With the release of Meta’s new Threads app, Fediverse is about to get millions of new inhabitants. Everyone who signs up for Threads is alerted they will soon be able to “follow and interact with people on other fediverse platforms, such as Mastodon.” So what, exactly, is this Fediverse?

Worries in recent years over centralized control, data privacy, algorithmic manipulation and misinformation in social media have led to the rise of alternate decentralized platforms.

Fediverse — a combination of “federation” and “universe” — is a network of these decentralized social platforms, each running on different software but adhering to a common set of protocols and standards. Unlike traditional social networks such as Facebook or Twitter, which operate as centralized entities, Fediverse distributes control among multiple servers and communities.

Fediverse functions through the use of open standards and protocols such as ActivityPub, which facilitates the communication and interaction between different platforms. Each social network in Fediverse is hosted on its own server, or instance. These instances can be owned and operated by individuals, organizations, or communities. Any Fediverse user with a little technical know-how can create their own instance and commmunity in Fediverse.

Within a specific instance, users can interact with each other, post content, and engage in conversations, as on a conventional social network. However, in Fediverse, users can follow and interact with users on other instances or platforms, creating a diverse and interconnected social experience.

One of the unique aspects of Fediverse is its approach to user identities. Unlike centralized platforms that typically require users to create a single identity tied to their platform, Fediverse allows users to have multiple identities across different instances.

When users join Fediverse, they can create accounts on instances that resonate with their interests, values, or preferred communities. Each instance functions as a separate social network, with its own user base and identity. Users can choose different display names, avatars, and even biographies for each instance they join, allowing them to express different facets of their personality or engage in specific online communities.

This approach offers users greater flexibility and control over their online presence. It enables individuals to curate their experiences, participate in various communities, and manage their privacy preferences according to their needs. It also helps foster a sense of belonging and authenticity within specific communities while maintaining connections across the wider Fediverse network.

For all its strengths, Fediverse has one potential pitfall. Since anyone can create an instance, these instances may vary significantly in terms of moderation practices, content policies, and user experiences. However, the federated nature of Fediverse allows users to choose instances that align with their values and block or report problematic instances.

Ultimately, Fediverse platforms represent the future of social media and may offer users a refreshing change. To learn more about Fediverse and explore its instances, visit Fediverse.party.

If you are a website owner, I would encourage you to consider building your audience on and sharing your content to Fediverse platforms. If you have a WordPress site, the task is made simple by the ActivityPub Plugin, which implements the ActivityPub protocol on your site.

Automattic placed its bet on the future of Fediverse, acquiring the ActivityPub Plugin in March and bringing author Matthias Pfefferle onboard to continue developing for federated platforms.