What’s the Fediverse?

cape cod marketing firmby Brittany McSorley

Gather round, everyone. It’s time to learn about a new internet phenomenon: the “fediverse.”


This term may have come to your attention when Meta launched Threads, a less problematic version of Twitter, over the summer. If you’re one of the people who gave in to the temptation to join Threads through your Instagram account, you’ll have seen a disclaimer reading: “Future versions of Threads will work within the fediverse, a new type of social media network that allows people to follow and interact with each other on different platforms.”


Obviously, ignoring the fine print before and gleefully handing over our data is a time-honored American tradition, which is why millions of users joined Threads almost instantly after its debut. Better late than never though, so let’s figure out what the fediverse is.


According to Mashable, “The fediverse, short for ‘federated universe,’ is a decentralized social media network. The fediverse allows you to have an account on one service and post on other services … The primary goal of the fediverse is to allow users to communicate and interact with each other on different platforms and servers while retaining control over their data and identity because they aren’t giving it all to one individual company.”


Oh my god tech stuff is so boring to read. Basically, the fediverse is a group of independently hosted social networks, most using open-source software, that are connected to one another. Some examples are Pixelfed, Lemmy, PeerTube, and Mastodon, and yikes, I could have just made up four insane company names, but I didn’t, those are real.


The goal here seems to be shifting from a world of Facebook friends and Instagram followers to a world of, well, just followers in general. In the fediverse, any app you use will still have its own layout, tools, and difficult-to-decipher policies, but you’ll be able to access the same audience and see the same content no matter which platform you’re using.


Not to sound like I’m aging out of these conversations, but it sounds the Federation in Star Trek! But more sinister, probably, because it’s the internet.


The online landscape has been trending this way for a while. Back in the Dark Ages, you couldn’t even post to Facebook and Instagram at the same time, but now the two are interconnected in the way fediverse networks hope to be. So why the Threads disclaimer? Threads is taking things a step further and working with platforms that aren’t owned by Meta. You can already post on Mastadon from your Threads account, for example. (That sentence would send a medieval peasant into fits of insanity. Look how far we’ve come!) Mastadon, funnily enough, is another alternative to Twitter.


Is this strange and redundant? Maybe. On the other hand, it’s hard to move your community between platforms when new ones pop up all the time. If I already follow you on Instagram, I’m probably not seeking out your YouTube channel. The fediverse would alleviate, or possibly eliminate, this issue for content creators.


We’ll see!