Fediverse: The Future of Open-Source Social Media Platforms

Introduction To Fediverse

Social media used to be the place where people with similar interests used to interact and post about news/gossip or some thoughts that they want to share. Platforms such as Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, and Instagram have dominated the social media landscape with their diverse topics, groups, pages, and Subreddits.

Many third-party websites and Linux distributions use Reddit as their support forums. Unfortunately, these platforms appear to have lost their charm recently.

Meta has been criticized for its data collection practices (and often has been part of data breaches), Twitter has changed a lot since its acquisition by Elon Musk due to various policy changes regarding Verification and Rate limiting.

Recently, Reddit has gone public, and just like Twitter, they have also made some policy changes to their API access which essentially kills all third-party applications. In response to these API changes, numerous Subreddits staged a protest by going dark from June 12th to 14th.

Some Subreddits went dark indefinitely and some of the Subreddit Moderators have received a message from the Reddit Admins to either open their Subreddit or they will be removed from the Moderator post.

It must be noted that the Moderators do their work free of cost and do not receive any compensation from Reddit for their work. Moreover, Reddit’s official Android application does not properly works, as users have regularly complained about their Video player not working properly.

If you’re seeking an alternative, the Fediverse might be the solution. Short for Federated Universe, The Fediverse is not controlled by any CEO of a tech media giant and offers you an algorithm-free and Ad-free experience. There are multiple Fediverse platforms such as Pixelfed (Alternative to Instagram), Mastodon (alternative to Twitter), and Lemmy (Alternative to Reddit) and you can give all of them a try and see if it works for you as an alternative. In this guide, I will go in the depths of all these Social Media platforms and analyze how it works and help you get started with these platforms as well.

Understanding How the Fediverse Works

Any Fediverse platform has a lot of ‘instances’ or websites that are interconnected to every other instance. Think of instances as your e-mail provider. You can create an account on Gmail, but you can send e-mails to any other e-mail provider, such as Microsoft Mail or Yahoo. Similarly, if you have an account on any instance, then you can follow accounts, like or boost (similar to retweet) other’s posts as well as post to any other community (similar to Subreddit) on any other instance as well.

So which instance is the best for you? Well, that depends on your interests. Many instances are created, but not limited to specific interests, they have their own rules regarding NSFW language and posts. Let’s take a look at these platforms one by one.

Pixelfed: The Open-Source Instagram Alternative

Pixelfed is the alternative to Instagram, the Image-centric social media platform. Currently, this platform hosts a variety of content, including nature images, stills, and other creative photographs. It is very reminiscent of the early days of Instagram, and it currently supports stories, posts, liking others’ posts, viewing your own post history, etc.

Fediverse's Instagram - Pixelfed's UI
Pixelfed’s UI

As you can see on the top-left side, there are three ‘feeds’, One is your Home feed, and only posts from you and the people you follow will appear in this timeline. If the people you follow boost someone else’s post, then they will also appear in your Home feed. Your local feed consists of posts from people from your Instance, from here you can discover and follow other people if you find someone’s posts interesting. The Global feed will show you posts from every Pixelfed and Mastodon instance.

One interesting thing you should know is that if you have hashtags in your post caption, then that post will appear in the Global feed as well, thus increasing your audience. If you don’t want people from other instances to see your post, then don’t include hashtags in your caption.

There Are Currently A Lot Of Pixelfed Instances Which You Can Join
There Are Currently A Lot Of Pixelfed Instances Which You Can Join

The main Pixelfed instance is Pixel.social but there are other instances which you can also join depending upon your language preferences as well, Just go here and select whichever instance you like and create your account. If you are looking for Mobile applications, then you have very limited options. Both the iOS and Android applications are currently in the Beta phase as of 2 July, when this article was written. Speaking from personal experience, the Pixelfed Android application is currently good-enough, except for speed issues here and there. In the meantime, you can use any of the Mastodon applications to browse Pixelfed, but they lack the Instagram-like interface and looks more Twitter-like.

Embrace Mastodon: The Fediverse Version of Twitter

Following Twitter’s acquisition, many users have migrated to alternative platforms, including Mastodon, which is the Fediverse’s microblogging platform. You get the three feeds here as well which are Your Home feed, Your Local Instance feed, as well as the ‘Federated’ or Global feed where you can view contents from every other instance.

Mastodon's Interface
Mastodon’s Interface

It is just like Twitter, except it is open-source, without any ads and algorithms, but it does not allow you to ‘quote’ someone’s Toot (Yes they are called toots on Mastodon instead of Tweets). Just like Pixelfed, there are numerous instances from which you can join one, and follow accounts from any other instance. However, Mastodon.social is the largest instance of all of them.

There Are Different Servers Of Mastodon Which You Can Join
There Are Different Servers Of Mastodon Which You Can Join

It has a lot of Android, iOS, macOS as well as Linux applications that you can install on your device and browse the Platform easily. The character limit is 500 for every toot on this platform without paying $8 to anyone. Many known personalities and organizations have created their accounts on Mastodon, including Linus Torvalds, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Elementary OS Team, KDE Foundation, Stephen Fry, and others whom you can follow as well.

Lemmy: A Community-Driven Alternative to Reddit

Lemmy gained popularity in July 2023, when Reddit’s policy changes led to the discontinuation of third-party applications. It is also part of Fediverse and has several servers from which you can choose one to create an account. Unlike Pixelfed or Mastodon, on Lemmy you can downvote posts as well, which was the key feature of Reddit.

Lemmy's Interface
Lemmy’s Interface

And in the place of Subreddits, there are different ‘Communities’ which you can join depending upon your interests. Even if you have an account on One instance, you can join the communities which are present on other instances.

Different Communities On Lemmy
Different Communities On Lemmy

There are a large number of Lemmy instances where you can create your account, but the largest of them are lemmy.ml and lemmy.world. The Android and iOS applications of this platform are currently very limited, but this will change rapidly as many third-party Reddit clients are changing their applications in order to add support of Lemmy. In the meantime, you can try Jerboa for Android and if you are using iPhone then there are wefwef and Memmy for now.

Wrapping Up

There is a Fediverse alternative for YouTube as well, it’s called Peertube. However, an Open source alternative for YouTube will hardly take off unless some big YouTuber switches to it, which is very unlikely. We also know that Google runs YouTube at a loss because streaming videos are very expensive if you consider the server costs. That is why I did not cover Peertube here, however, you can take a look at their website and how it looks.

Any company with control over social media may not always prioritize societal good. Because at the end of the day, they will have to earn profits, and they will do so by any means. The Federated Universe or the Fediverse is a very nice option for people who want to connect with other people having similar interests without worrying about data collection or ads.

If you want to use Mastodon on your Linux desktop, then perhaps you can give Tokodon and Tuba a try.