Suggestion for Mastodon (to prevent eventual gMastodon instance): cap instance size at 100 - 1,000 account by default. Make it a social contract for instances not to federate with instances greater than that limit.

Or, a few years from now, say hello to “gMastodon”. (See history of email and the Web for a lesson in the future.)

That said, we might already be on that path.

Wouldn't it just be easier to fix federation relays and then set up a small instance union so the majority of Masto traffic is on and between small instances. Then the SIU just doesn't permit any 5000+ user instances on the relay.

@aral The technically possible condition is “do not federate with more than 100 - 1,000 accounts by instance”, as there is no standardized way to get an instance's user count. ^^

@thomas plus: any API providing that count might as well just lie about it.

@thomas @aral The thought occurs to me that one would likely have to identify ACTIVE accounts, as over time most instances will accumulate ones for people who have drifted away.

@theartguy @thomas @aral Yeah ... e.g. has ~ 200 active users, but we have had ~ 1900 signups over time

@theartguy @aral To estimate if an account is active, we could base ourselves on the “is an account on our instance following it” so that people can unfollow it to follow another one. And only take into account if the accounts following it are active, which can be determined through last login dates. ^^

@aral Hm, I've wondered too what we do when "" launches on a forked/modified, mastodon-like platform, or even their own #activitypub implementation with google extensions. the #powerdifferential will be heavily weighted towards the expectation that independent servers will implement google's extensions

also #corporatesurveillance

@aral i think that the fediverse needs to work out OCAP and other security issues in some agreed-upon form before then

#mastodon #pleroma #activitypub

@sivy @aral they also might just register since they own that Tld. Not a power play at all 🙄

@crazypedia @aral I don't believe they will use the mastodon name at all, just the underlying protocols with their own extensions

@sivy @aral I'm heavily on the side of "didn't need 'em before, don't need 'em now, fuck off corpers we ain't federating with you"

@troubleMoney @aral sure, I get that. And honestly, social (non-technical) contracts may be all we have to fight it. But the out-sized effect the BigCos have in the social software arena mean we have to have a plan of some kind

#activitypub #corporatefediverse

@sivy Gmail, Yahoo mail and hotmail didn't kill garfield mail so I don't see any real problem.

@Niquarl @aral Extremely wide adoption of POP/IMAP clients prevented them from embracing/extending enough to do lasting harm.

We can't assume that for such young social networks/protocols.

@Niquarl @sivy If Gmail blocks your mail server, you’re no longer in the emailverse. If you block Gmail, you’re no longer in the emailverse. That’s the problem.

@aral But that's kind of already the thing if you are on or or any other medium size one ? Are you saying it's already too late ?@sivy

@Niquarl @sivy Quite possibly. Or that we need an intervention.

@aral @sivy @Niquarl It is a terrible pain in the ...
One of my mails gets constantly blocked. Now outlook joined google. That sucks.

@sivy @aral chances are they'd do something like what they did with XMPP and Google Chat: blow a lot of wind about how they're ~FOSS-friendly~ and ~open~, then, once they've grown a user base, throw out the open source and open protocols and create a walled garden (that they then rebrand to leave the stink behind).

@sivy @aral If Google had a fediverse instance it would be closed source so that they wouldn't have to deal with AGPL and could extend and extinguish.

If I were some corporate exec at Google or Facebook I'd be wary about joining the fediverse. It's not something they can exclusively control to deliver ads. They wouldn't be able to control the context in which ads were shown and so that could have blowback. They also couldn't enforce "real" names.

But at some point if the fediverse gets popular enough then the advertisers will go where the eyeballs are, however reluctantly.


I completely agree with this problem [1], but I think the issue is too fundamental to federated tech for a voluntary size cap to fix anything. [2]



@aral Well we won't federate with whatever Google might come up with. It's a centralized instance. Problem solved.
@aral We may even hardcode a "fuck Google" default in every instance, not federating with Google, Microsoft, and so on.

