There are two supernetworks in the federated social communication space, and they run on different protocols. They are known as The Fediverse, and The Federation. While both supernetworks function in similar ways and even have similar aims, they each come from a different history of development, and by extension, a different stack. The overlapping series of networks can be referred to in macro as The Free Network.
The Fediverse has historically operated as a microblogging network, and uses the OStatus protocol for servers to communicate with one another. In all, it pulls together six different platforms: GNU Social, postActiv, Pleroma, Mastodon, Friendica, and Hubzilla.
The Federation is an interop network consisting of 278 different connected servers that communicate using the Diaspora federation protocol. This is a different communication standard from OStatus, and allows four distinct platforms to all communicate with one another: Diaspora, Friendica, Hubzilla, and Socialhome.
In 2012, the Friendica project broke ground by reverse-engineering the Diaspora communication protocol and writing a PHP implementation library from scratch, allowing Friendica users and Diaspora users to talk to each other. This work was eventually ported over to Hubzilla, a Content Management System with Cloud Storage and identity provision capabilities.
Diaspora at this time has no plans for new protocols, having just significantly upgraded its own. postActiv intends to adopt support for Diaspora federation in a future release. Mastodon just released support for ActivityPub, and Pleroma , Socialhome and GNU Social are thinking of adopting it. Nextcloud is also notably getting into the federation space, and Hubzilla and Friendica will likely both support the ActivityPub protocol as extensions.
One of the first distributed social networks was GNU Social (first called Laconica and then StatusNet), created by Evan Prodromou in 2008. Prodromou explained at FOSDEM in 2010 that while social networks had proliferated over the 2000s:
In early 2016, Jason Robinson, a former volunteer contributor to the Diaspora project, released Socialhome.
Evan announced that Identi.ca would be switching from StatusNet to pump.io
After this was announced in 2013, lots of people who had still been running StatusNet sites, and getting concerned about the lack of active development as Evan worked in pump.io, started migrating to the first release of GNU Social, and other folks started setting up new GNU Social servers.
A People's History of the Fediverse
Disintermedia » A Brief History of the GNU Social Fediverse and 'The Federation'
Documentaries, videos and podcasts
Distributed social media - Mastodon & Fediverse Explained
GNU social: What is a Federated Network (Federation | Mastodon Social | Fediverse )
- Social networkTheoretical concept in sociology
- Decentralized application (dApp)A decentralized application (dApp) is a service that provides direct interaction between providers and end users providers through a blockchain or distributed ledger.
- Federation (information technology)A group of network or telecommunication providers agreeing upon interoperability standards