Really hoping that proliferation of instances will lead, in time, to divergence in modeling (at the software level) the parameters of "community" and sociality.

GNU Social/Mastodon shares features with SMTP, IRC, Usenet (surprised not to have seen that mentioned by others), with BBS networks before that, and even such antiquated systems as postal newspaper exchanges. In this history, "social media" giants are distinct only in their resort to centralization.

The organizing model is unchanged.

What GNU Social/Mastodon may afford is a decoupling of network application from network effect. In particular, Mastodon builds on the network effects set down by GNU Social, in the same way that gmail and MS Outlook build on the network effects of SMTP.

This means that the network application instances can diverge, in how they model and render the underlying network, how they integrate and leverage tools and tooling, so to present different use cases for participants.

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mastodon.cloud

Generalistic and moderated instance.