With Threads, Tumblr & Post on the verge of joining the Fediverse in the latter half of 2023, the number of Fediverse users could reach 250 million before children worldwide open their presents on Christmas Day.
The entrance of formally centralized players embracing ActivityPub to stay relevant (after all, they are not embracing federation for the “feels”) may result in some classic Fediverse platforms & instances fading away into irrelevancy due to lack of use.
Fortunately, there is a blueprint to help keep classic platforms & even instances relevant to the masses being introduced to ActivityPub, which ironically comes from a defederated Mastodon instance variant but the name of Counter Social.
Image Credits: Counter Social & Alfred on Counter Social (see further below)
Can You See Me Now‽ Live Streaming & Group Video Calls
When Russian 🇷🇺 mercenaries turned their guns against the Russian 🇷🇺 military, I joined several CoSonauts (what members of Counter Social are called) in a group video call to try to make sense of what was going on in the world.
Group video calls added to the conversation in a way text or images never could, & Fediverse creators might want to consider adding live streaming or group calling features soon. Jitsi powers Counter Social’s group video calls, & Fediverse creators could consider adopting the same technology or using alternatives like:
- Matrix / Element (the folks at @matrix & @element would gladly help admins set this up if needed).
- Owncast might be a better option for broadcasters & @owncast would probably assist anyone seeking help setting this up
Currently, Pixelfed & Peertube have embraced live streaming, respectively, & with Tumblr’s pending entrance into the Fediverse, we will witness several major platforms with live streaming capabilities by the end of 2023, excluding Threads (who probably will enter the live streaming arena).
Real Deal Privacy
Keeping your content hidden from nefarious search engines & not-so-friendly social networks (like Meta) is a big deal for many people. Unfortunately, the way the Fediverse is set up, dubious companies can still scrap data from private profile pages, even if what they post is private.
Counter Social has a feature that allows people to hide their entire profile from anyone not logged in. For example, if you try to visit the creator of Counter Social’s profile page (which is @email@example.com for what it’s worth), you are greeted with this page below:
It would be awesome if Fediverse platforms adopted a similar feature, which could put people’s minds at ease once Meta (& friends) enter the Fediverse.
Needed: Anti-CSAM Scanner
Unfortunately, many criminals operate online, & some of the worst profit from the exploitation of children. Identifying & battling these digital scumbags is a never-ending battle on large instances, & unless you can hire many moderators, this will be difficult to thwart on large instances.
Counter Social counters this (pun not intended) by automatically scanning all images uploaded to keep this filth off of their servers. Admins moderating large instances could be legally required to add this tech to their sites in the future, but those interested in adding something similar now could check out these options:
- Cloudflare: Cloudflare customers already have this feature available for free, so if your instance is protected by Cloudflare then you should checkout this option.
- Safer is another option, although it might be expensive
Although vigilant community members & moderators are always necessary to keep this stuff off instances (& alert authorities when it does appear), it might be wise for moderators to consider creating a tool to scan for the offending material to keep members (& kids) safe.
Ethical Smart Bot (Like ChatGPT)
This one is slightly more controversial, as many people are anti-artificial intelligence upon their instances. However, having an ethical intelligent bot (basically a finely tuned ChatGPT) can be beneficial, as it can help answer common questions about the platform, random facts on planet Earth, or even create pictures.
Counter Social has an intelligent bot called @Alfred@counter.social, which can answer simple science questions & even create AI artwork (with some hilarity thrown in). Here is an example when I asked Alfred to create a picture of a fight between Elon Musk & Mark Zuckerberg:
Note: Instance Admins desiring to add an intelligent bot account (whether it is based upon ChatGPT or not) should test the bot out internally to avoid it publicly posting controversial statements.
Virtual Realms‽ Why‽
So Facebook tried & failed at popularizing virtual realms amongst the masses. However, just because Facebook spent half a trillion dollars in a vain attempt at creating an awful virtual realm does not mean others with smaller budgets cannot make a semi-decent virtual site.
Despite boasting less than 0.001% of Facebook’s wealth & personnel, Counter Social created virtual realms where people can explore alternative spaces to their heart’s content. Although this might appear trivial now, it could become a critical feature, especially when Apple launches its Vision Pro in 2024.
Conclusion: Should The Fediverse Adopt These Options
It will be up to the Fediverse creators & instance admins to decide if adopting these features would benefit their platform & communities.
However, adopting these five features from Counter Social will give them a distinct advantage, & allow them to be competitive against larger, centralized rivals who may not fully embrace the ideals of ActivityPub & the Fediverse as a whole.