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posted by hubie on Thursday November 17, @01:46AM   Printer-friendly
from the be-careful-what-you-wish-for dept.

https://www.wired.com/story/the-man-behind-mastodon-eugen-rochko-built-it-for-this-moment/

Eugen Rochko looks exhausted. The 29-year-old German programmer is the founder of Mastodon, a distributed alternative to Twitter that has exploded in popularity in recent weeks as Elon Musk's ownership of the platform has rained chaos on its users.

Rochko began developing Mastodon shortly after leaving university in 2016. He was a fan of Twitter but wanted to create a platform not controlled by any single company or person, reasoning that online communication is too important to be at the whim of commercial interests or CEOs. He believed that the lack of profit motive and canny design could discourage harassment and abuse, and provide users more control.

[...] Mastodon grew slowly after the first code was released in 2017, appealing mostly to free software enthusiasts. Then Elon Musk took control of Twitter for $44 billion. His promises to weaken moderation, deep staff cuts, and chaotic changes to the platform turned many dedicated Twitter users off the platform. In the past few weeks, Rochko says, some 800,000 new Mastodon accounts have been created, overwhelming popular servers and flooding existing users' timelines with introductions, questions, and complaints from newbies. Last year, donations to the nonprofit that runs Mastodon and where Rochko is CEO totaled 55,000 euros; it spent only 23,000 euros.

Since Musk took over Twitter, Rochko has been working long hours to keep his own server, Mastodon.Social, running, while also preparing a major upgrade to Mastodon, but he took time to videochat with WIRED from his home in Germany. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity. [...]


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  • (Score: 4, Funny) by Mykl on Thursday November 17, @03:07AM

    by Mykl (1112) on Thursday November 17, @03:07AM (#1280150)

    Elon Musk has secretly invested heavily in Mastodon!

  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by Rosco P. Coltrane on Thursday November 17, @04:05AM (17 children)

    by Rosco P. Coltrane (4757) on Thursday November 17, @04:05AM (#1280152)

    Mastodon servers are run by volunteers. As more users join them, the volunteers will either have to upgrade or the users will start having a shitty experience.

    And then little my little, users will flock to the best working servers, which will of course be run by corporations with enough money to buy the hardware and foot the electricity and internet bill. And where does the money come from in a business model doesn't pay a cent to use the service? Corporate surveillance and advertising.

    Aaaand... we're back to square one.

    Enjoy your social network utopia while it last, because it's not gonna last.

    • (Score: 4, Interesting) by progo on Thursday November 17, @04:46AM (9 children)

      by progo (6356) on Thursday November 17, @04:46AM (#1280158) Homepage

      And then little my little, users will flock to the best working servers, which will of course be run by corporations with enough money to buy the hardware and foot the electricity and internet bill.

      I've heard this story before -- federated SMTP email. :^) Not exactly back to square one. At this point, anyone can TRY to run their own federated SMTP node exchanging email with Yahoo, Microsoft, and Google, but keeping your node off the blacklists is a full-time job. And running a node from a "residential" address is impossible -- unless you don't want to talk to the rest of the network.

      Still, there's the possibility that any clique, club, or group of friends can setup their own Mastodon or Pleroma server and just not care who does or doesn't federate with them. The Internet backbone is still basically open. … Until the government decides to fix that, for our safety or for the children or something.

      • (Score: 4, Interesting) by bradley13 on Thursday November 17, @06:40AM (4 children)

        by bradley13 (3053) Subscriber Badge on Thursday November 17, @06:40AM (#1280166) Homepage Journal

        Yes, running your own mail server is no longer practical. That is a shame. But still: there are hundreds of providers to choose from. It's still "federated".

        If Mastadon is a huge success, and goes the same way, that's still a success.

        Personal note: I signed up for Mastadon once, years ago. Didn't see the point, just like I never understood why anyone wants a Twitter account. Oh, well...

        --
        Everyone is somebody else's weirdo.
        • (Score: 5, Informative) by NotSanguine on Thursday November 17, @10:01AM (2 children)

          Personal note: I signed up for Mastadon once, years ago. Didn't see the point, just like I never understood why anyone wants a Twitter account. Oh, well...

          I have no interest in that myself. But the Fediverse [wikipedia.org] is much more than just Mastodon. Mastodon is just one platform (a twitter-like microblogging platform) of many using the ActivityPub [wikipedia.org] protocol.

          Other platforms (all of which can federate to share users and content) include:
          hubzilla [hubzilla.org]:

          Hubzilla is a powerful platform for creating interconnected websites featuring a decentralized identity, communications, and permissions framework built using common webserver technology.

          Misskey [github.com]:

          Misskey is an open source, decentralized social media platform that's free forever!

          Diaspora [diasporafoundation.org]:

          The online social world where you are in control

          GNUSocial [gnusocial.network]:

          The free/libre software social networking platform.

