Observations Thoughts

Why the Fediverse is so slowly adopted

Friendica instead of Facebook, Pixelfed instead of Instagram, PeerTube instead of Youtube,… The Fediverse seems to have a decent answer to many of the the commercial, siloed social platforms out there. Though the user counts of all of those wonderful platforms are dwarfed compared to their commercial originals. Here is one strong, if not the strongest, reason why their adoption is so slow:

The vast majority of Fediverse platforms don’t have a mobile-first, user-first strategy. For many it seems more like a server-first, admin-first strategy.

Go ahead, see for yourself how fast and easy you can sign up and try out any of the above platforms – as a user, on your phone.

A quick analysis of

Decentralized architecture with no central authority or ownership. homepage

The lingo on the homepage aims for admins and geeks, not for a teacher or a teenager or the person running the small bakery down the street.

Built-in support for ActivityPub (e.g. Funkwhale, Hubzilla, Mastodon, Pleroma, Pixelfed), OStatus (e.g. StatusNet, GNU social, Quitter) and diaspora* protocols. Support for email contacts and communications (two-way) via IMAP4rev1/ESMTP. homepage

Do I need to say more?

If you find the right button…

…you end up here: A fairly large directory with 218 options. Even if I’m German and intuitively go to the German servers, I still have a whopping 66 options. I get no guidance which server to choose.

Instead the website could:

  • Allow me to find a server that’s geographically close (local community)
  • Tell me, it’s OK to literally pick any server, because I can change my mind later and move with all my belongings to any server


I forgot when this term came up first. Along with “responsive design”, it must have been at he end of the Noughties, after the iPhone came out. We order food, book our next travel or share photos from our last, we read news, check the weather – we do all of that primarily on our phones. And that is equally true for social media.

How is Friendica supposed to grow without mobile apps for Android and iOS? How is Pixelfed supposed to steal users from Instagram without mobile apps? How is PeerTube supposed to gain relevance without mobile apps? …

This were it cracks.

Mastodon does it right

Mastodon is the (maybe only?) shining example in the Fediverse. New users are pouring in these days, sure, mostly because of Elon Musk making a mess out of Twitter, but also because it’s as easy and frictionless to create an account for Mastodon as it is on Twitter. And because you can do that through a variety of native mobile clients on your sofa or on the bus.

Mastodon’s homepage primarily tells you to “Get the app”. Also is features a compelling tagline and easy-to-understand copy wrapped in an appealing, friendly visual design.

Mastodon’s success can be replicated: With a user-first, mobile-first strategy. With a delightful experience that allows non-geeks to enjoy photos from family and friends on their sofas, and watch videos hassle-free on their daily commute.

Portrait of Tim

By Tim Reiser

Senior Design Lead and Manager at IBM in Germany blogging about random design and UX topics. Assertive Advocate (INFJ-A), introvert, family guy, dog person, nuts about music. Loves both mountains and the sea – while living too far from both.

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