Like any network, social networks are organised differentially.
In centrally set up social networks, all news and media are in one hand. In a centralised network, one provider controls the software and the servers. This allows the provider to apply his rules. He influences content and processes. Consciously or unconsciously!
The term Fediverse [^en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fediverse] is composed of
Federated Universe and stands for a decentralised network. Anyone can communicate with others. I reach out to people in every Fediverse instance. It doesn't matter whether they are with my provider or with someone else. The administrator's influence is limited to simplifying access to content by configuring relay servers and federation rules. Nevertheless, everyone is responsible for what they read and share and decides for themselves.
I'll try a comparison with the road network. Regardless of whether I enter the network via a motorway, a private toll road or a federal highway: many roads lead to Rome. One is not limited to one route. There are several options/instances and I choose. If I live in a small town on a local road, I get in via that entry. It is funded by taxes. In a mountainous region where there are only toll roads, the rules are different.
The Fediverse cannot be associated with one or a few people, but with all people. The services I know are exclusively open source. Everyone has the possibility to view the code of the software, to use it or to contribute to it. So there is not just one link to a service in the Fediverse, just as there is only one link to Twitter [en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twitter]. Instead, there are countless instances that are connected to each other via the internet: It is a large, decentralised network.
The business model known from other platforms, where money is earned with data and advertising, does not exist on Fediverse. Each instance decides for themselves how they will finance themselves. For example, through crowdfunding, public funds, donations or a user fee. Because of the decentralised orientation, advertising and data are not lucrative. Since profit-making is not in the foreground and the work is mostly done on a voluntary basis, less money is needed. So it is possible to create a space with friendly conditions for networking and exchange.
When I look at how Fediverse works compared to the central platforms, I conclude that the former is clearly the better model.
I have only been active there for a short time and share my first impression here. Until now, I have avoided social networks on the internet. That changed in February 2022. More and more often I read in the news that reports from Ukraine are not independently checkable. In recent years, I have had contact with programmers living in Ukraine in open source projects. I was interested in their situation and therefore read the post in social networks. I don't know the people personally, but I felt connected to them through previous digital communication and I trusted their contributions. At some point I came to the conclusion that an information exchange via social networks is important in today's world.
I continued to feel uncomfortable in the centralised form. That's why I chose the decentralised variant for myself.
The discussion culture in Fediverse is different: it is more interested and constructive. If you share something that has a mistake in it, you are corrected and not laughed at or shouted down. In my opinion, this is because the structure of the network is different. Quarrels happen - but the mechanisms in Fediverse ensure that they don't get out of hand.
There is a shared responsibility for the online space. Similar to barcamps like the JoomlaCamp[^joomlacamp.de/]. You organise a day together that is beneficial for everyone. It's absurd to complain at the end. Everyone has it in their own hands. Everyone has the opportunity to help organise the shared online space: Support newcomers, share things, make suggestions for improvement, report bugs, even code along on Github.
I experience the Fediverse as multi-faceted. I think that's because I'm responsible for what's presented to me and not an external algorithm. So it happens more often that I come across new and different points of view.
I am curious to see whether the Fediverse will become established in society. Whether it will succeed in democratising the net. I think it's like shopping in a health food shop or a discount shop. You don't change the whole world, just a small part of it.
Mastodon is a software in the Fediverse similar to the popular central provider Twitter. Some things are called differently. Instead of tweeting, it tröts. Otherwise, there are many things in common: for example, hashtags, sharing, liking, followers and short messages.
There is no one Mastodon provider. This is similar to other open source software: there is not one Joomla, but many installations of Joomla on different servers managed by different people. Usually, the first thing you discover is one of the large Mastodon instances. In terms of decentralisation, it makes more sense to choose the provider carefully.
An overview of the possible instances can be found at instances.social[^instances.social].