Chris Wiegman

WordPress Should Embrace the Fediverse

One thing I confess I’ve appreciated about Mastodon is that, at least for the years I’ve been there, there’s been less WordPress there than on Twitter. I could pick and choose to engage with the WordPress community or not which, as my day job is in WordPress, could be a pretty handy feature.

Those days are behind me and I’m OK with that. As more folks migrate from Twitter to Fediverse (the wider network of which Mastodon is just an app) projects like Mastodon I’m seeing a mixed reaction in the WordPress community and that saddens me. For all WordPress and its community claim to stand for we should be seeing WordPress professionals embrace the Fediverse and here’s why:

The Fediverse is open-source

First and foremost, unlike Twitter or other big tech platforms, the Fediverse, including Mastodon, is open-source. It is not controlled by a single entity anymore than the WordPress project as a whole is and, given the governance problems in WordPress, I would even go so far to say that the Fediverse is, in many ways, even more open than WordPress.

The WordPress community likes to extol the virtues of free and open-source software and platforms and it’s time for it to stand up for that beyond its own codebase and embrace the Fediverse and the projects that make it a great place to be.

The Fediverse is community

Second, unlike Twitter where so many are peddling their own vanity without any of intention of engaging in a community, the Fediverse makes such behavior far more difficult.

While Mastodon, for example, has followers and likes it does not make a lot of that data easy to find nor does it allow for easy manipulation of any algorithm to game the system towards certain people or brands. Instead everyone person or brand we follow gets the same allocation in our timelines based on when their post was sent. There is no algorithm, there is no gaming, there is no need for SEO or anything else. The posts from myself or any celebrity will get the same screen time in my feed no matter who sends them and engagement will happen in the conversation rather than with like or retweet counts. There’s not even any “promotion” or, for that matter, any ads at all and in practice it is wonderful.

WordPress claims its real strength is in its community and the Fediverse is the first platform where that community can really thrive without manipulation. That gives us quite an opportunity to grow a community of all rather than a soapbox for some.

The Fediverse is more ethical

Why is the Fediverse better for community? Because the Fediverse is inherently more ethical by design. There are no advertisers to please and no data to collect to push you towards them. While instance may, and probably eventually will change that, getting away from it is as easy as changing instances and taking your followers, and the list of those you follow, with you automatically.

While it’s true that there are bad actors on the Fediverse just as there are on Twitter tools like Mastodon and others make silencing them much easier and, at least in my experience, more effective. For example searches can only be done with hashtags, not specific words making it harder for bots to gang up on an account for any reason and when there is a problem, rather than just block a single account the instance your on can choose to defederate from entire instances forcing the problems further and further into their own boxes and keeping them away from community as a whole.

I’m not trying to say it’s perfect, no system built by humans is. What I am saying is that Mastodon has no way to sell its soul to investors or anyone else. It is made by people and for people, not by big tech for its advertisers. Users won’t be tracked nor manipulated nor is the goal as much screen time as possible even a goal leaving a far less addictive and healthier network of people.

WordPress has long touted its virtues as an open source on its ethical values, again particularly around its community and the inclusion of all. The Fediverse makes putting those words to action easier by giving a place where all are welcome and bad actors can be more easily removed all while ensuring that each participant has an equal voice away from the evils of surveillance capitalists.

The Fediverse is the Right place for WordPress

While I could continue on with reasons why more WordPress folks should embrace the Fediverse I think these three speak to the fact that, in the end, WordPress’ own stated goals and values better align to a community like the Fediverse which embraces open-source and a voice for all over big tech services where the loudest win and many can’t even get a seat at the table.

It’s time for WordPress as a whole community to embrace this and invest in making the Fediverse a better place for all. Perhaps WordPress hosts can start offering managed Mastodon or Pixelfed instances. Perhaps WordPress devs can start giving code back to the Mastodon or Pixelfed (or other projects) or perhaps we can at least start by, as Matt Mullenweg noted, building ActivityPub, the protocol behind the Fediverse, further into WordPress itself.