Making Mastodon Mainstream: FLOSS Hosts Discuss Growth Strategies

FLOSS Weekly 759

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On a recent episode of the FLOSS Weekly, hosts Doc Searls and Jonathan Bennett had an in-depth discussion with open source pioneer Evan Prodromou about how to get more people using the decentralized social network Mastodon and its underlying ActivityPub protocol. Prodromou is the founder of ActivityPub.

The panel acknowledged Mastodon's network effects challenge against entrenched platforms like Twitter and Facebook. However, they see several promising opportunities for growth on the horizon.

Prodromou predicts that Facebook's recent announcement to integrate ActivityPub into its Threads app will expose the protocol to many more users. "That is going to mean a huge number of new people coming, the world's biggest social networking company joining the Fediverse," he stated. The hosts agreed this could generate more curiosity that helps onboard new Mastodon users.

They also discussed how real-world institutions like universities and companies could run their own Mastodon servers for internal communications. This more private social networking aligns with how many people actually want to use these tools, balancing public persona with private conversations. Making Mastodon server setup and management extremely user-friendly was another growth avenue the group analyzed. They proposed ideas like appliances, dynamic DNS, and IPv6 to essentially "hide the server" behind simple apps and interfaces. 

Searls compared the potential emergence of small hosting businesses around Mastodon to viable models like WordPress web hosting. And while primal profit motives don't drive open source, the hosts agreed there are entrepreneurial opportunities around consulting, spam protection, and other services.

The FLOSS team clearly believes decentralized social networking ideologies like Mastodon's have merit and staying power. It's a great discussion. You can check out the full episode here. Be sure to join our Discord server in Club TWiT to chat with other passionate FLOSS Weekly listeners about this and other open-source projects.

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