          FunkWhale [funkwhale.audio]:

          Funkwhale is a community-driven project that lets you listen and share music and audio within a decentralized, open network.

          Friendica [friendi.ca]:

          A Decentralized Social Network

          Nextcloud [nextcloud.com]:
          Open Source sharing and collaboration platform

          PeerTube [joinpeertube.org]:

          PeerTube, developed by Framasoft, is the free and decentralized alternative to video platforms, providing you over 600,000 videos published by 150,000 users and viewed over 70 million times

          PixelFed [pixelfed.org]:

          A fresh take on photo sharing. Get inspired with beautiful photos captured by people around the world.

          Pleroma [pleroma.social]:

          Free and open communication for everyone. Pleroma is social networking software compatible with other Fediverse software such as Misskey, Pixelfed, Mastodon and many others

          Mobilizon [mobilizon.org]:

          a free-libre and federated software for event and group management.

          WriteFreely [writefreely.org]:

          An open source platform for building a writing space on the web.

          Castopod [castopod.org]:

          Self-host your podcasts with ease, keep control over what you create and talk to your audience without any middleman. Your podcast and your audience belong to you and you only.

          And a bunch more too. All of which you can host yourself if you like and share just with those you choose or federate with other instances. Or you can join an existing instance that's already (or not) federated.

          Twitter is lame (as is, I guess. Mastodon too ) but there's lots of other stuff out there in the Fediverse.

          --
          No, no, you're not thinking; you're just being logical. --Niels Bohr
          • (Score: 3, Informative) by NotSanguine on Thursday November 17, @10:03AM

            And a bunch more [axbom.com] too. All of which you can host yourself if you like and share just with those you choose or federate with other instances. Or you can join an existing instance that's already (or not) federated.

            Oops. I screwed up the link. Fixed above.

            --
            No, no, you're not thinking; you're just being logical. --Niels Bohr
          • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 17, @12:07PM

            by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 17, @12:07PM (#1280185)

            I've heard Diaspora is not a good example because they appear to have little motivation in federating with anyone else. The services that do federate with it have had to reverse engineer things to get it to work.

        • (Score: 2) by mcgrew on Thursday November 17, @08:39PM

          by mcgrew (701) <publish@mcgrewbooks.com> on Thursday November 17, @08:39PM (#1280243) Homepage Journal

          And it's not like hosting is expensive, unless you're running a site like Soylent. I have three web sites, my internet access costs more than my hosting.

          --
          Older than dirt? Kid, I was a BETA TESTER for dirt! We never did get all the bugs out.
      • (Score: 5, Informative) by coolgopher on Thursday November 17, @07:54AM (3 children)

        by coolgopher (1157) Subscriber Badge on Thursday November 17, @07:54AM (#1280168)

        At this point, anyone can TRY to run their own federated SMTP node exchanging email with Yahoo, Microsoft, and Google, but keeping your node off the blacklists is a full-time job. And running a node from a "residential" address is impossible -- unless you don't want to talk to the rest of the network.

        I've run my SMTP server from home for over two decades now and have not have any trouble staying off blacklists. Set up MSA properly so you don't relay accidentally, add SPF and DKIM on top, toss in amavis/clamav and it mostly runs itself. Sometimes a package upgrade will turn out to have some incompatibility with my config, but that's rare.

        • (Score: 2) by NotSanguine on Thursday November 17, @10:07AM (2 children)

          I've run my SMTP server from home for over two decades now and have not have any trouble staying off blacklists. Set up MSA properly so you don't relay accidentally, add SPF and DKIM on top, toss in amavis/clamav and it mostly runs itself. Sometimes a package upgrade will turn out to have some incompatibility with my config, but that's rare.

          Same here. I haven't had any deliverability problems in at least 10-15 years. Not sure why folks complain about this. I haven't had problems with stuff like that in a *long* tme.

          --
          No, no, you're not thinking; you're just being logical. --Niels Bohr
          • (Score: 4, Interesting) by Thexalon on Thursday November 17, @11:39AM (1 child)

            by Thexalon (636) Subscriber Badge on Thursday November 17, @11:39AM (#1280182)

            Same here. I haven't had any deliverability problems in at least 10-15 years. Not sure why folks complain about this.

            I'm involved in a non-profit that, while it was running its own mail system, had a serious problem with mail delivery because part of how that non-profit worked was email mailing lists. Which means you need to send out an identical email to about 1500 people at a time on a regular basis. Which is exactly the sort of thing a spammer would do, which makes it the kind of thing that less-sophisticated spam blockers would block if they didn't understand where it was coming from. Yes, we added SPF and DKIM, and still got blocked by about 30% of the recipients. Which was a pretty significant problem in running the group because those emails were how we were distributing things like "Here's the link to vote for the officers next year ..."

            As soon as we switched to GMail, the problems stopped. So either we were wildly misconfigured, or our recipients were more likely to trust GMail because it was GMail.

