a design challenge worthy of the platform to take on to solve...

@Gargron two things come to mind :
- half-life of accounts in .social, meaning, after X months, people are forced to create an account elsewhere and move. This solves the issue of uncertainty when signing in
- demo mode : I feel like a huge number of sign-ups in masto.donte.com.br were people wanting to check out what was mastodon after all. So they do and they drop out, if there was a demo instance, maybe it would solve this

@Gargron i have taken zero time to research the issue and just go by what people in my proximity scream about, vaguely, on top of my own weird personal biases and axes to grind that i am projecting into this situation, and have come to the conclusion that this is Bad, you're a Techbro, and you're cancelled, and will be even more so next time you do <thing> on regarding mastodon.social,

@Gargron When I was changing instances, I noticed that many of the general purpose instances listed on joinmastodon as open are actually closed.

@Gargron I really hope full account migration is still in the works. If you could move and bring all your followers with you this would help so much in choice paralysis when first signing up.

@Gargron I would like to see something similar to signing up for an email service. You should be able to register and choose your username and domain at the same time. That‘s how Most E-Mail providers do it. It brings a kind of personalization to the party. Of course one instance wouldn’t have multiple domains 😄

Also, how about you can do that from every instance? Just have this exact instance preselected and let the user actually choose the @username@domain.tld handle.

@Gargron Now that I read this blog post I feel inclined to switch to academia.social. But I do not know how to do that, nor what are the consequences. So there is still something left for me learn. Please keep educating.

@Gargron
IMO a bad decision. Better is to create a second mastodon.social; like 2.mastodon.social or mastodon2.social.

@jeroenpraat @Gargron This preserves the 'same domain feeling' that (some) people want, but not very elegantly.

Surely we can come up with a way to have one domain but preserving the crucial decentralized parts and have different people serve a 'mastodon.social' instance. (I would volunteer to run one)

It's not the "amount of users per domain", but "amount of users per instance" that is important for decentralisation.

@mrb @Gargron AFAIK instances are bound to their domain names and you can't serve multiple instances from the same domain name.

@jeroenpraat @Gargron I'm sure that is true currently. I'm advocating changes to create the option, at least from a user perpective.

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