The #TwitterMigration that started in October in reaction to Elon Musk’s takeover led many users to create an account on Mastodon, a social network that is close in functionality and part of the decentralized “Fediverse.” And, while the migration to Mastodon is not significant in absolute numbers, it is a unique event of the collective choice of a decentralized network to use – a choice based on ethical, and not commercial, needs.
In an article for Tech Policy Press, Alek points to the unprecedented opportunity raised by the migration to experiment with the building of sustainable, large-scale digital public spaces; but he also sheds light on the obstacles faced by such experiment.
On the one hand, Mastodon is a robust, decentralized network that functions in contrast to the dominant platforms: there’s no centralized control, no adtech, and no exploitation of user data. On the other hand, it faces two major limitations: its sustainability and its lack of participatory governance. Indeed, the commons-based peer production model on which Mastodon is built has clear limits to growth. And the Fediverse is ruled through code by a narrow group of maintainers, developers and administrators: an approach that is paradoxically both the source of Fediverse’s resilience and its significant limit on growth.
In the article, Alek identifies the Fediverse’s limitations and indicates three priorities to set the path toward a social network maintained and governed in a decentralized and democratic way – a digital public space: