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Substrate Formation

Decentralized ecosystems require close coordination of people and processes to evolve them.

Table of contents

Here we analyse the major challenge for the Fediverse of its near complete Lack of a Common Technology Substrate that is required for a healthy ecosystem.

What is substrate formation?

The term “substrate” is an imaginary foundation that underlies a technology or ecosystem is derived from this quote:

“Any decentralized [ecosystem] requires a centralized substrate, and the more decentralized the approach is the more important it is that you can count on the underlying system.” — Byrne Hobart. The Promise and Paradox of Decentralization

The substrate constitutes all the people that collaborate to evolve the technology base, and the procedures they follow to do so. It encompasses the entirety of the formal and informal organization structure that exists around a project, an ecosystem, or a technology.

Substrate formation then is all activity that ensures this collaboration runs smoothly and in a way to contribute to the project / ecosystem / technology success factors in terms of adoption, evolution and growth.

The Fediverse substrate

An investigation on the state of the Fediverse’s own substrate painted a bleak picture:

Besides these major locations, on the whole Fediverse development is very fragmented and many of these initiatives have stalled.

See here for more detailed information related to the Fediverse substrate (click to expand) ↲

W3C Social Web Incubator Community Group ↲

  • The community group started at 2017-05-01, with currently 3 chairs (Amy Guy, Christine Webber, nightpool) and has 117 members.
  • Last meeting was held in 2021-05-21 (Last meeting minutes are of 7 May)
  • The #social IRC channel does not have had any significant activity since mid 2021.
  • The CG Github organization has 3 repositories, most recent activity an issue closed on 2021-05-03.
    • Unclear who are owners, maintainers and what their present role is wrt ActivityPub / Fediverse.

Observation: Inactive

W3C ActivityStreams Core 2.0 open standard ↲

Observation: Inactive, stalled

W3C ActivityStreams Vocabulary 2.0 open standard ↲

Observation: Inactive, stalled

W3C ActivityPub open standard ↲

Observation: Inactive, stalled

ActivityPub Rocks website ↲

  • Has excellent SEO, but bare minimum information and links which make ActivityPub seem an inactive ecosystem.
  • Infrequent updates, maintenance issues. Code by and domain owned by Christine Webber, hosting by other party (?)

Observation: Inactive, too little informative

SocialHub community ↲

  • Started 2019-10-11, 615 members in total, 237 in trust level 1 or higher.
  • Past year (2021-02-17 / 2022-02-17):
    • Daily engaged users: 6, New contributors: 96, Signups: 255, Topics: 277, Posts: 2.7k, DAY/MAU: 21%
    • 91 members posted more than 1x, 45 more than 5x, 9 more than 50x, 25 members created more than 1 topic.
  • Impressions of the community (as active forum moderator for 2 years). SocialHub:
    • Is not really a community, just a discussion forum to check now and then.
    • Adds value to individual projects who find useful information, or inspiration.
    • Adds little to Fediverse substrate, as most discussion linger, no decisions are made.
    • Most important for substrate formation are Fediverse Enhancement Proposals (FEP’s).
    • FEP process is not well-established / adopted, not mature, nor very meaningful yet.

Observation: Not very active or healthy

Fediverse in numbers

  • Indicative number of nodes and fedizens (user accounts) depending on how they are collective. See also Fediverse Party.
    • Fediverse Observer for ActivityPub: 4,709,338 accounts, steady rising stats in nodes, posts, accounts
    • The Federation Info for ActivityPub: 7963 nodes, 4,197,382 accounts
    • for ActivityPub: 5102 nodes, 3,400,293 accounts, 119,055 active last week
  • In April 2022 a big influx of new fedizens, migrating from Twitter due Elon Musk’s intended buyout.
    • Very positive reception by newcomers. An increased uptick in developers interested to build federated apps.

    Observation: Good ‘user-base’, steady growth, few active developers