It’s great to see nonprofit organizations getting into the business of operating public Mastodon / Fediverse instances. Two announcements recently caught my attention.
First, Mozilla, the makers of Firefox, announced that they would launch a public server (“instance”) in early 2023:
In early 2023, Mozilla will stand up and test a publicly accessible instance in the Fediverse at Mozilla.Social. We’re eager to join the community in growing, experimenting, and learning how we can together solve the technical, experience, and trustworthiness challenges inherent in hyper-scale social systems. Our intention is to contribute to the healthy and sustainable growth of a federated social space that doesn’t just operate but thrives on its own terms, independent of profit- and control-motivated tech firms. An open, decentralized, and global social service that puts the needs of people first is not only possible, but it’s absolutely necessary.
Now, they did not specifically say it would be a *mastodon* instance, although I’ve seen many people assume it will be. But if they use some other Fediverse / ActivityPub software, that’s perfectly fine! It will just be great having Mozilla in the Fediverse with their lengthy experience in operating Internet systems at scale.
Second, the 75-year-old Association of Computing Machinery (ACM), has already launched their own publicly available instance at mastodon.acm.org. From their intro message, that includes the link to join:
Hi there! This is ACM, the world's largest computing society. As you might have noticed, we have opened not only our official #Mastodon account but also our own #instance!
Please consider joining @mastodon.acm.org, a community for #computing researchers & practitioners to connect & exchange ideas with each other, whether you are an ACM member or not.
They’ve also tweeted about it and from the server stats it seems 548 people have so far joined.
Addressing The Two Major Challenges
The importance of these entities relates to what I described as two major challenges for operating Mastodon servers: scaling and content moderation.
If we are to bring millions of more people (or even 10s or 100s or millions) into the Fediverse, we will need many more servers. It will be helpful if we have some servers operated by companies or organizations that know how to operate Internet infrastructure at scale. This is what excites me most about Mozilla. With their operation of the Firefox browser, plus services like Pocket and their VPN product, they understand how to do this. They can potentially help provide an example for others.
I don’t know much about whether the ACM can also address the scaling (I’m not a member), but it’s good to see organizations like this getting into the space. The ACM’s announcement, though, does highlight the challenge around content moderation. Already, a couple of people are asking for specifics around content moderation:
And another apparent member was questioning the ACM’s ability to manage a server.
These are questions that organization will have to be ready to handle.
As Mozilla gets ready to launch their server, they can expect to be similarly grilled about what level of moderation they will or will not do.
It’s tough to find the right balance - which is why I think organizations have to be sure they are ready to commit the necessary staff time, energy, and finances before they plunge into it.
Regardless, I think it is great for both Mozilla and ACM to be entering the Fediverse with their own servers. I wish them all the best!