Fediverse Has A Discovery Problem And That’s Not Good

Can the fediverse with content discovery problem be good for everyone?

The Fediverse (a portmanteau of “federation” and “universe”) is the ensemble of federated (i.e. interconnected) servers that are used for web publishing (i.e. social networking, microblogging, blogging, or websites) and file hosting, but which, while independently hosted can mutually intercommunicate with each-other. On different servers (instances), users can create so called identities. These identities are able to communicate over the boundaries of the instances because the software running on the servers support one or more communication protocols which follow the open standard.

[Wikipedia]

First let’s take a look at Mastodon, one of the major players in free microblogging (others include Misskey and Plemora) which provides functionality similar to Twitter. One of the key difference is the free software from Mastodon/Misskey/Plemora which can be independently hosted (using your own website and domain name) instead of simply relying on another brand (twitter) and going to their website (twitter.com).

Your family can have their own website and can interact with another community website that might be music related and can also interact with a website that has topics about food. Follow friends, discover new topics, publish (links, pictures, text, video) and communicate to everyone on the fediverse. If this all sounds good so far, we’ll agree with you. The problem right now is with content discovery which we ran into recently.

“Mastodon servers can exchange information with each other, allowing users to interact seamlessly.”

But if a member of one server can’t find the same information, how can everyone interact with it? The quick answer is, YOU CAN’T. If you’re on Twitter, everyone is connected to that one service and will see the same publicly viewable content. When you are on the fediverse, technically the servers exchange the information with each other and that information should be the same throughout but IT’S NOT. What’s going on? We don’t know the technical limitations or details but a community member did provide their thoughts

thats how it works here. If your not following someone from your instance and no one on your instance has interacted with that person before then they are invisible to you. If you want to load the post in mastodon copy the url to it and put it in the mastodon search bar and it will load in the interface. this is just how the fediverse works currently.

[wakest]

There lies the problem and fediverse is broken because of that. If the “network is interoperable using a suite of standard protocols”, then the average user from one server to another should not have to figure out how to view the same content. There has to be a way to lower the barrier so more can participate. Nothing is perfect and the fediverse continues to grow, which is wonderful. To some, this may not be a problem but we think it’s a big one.

What do you think?

Update: at first we thought it was due to the different software on the server (Misskey-Mastodon) but we found out that even Mastodon-Mastodon has this issue. Join the discussion below to check out the images and see what we are talking about.

Notable Replies

  1. To show you an example of the discovery problem with fediverse, we used tag search as a guest (not logged in) on three different sites

    In photo 1, the first post is shared but does not show up in photo 2 and 3
    In photo 2, the first post is shared but does not show up in photo 1 and 3

    Why is this a problem? For the person sharing the building photo and thinking it has a wide reach across the fediverse, it only appears in one place which doesn’t sound like “servers can exchange information with each other” and other members on different servers won’t be able to discover this.

  2. One of my favorite projects is Pixelfed @dansup so I have a bookmarked page of the updates.

    Using a specific date for both, there are 16 posts on Misskey @syuilo and 17 posts on Mastodon @gargron

    When I look at Misskey then it’s a much bigger difference: 21 posts on Misskey and only 13 posts on Mastodon so it doesn’t seem like a good way to get updates

  3. Your content can be descovered but you first need to build up an audience. Once many instances are following yours this problem mostly goes away. -fedisupport

    That’s the problem! On big social media sites, content can be discovered no matter how many followers or even NO followers. Instances using open standard and common protocols should mean that all content are distributed freely and available to all. No hoops to jump through

    But if theres no hoops to jump through then the potential for spam and abuse increases 10 fold. If you ad a relay it solves almost all the problems your worried about. But then your handing off the decision making process of federating to someone else. -fedisupport

    Not disagreeing. Who’s to judge what is consider spam and what is not without providing the opportunity to “voice”. Instance and the community will judge. Isn’t that what makes the fediverse great?

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