Everything you ever wanted to know about 10friends, but were too afraid to ask...
Recently, the policy decisions of big-name social media platforms are becoming increasingly unpopular, and this is fueling a boom in social media alternatives. The problem is, most of these alternatives aren't fundamentally different from the services they're trying to replace... they're centrally controlled and have the power to censor content in exactly the same way, in theory if not necessarily in practice (for now).
We wanted to shine a spotlight on software tools that lets users operate their own platforms, and make their own decisions about what kind of content they want to see. Many of these tools have already existed for years, but unfortunately aren't very well known. In a lot of cases the installation guides are scattered across the internet, and aren't always easy to read or understand for beginners. We hope to make the information more accessible to more people, and in turn make them more popular.
Even if we make this information more accessible, the fact remains that not everybody is willing or able to set up a Fediverse server. And that's okay! This is where the "10 friends" concept comes in.
In an average group of ten friends, there is probably one person who is rather good with computers, and is capable of learning more if necessary. If these ten friends pool a little bit of money, they can have their own server for their own exclusive use. It could be Pleroma, PeerTube, or any other service they feel they need. Some examples include hosting music or podcasts (Funkwhale), personal videos or funny clips (PeerTube), or communication/coordination for neighborhood clubs or home owners associations (Pleroma).
Because the administrators and users of these instances would be mutual friends, they wouldn't have to worry about unfair or arbitrary moderation around content they produce, or conversations they have. Anybody contacting Bob, the admin of pleroma.bobandfriends.com, would probably have a hard time convincing him to shut down his own friends. Similarly, the users of Bob's instance would probably not want to post anything that could get him into legal trouble, or get their community shut down. This concept provides more security and peace of mind for both users and administrators.
Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter weren't always the corporate giants they are right now. Once upon a time, these platforms were very easygoing and allowed all kinds of content. But as they got bigger and more popular, and as more money was able to be made on them, they changed into what they are today. It isn't hard to imagine the same thing happening to the centralized "free-speech friendly" alternatives starting up now.
Rather than crossing our fingers and hoping they stick to their principles, we think it's better for users to create and moderate their own small communities using free, decentralized software tools.
We provide guides for various decentralized platforms, including Pleroma for micro-blogging, PeerTube for video hosting, and Funkwhale for music and audio.
The software for each platform can be installed on a server you own and control, meaning no outside company or individual has any power over it. You and your friends are the only ones who control what happens on your platform.
It doesn't have to be! All of the tools we provide are designed to be able to connect with other servers (or "instances") running the same software. This is called "federation", or sometimes "the Fediverse". For example, if you installed PeerTube to host your videos, your instance could communicate with all the other PeerTube instances on the internet. You could watch videos on other instances, comment on other instances, all from one account.
Lots of instances already exist for PeerTube and other platforms, so as all of them connect to each other, they can form a large and decentralized network that spans the globe.
That's fine too! Federation is optional, and if you want to keep your instance for just you and your friends, that's a choice you can make as well.
This is an option, of course. But if everybody gathers in a small number of monolithic public instances, it really just re-creates the problem we talked about with centralized platforms. If you're running a small instance for you and your friends, you don't have to worry as much about unfair bans or sudden policy changes. If the admins and users are already friends, they're more likely to understand and cooperate with each other, as opposed to a massive instance with a few admins and hundreds of users.
We here at 10friends believe that a piece of software is a tool, and it's up to the user to decide how they want to use it. There are ample features, such a Blocking and Muting, that allow you to choose who you wish to interact with. While Free Open Source software has allowed us to get away from centralized models that lead to censorship and surveillance, it also means we can't control who gets to use the software. If we could, it would bring us right back to the centralization problem. The reality is, those people you don't like probably also use common e-mail and webserver software, and those programs are no less useful or valid because of it. And the more people from different points of view that join the Fediverse, the more robust and accessible it'll be to those who come afterwards.
We're trying to make things as easy to understand as possible, but it's still difficult. That's okay! We're called 10friends for a reason... do you know anybody in your circle of friends who's better at technical computer stuff than you are? Why not direct them to this page and see if they want to try? All it takes is one person in a group of ten to run a small instance for everybody else.
The software is free, and open-source. But server space and domain registration does cost money. Fortunately, a VPS and a domain name aren't ridiculously expensive. If you're planning to set up an instance for you and your friends, you'll probably to work out how those costs are going to be covered together before you start.
No, this is a volunteer effort. But we aren't just advocates of the Fediverse, we're users too. The more people that join, the more widespread the network becomes and the stronger it becomes for all of us. And more importantly, the less powerful centralized platforms and online censorship become.