What is Mastodon? What is the Fediverse?

The Fediverse (or “Fedi”) is a collection of thousands of independent social media servers that talk to each other seamlessly. This means that the millions of users on these servers can interact with each other as if they were on a single social network.

The most popular type of Fedi server is called Mastodon (or “Masto”) and works a bit like a calmer, more friendly version of Twitter. Click here for a cute animated video about Mastodon ⧉ that explains the basic principles of a federated social network, or click here for an even simpler explanation video ⧉. You might also want to watch this short video about the Fediverse ⧉ that emphasises the importance of common technical standards.

There are many kinds of Fediverse servers, often with a specific purpose such as photo sharing, video sharing, livestreaming, book clubs etc.

Although the various types of servers work very differently, they talk to each other with a common technical standard called ActivityPub, which means even if you’re not on the same type of server, you can still interact as though you were.

For example, someone on Mastodon (a Twitter-like service) can subscribe to an account on PeerTube (a YouTube-like service), and the PeerTube videos will appear in the Mastodon user’s timeline. They can interact with the videos entirely within Mastodon, and their interactions will also appear next to the video on PeerTube, because the servers communicate and allow users to interact.

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