Mastodon: Update and retrospective
 
With the start of December, this year is coming to a close, and I felt like it's time for an update and a retrospective. A month has passed since the release of Mastodon v2.0, and I dare say it's one of our best releases. No critical bugs, no unpolished surfaces that need to be adjusted - it's practically the first ever release that was not almost immediately followed by a patch. I was able to take some time off at the start of November. I played around with the concept of a federated YouTube alternative (I named my project Cobalt) - someone who was already working on a similar concept, PeerTube, has learned of this and decided to make PeerTube speak the same federation protocol as Mastodon. Now I don't think I need to continue Cobalt. Not that I have the time to, anyway, since soon after I began working on Mastodon again.

The next release of Mastodon, v2.1, is coming soon. Here are the things that are already implemented and will definitely be part of it:

  • Block DMs from people you don't follow
  • New user role: moderator. More power than user, less power than admin
  • Audit log for the admin UI: Every admin/mod action is logged for accountability
  • Invite system: Create invite links that let people sign up even when registrations are closed. This can be limited to certain user roles.
  • Setup a redirect from one Mastodon account to another. Account migration is one of the most desired functions, and while this is not a complete solution, it's a good step in the right direction. Old profiles will display a prominent notice about the move to a different account, and the follow button will be hidden to prevent people from following the old account.
  • Categorize the people you are following into different lists which can be mounted as timeline columns.

It should also be noted that during November we had another massive influx of users to the network. A lot of artists have joined mastodon.art, and a lot of writers have joined wandering.shop and other book-related and -unrelated instances. John Scalzi and Chuck Wending among them.

With that out of the way, a little bit of retrospective on this year. It began with the moderate success of the November 2016 influx of users, following the typical wave curve that was dwindling down until in April 2017, by some wonder or another, or maybe a comment left at the right place at the right time, Mastodon experienced its mainstream breakthrough. Wired, The Verge, Mashable, Forbes, smart and not so smart opinion pieces (looking at you Lance Ulanoff), interviews. Mastodon appeared on the front page of a physical French newspaper. Mastodon was adopted by two large Japanese media companies, Pixiv Inc and Dwango, and soon I was invited to attend an IT conference to do a presentation on Mastodon. I attended via Skype, and I will never get over how weird it feels to see your gigantic face projected onto a wall in front of a live audience.

Honestly, it's kind of a shame how busy I was fixing code during that time that I could not truly lean back and breathe in the feeling of success in peace. The human mind seems to always adjust, it can not remain in the state of awe and contentedness forever; you may remain as successful objectively but you won't feel that way for long, so you need to savour it while it lasts.

Time and time after April we've been getting waves of new people. All while working steady on improving the software, implementing the things people wanted, fixing bugs, optimizing, we even switched out the underlying protocol of the software. In hindsight, that was quite a feat, in a completely decentralized environment. Imagine e-mail suddenly switching from SMTP to something else. And we managed to do it, successfully and without issues. It might have been a world's first? I'm not sure.

At the start of the year, Mastodon had nothing but mastodon.social with maybe 20,000 users and the GitHub page. At the end of the year, we have a beautiful, informative joinmastodon.org homepage and a million users spread among thousands of instances. We have a new, beautiful, professionally done logo, we have a press kit full of cute elephant graphics, we have cute official stickers that can either be bought from an online shop or printed locally from the very same press kit. We have so many mobile apps, webapps, and API-based interfaces and tools.

I've had the most amazing year. True, it was full of work, and desperately lacking sleep, but I was able to work on my passion, on something that made the world a slightly better place. I was able to work on it exclusively, without compromises. All thanks to your patronage. And it wasn't just the working on it, it was that my creative work was accepted, used for its purpose, liked and promoted. I am very lucky indeed.

Perhaps next year, we will finally supersede commercial social media?