I'll also highlight that a large part of Mastodon is in the Amazon cloud, so maaaybe this is a more critical problem. Maybe some people will try to make an ads instance; we won't federate with it. Problem fixed.

@aral An interesting idea. I assume Mastodon . social would be grandfathered in.

@aral 1000 seems like far too low a limit.
Even this instance ( has 2407 members right now and most of the time that is not enough to make the "local timeline" feature of Mastodon active enough to fulfill its purpose.

@Laurelai @aral What if formerly dormant users become active again? Will some then get kicked out to get the instance under the "active users"-limit?
Who and how would it be decided which gets to stay?
That seems very elitist.

@b9AcE @aral that many becoming active again is super rare, but in case it does happen it could be a soft limit

@Laurelai @aral AFAIK, it's not uncommon for there to be a surge of both new and re-used users when someone with a lot of impact mentions being on a particular instance.
With limits like these, it's even possible that the scarcity creates commodification, and economic or trade "value" where there wasn't and shouldn't be one.

What should be done to the 252k users of for example? Which gets forcibly migrated? By what criteria?

@b9AcE @aral is a perfect example of an instance having too many users and too much power

@Laurelai @aral Well, I think it's too big, etc and that's why I chose to join some other instance. Others didn't. Doesn't seem fair to forcibly migrate them.

@Laurelai @aral The ability to have an actually usable "local timeline" filled with people of similar interests to their own could encourage people to join a specialized instance. It enticed me. :-)
I think positive pull should be preferable to negative limitations. What would be pulling features that still are completely compatible with all other instances... I don't know the APIs, so couldn't say. ;-D

@aral That would require us to block most Japanese nodes. Do you realise how many lewds would we lose in the process?

@aral your trying to come up with an engineering solution to a social/legal problem. Google should have been subject to antitrust law years ago.

@animeirl There’s no reason we cannot have technical regulation alongside legislative regulation. Just like we have tracker blockers alongside the GDPR.

@aral "gMastodon" -- or maybe we should call it Mastitis., on second thoughts let's not.


wow! Very much possible for them to enter the space

Solution though is not clear what could be!

Techincally it already happened ; is absolutely gigantic and its owner is a quite big company in Japan

@aral sorry, free software means free software. What you suggest contradicts the gpl license

@astheroth Nope, it doesn’t. The GPL does not dictate the software‘s features or the social norms that the community of people using it decide upon for how they want to use those features. The GPL merely prescribes what is permissible in terms of how the source is made available and distributed and how derivatives are licensed.

@aral if I don't like your community I could fork your software.

@whatcraic Sadly, the vast majority in the “web community” still do. People still get enthusiastically congratulated on Facebook threads when they announce that they’ve started working there (or at Facebook, etc.) by some of the most respected names in the industry. Then again, the centralised web created surveillance capitalism so it’s not surprising.

@aral it will start slowly with analytics for Mastodon, AMP/Instant Articles support for Mastodon and earn money with AMP paywall etc

Well, having the server application running RoR helps keep instances small 😂

But now that #pleroma is available with #rustodon and #go-fed coming soon, it bears hepeating

@aral If your problem is "gMastodon", then even capping at 100k or 1 million would suffice - you don't need to have "small" instances only, you just can't have a _majority_ instance.

I'm on an instance with ~10k users, and I'm just about okay with the local timeline on here. I'd guess with 100 people, that would just feel empty.

I'm also not massively sold on having too many instances, because that could fracture the federation via instance blocks. Thaet would imply that Mastodon wouldn't do the same thing as google, given half the chance.

Back when Google were still playing the nice guys, people were seeing Google's interest as a validation of XMPP as a viable mainstream technology. They were eager to please. We all know how the story went from there.

This time around, it will be different. We have learned. None of your corporate embrace, extend, extinguish. Our technology is self-validating. We do not need you, and we will not federate with you.

@Coffee @aral we know, the users do not. We need to share easy self hosting solutions so that anyone can run it with low costs.

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