NGI Supports Open, Interchangeable, Decentralized, and Trust-Based Internet Applications through Fediverse Projects such as Mastodon

In recent weeks, we’ve seen a lot of news about the popular messaging service Twitter following its change of ownership and actions taken under its new leadership. Some sources even go so far as to call it “the great exodus,” and major civil rights organizations, including the NAACP and the Anti-Defamation League, have even called for a boycott.

Of course, Twitter is not an isolated case. The Internet and the original decentralized vision behind the Internet has suffered from large-scale industry consolidation. As part of the Next Generation Internet Initiative, we are working on alternative futures for the internet firm, reliable and Resistant internet. These alternative futures have one thing in common: they are based technology generals: open standards, free and open source software and hardware, and open data. These are the ideal ingredients for restoring the health of the Internet, as they empower individual users and society to control their own Internet services rather than elevate a single business entity to a dominant superposition.

The main component of the “social” space is a standard produced by the World Wide Web Consortium called W3C ActivityPub. ActivityPub allows a person to have their presence in the word Fediverse and to actually have your own presence as a user – you can set up your own internet domain, set your own policies and community rules, create your own privacy settings, and use the same account everywhere to communicate with others.

One of the most popular Fediverse projects is Mastodon. Mastodon created quite a global buzz: in a short period of time, Mastodon gained more than 500,000 new users, and today it has hit more than 1 million active users. The number of independent servers for Mastodon has also doubled recently. Unlike traditional social media, Mastodon is not a single website or service. To use it, you choose an account with any provider that implements the ActivityPub protocol (or run this program yourself), which allows you to interact with the entire ecosystem on your own terms. Users can post text (500 character limit), images, links, and videos, and their Toots are published in strict chronological order (there is no algorithm for ranking Toots) without ads.

Building the Next Generation Internet with Open Standards and Free and Open Source Software

The European Digital Decade for 2030 aims to empower businesses and people in a people-centred, sustainable and more prosperous digital future; decisions to support digital commons become urgent to preserve the original vision of a non-monopolistic and non-privatized Internet.

By offering citizens an alternative to mainstream commercial players, ActivityPub provides the conceptual building blocks for cross-cutting collaboration. It also opens the door to the widespread adoption of Fediverse—turning the internet back into a decentralized infrastructure that can accommodate diversity, a freer, and more democratic alternative to today’s status quo.

NGI supports many different Fediverse tools, such as Mastodon, PeerTube, Pixelfed, GoToSocial, Lemmy, and Owncast – each with its own use cases. Fediverse’s strength lies in its diversity: Mastodon examples are websites, but also PeerTube, PixelFed, etc. There are also servers that provide services. Fediverse may be seen by the user as “just another class of web pages”. PixelFed is more photo sharing oriented (like Instagram). Lemmy is a great alternative to Reddit. Owncast allows live streaming like Twitch. Each of these is valuable in its own right. Together, they offer a real alternative for users who want to get away from the online social networks of big corporations

Some of the more specialized efforts receiving funding from NGI programs include:

  • Castopodis is an advanced open source podcast hosting solution for anyone who can connect to fediverse.
  • Corteza is a low-code platform for building cloud-based web applications.
  • Funkwhale is a free, decentralized and open source audio streaming and sharing platform.
  • Inventaire is a free book exchange web app that shares knowledge about books and helps people connect to discuss, give, share and sell them.
  • Lemmyi is an open source, easily self-hostable link aggregator that you can use to share and discover exciting new ideas and discuss them with the world. You can also log in with Lemmur
  • Mobilizonis is a federated tool for finding, creating and organizing events – allowing community events to benefit from greater visibility and participation.
  • Owncastis is a proprietary, open source live streaming platform for people to easily host and manage their own live broadcasts.
  • PeerTube is a free, open and federated video platform. Video is a very popular content class and also accounts for a significant portion of internet traffic, PeerTube significantly expands its hosting options.
  • Pixelfedis is an open source and decentralized photo sharing platform, similar to services like Instagram. You can also use the PixelDroid mobile client
  • XWiki is a modern and extensible open source wiki system that allows you to track individual wiki pages and allows people to post comments without creating a new account.

In addition, the Drupal and WordPress ActivityPub plugins bridge between ActivityPub and other protocols (such as XMPP, a vendor-neutral standard for instant messaging, or the Matrix protocol).

ForgeFed is set to use ActivityPub to bundle software spoofs. There are other interesting methods and protocols for federation that we also support, such as Hubzilla and Spritely. NGI’s portfolio includes many other projects in building federated services that use standards such as XMPP, SIP, and others.

More recently, NGI will continue to develop diversity and decentralization of the internet infrastructure. We see the potential of a sustainable open environment for our societies and economies, celebrate our values, encourage creativity and achieve a reliable, secure and energy-efficient next-generation internet. Explore NGI solutions to see more than 700 funded innovators reinventing the internet to reach its full human potential for all generations.

The Next Generation Internet interacts with citizens and constituencies directly through the established EU Mastodon, becoming part of Fediverse, the largest alternative to centralized platforms based on federated, open source and standardized technology.

Are you involved in a project that contributes to the future development of ActivityPub and Fediverse tools? If so, we encourage you to attend one of our NGI Open Calls – let us help you build a better web. We look forward to your ideas and energy!

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