Mastodon is the federated social media platform skyrocketing in popularity, comprised of thousands of independant servers instead of one website owned by one group. Soon, some mainstream social media sites could interconnect with Mastodon.
Mastodon uses the ActivityPub protocol to discover, follow, and message people across servers, much like how all email services use the same protocol for sending and receiving messages. Other social media platforms have already adopted this protocol, such as PixelFed and PeerTube, allowing people on one platform to follow and talk to people on other platforms. The services that support ActivityPub and all the people using them is sometimes collectively called “the Fediverse.”
Matt Mullenweg, CEO of Automattic — the current owner of the social media platform Tumblr — confirmed that Tumblr will soon support the ActivityPub protocol. He said in a Twitter post, “we’ll add activitypub for interconnect. We are mostly dealing with the waves of new users right now and keeping everything scaling but [interoperability] and activitypub are ASAP.”
It’s not clear to what degree Tumblr would support ActivityPub. Presumably, it will allow people on Mastodon to follow blogs on Tumblr, and vice-versa. It’s possible Tumblr could go even further, adding support for polls and other features beyond regular posts. Tumblr has over 560 million blogs, while there are around 7.5 million Mastodon accounts. Both those numbers are for the total amount of accounts, not active accounts, but it’s clear Tumblr joining the “Fediverse” would still be a significant shift.
Meanwhile, the photo sharing site Flickr is considering ActivityPub support. CEO Don MacAskill said on Twitter, “Was just discussing ActivityPub earlier this week internally. Should we add to Flickr? No promises, just thinking out loud to gauge interest. It might be right up our alley, though.”
Flickr is primarily an image and video hosting site, but it does have support for some social networking features. Much like with Tumblr, it could potentially allow Flickr accounts to follow people on Mastodon and see their media, and vice-versa.
It’s exciting to see more social media sites interested in supporting ActivityPub. The ability for people on Mastodon, Tumblr, Flickr, PixelFed, and other platforms to all talk to each other would be fantastic, and Tumblr could serve as an alternative to Mastodon for people interested in a more stable server experience (at the cost of Tumblr’s ads).