            --
            The only thing that stops a bad guy with a compiler is a good guy with a compiler.
            • (Score: 2) by cmdrklarg on Thursday November 17, @10:02PM

              by cmdrklarg (5048) Subscriber Badge on Thursday November 17, @10:02PM (#1280255)

              Trust Gmail? That's where the vast majority of the phishing and spear phishing emails come from these days.

              --
              Answer now is don't give in; aim for a new tomorrow.
    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by progo on Thursday November 17, @04:49AM (2 children)

      by progo (6356) on Thursday November 17, @04:49AM (#1280160) Homepage

      And where does the money come from in a business model doesn't pay a cent to use the service? Corporate surveillance and advertising.

      And why shouldn't a Mastodon server charge its users for access as actual customers, if that's what it takes to have a non-shitty Mastodon server that people want to be on? There are lots of Internet businesses that work like that; you just have to look for them, or build one.

      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by pTamok on Thursday November 17, @08:04AM (1 child)

        by pTamok (3042) on Thursday November 17, @08:04AM (#1280170)

        Yes. Oddly enough, quite a few businesses pay for their email. If Mastodon gets critical mass, I can see businesses paying someone else to run a Mastodon server for them. The fact that it is federated allows you to move to a different provider if you are unhappy with your current one: something difficult to do with Twitter, as there is only one provider of Twitter services. Monopolists really don't like federated services with open protocols.

        Perhaps people will pick up on Diaspora [wikipedia.org] (Facebook 'replacement') next (https://diasporafoundation.org/ [diasporafoundation.org].

        • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 17, @12:14PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 17, @12:14PM (#1280186)

          Diaspora doesn't support the ActivityPub protocol [diasporafoundation.org], so YMMV whether you can easily interact with it from other services in the fediverse.

    • (Score: 5, Interesting) by bzipitidoo on Thursday November 17, @05:19PM (3 children)

      by bzipitidoo (4388) Subscriber Badge on Thursday November 17, @05:19PM (#1280221) Journal

      As opposed to what's happening with Twitter? A billionaire who already has way too much to do running an edgy electric car company, a space exploration and space tourism company, and a few other things, hasn't got the attention to spare to run yet another. He nevertheless seems to be giving his new purchase most of his attention, and, sadly, making a big mess, because it seems his ideas on how Twitter should be run are at best half baked. The Twitter experience has become much shittier.

      As others have hinted, that it's possible for so much value to be bungled away is a problem with our systems. This purchase shouldn't have been possible. There are some things that should not be owned or for sale.

      Social network utopias can be stronger than you think. For instance, the postal service in the US is as old as the nation itself, and still operating.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 18, @04:26AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 18, @04:26AM (#1280297)

        "This purchase shouldn't have been possible. There are some things that should not be owned or for sale."

        It's just a domain name... let it go.

      • (Score: 2) by Mykl on Friday November 18, @05:36AM (1 child)

        by Mykl (1112) on Friday November 18, @05:36AM (#1280300)

        I agree that there are things that should not be sold or owned. Some examples are National Parks, Water Reservoirs (can you imagine?) and Police Forces.

        Twitter is not in the same category as those.

        The world will not end if people can't tweet their thoughts out to others. If Twitter collapses tomorrow, it will most likely mean that a bunch of people suddenly have a little more time on their hands. It won't hold up progress in the sciences. It won't eliminate partisan politics. It won't lead to the overthrow of a democratically elected government (actually it will probably reduce that possibility!). It won't affect the stock market (beyond Twitter stock itself). It won't stop the war in Ukraine.

        • (Score: 2) by bzipitidoo on Friday November 18, @08:59AM

          by bzipitidoo (4388) Subscriber Badge on Friday November 18, @08:59AM (#1280318) Journal

          If you "s/Twitter/US Postal Service/", does that argument still hold?

          The USPS screams for modernization. That they are not in the business of handling at the very least email is a massive failure to modernize. Instead, they're busy figuring whether their next fleet of delivery vehicles should be all electric or gas, so they can keep handling communications on paper. That question would be somewhat moot if they had moved into electronic communications. Would need the fleet mainly for parcel service.

          If the USPS could handle tweets, all this Twitter takeover drama would not have happened.

  • (Score: -1, Flamebait) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 17, @01:42PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 17, @01:42PM (#1280192)

    as Elon Musk's ownership of the platform has rained chaos on its users

    Rained chaos means that the far left knows that the cancel culture, censorship, banning speech because they dont' like it, baseless accusations, men can have periods, Hunter Bidens laptop does not exist, and any other censoship free-for-all has come to an end on Twitter, and the loony far left fringe types are crying and behaving like toddlers who don't get their way. Remember, Democrats are flipping out because Elon simply wants to bring a balance to Twitter, and when you have Free Speech these groups no longer can control the speech.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 17, @02:58PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 17, @02:58PM (#1280205)

      ...Elon simply wants to bring a balance to Twitter...

      "I am altering the deal. Pray I do not alter it any further."
      -Elon

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