threads and what is the fedi anyway?

Apologies for the break in tone.

radio free fedi's mission is quite simple: we want to have fun with our friends, build community, and do our best to help promote, celebrate and link up collaboration and support for indie artists.

We have tried our best to weather the strife, disagreements, fediverse and platform dramas of this year as a positive voice of advocacy for artists. Our approach has consistently been using that positivity and community strength to cut through the issues with support for the well-being of artists, and our goal to help share their work out into the world.

We've been drafting an end of year State of the Station report to highlight what an amazing year it's been for artists in our community. So many people in the space, musicians and supporters alike, have poured so much positivity into the creative space here in the fediverse. The support has been nothing short of incredible, and we're so honoured to have played a part in it.

This joy gets soured when focusing on the latest drama and negative developments in the space. There are big changes happening in the fediverse, and there are big disagreements over what it actually means. Some people promise that it will all be puppies and sunshine, but many feel a looming discomfort over the Threads featuring Mastodon collab.

Let's take a moment to reflect on recent history. If we think about the last few cycles of growth and migration in the fediverse, the network is getting bigger, moving faster, with a higher amount of bigger players getting involved. Rifts form, silos grow, and a fair amount of people will quickly look for the exits as we continue to ignore fundamental unresolved problems. This time, though, there is a bigger multiplier than ever before. It could end up being so big that it splits the network into smaller fragments, again.

The fragmentation across the network could continue to wreak havoc and uncertainty for those artists in our community who try to strike that hard balance between unshakable ethics and being able to support themselves via reach across the network. With the amount of confusion, vitriol, and downright fear that has struck us all, RFF have paused three station projects that may never see the light of day. We simply do not have the spoons to handle this latest drama – it literally makes our job harder, and hurts small, independent artists in the process.

The transmitter remains on as a beacon of what is good about “small” organic artist centric human driven community.

It doesn't matter if you think Threads is going to do something benevolent and safe for the first time this time or that it will be amazing for “reach”. And it doesn't matter if you feel avoiding at all costs for safety is the best thing for your well-being. The political rift alone will hit every last one of us on the non-corporate fedi by way of a fresh flaring of server admin wars that will once again harm artists who may wake up on any given day disconnected from meaningful and needed contacts and support.

Things like this get well in the way of our mission statement to infuse positivity into the network, in the hope of creating any small ripples of joy, love, discovery and support that might make it a better place.

Real talk: Facebook has never NOT been a bastion of harm in its decisions and practice. There are many posts, sites and links and receipts, but you likely can already name a few off the top of your head, without even searching.

Threads continues to platform violent and horrible actors and often turns a blind eye towards hate speech, propaganda, and disinformation campaigns. There should be an overwhelming consensus that blocking their server would be an understood course of action under any rather universal lack of moderation rule on hate and or misinformation.

But blocking threads at the user or even server level may not be enough to minimise damage to the diversity and fabric of the fediverse.

As companies with millions of users move into the space, the network will be larger and ever more transient, and it's more than likely that the data, storage, and bandwidth requirements for operators could climb significantly. A network with, not just millions, but hundreds of millions of users, could end up making entry into hosting part of the network inaccessible to anyone that can't afford to run operations in the face of such growth.

Even if your small server is not following influencers and brands on Threads because of blocking, you might still be connected to a large enough space that has every incentive to federate with them. Maybe it makes sense to connect to mastodon dot social, for example, so you still have the reach you might need for creative projects or for mutual aid initiatives. That's all well and good, until your small community server has to shoulder the strain every time Mastodon.Social hiccups, burps, spams, massive onboards, glitches and creates massive spikes. Smaller players end up having to scale up operations if they hope to remain connected. Multiply this by 10,0000 with the introduction of a player who can afford to out-resource the rest of the network by billions of dollars...

Even if you block Threads, the transient effects of unmitigated network effects will have a negative impact on small players that's currently difficult to comprehend. In the face of rifts over what should be done about the situation, it will turn out that the tsunami will hit you, regardless of whether you block Threads or not.

We don't quite know where is safe, where there will be balance, how transient effects on performance and cost won't price out small actors.

Maintaining low resource nodes will require your server surviving the network strain and the knock-on from the strain of other servers that may be hustling to keep up with threads to still deliver you a filtered experience. This is true even in the case where every ping and packet from is filtered out. Of course, there are a few parties who absolutely do not have to worry about that power imbalance.

The number of amazing hard working fediverse creatives and supporters who are again scrambling for new new alternatives and how we might help each other through is upsetting and beyond exhausting. We get it.

For indie artists and many others who were quite happy in a place “mostly” devoid of one-way clout cannons, where organic interaction was truly possible, it will be troubling to think about losing that vibe or having to up stakes and shift again.

Again, whether you block Threads or not, and whether you chose to be on the fedi for a different experience, the tsunami will hit you in some way. It may be loss of contact with swaths of friends or supporters in a server block. It may be that your server can't keep up with the transient loads when Threads gets more integrated to the network. It may be that this combination of stresses on volunteer efforts and small communities will be brutal, and that they simply cannot carry on enduring. Fair enough.

Staring down this precipice, it is difficult to envisage keeping connectivity to a wide and diverse range of communities, servers and ethea, when that diversity and network is getting pummeled. The rift is growing over what choice to make – subsidise the large corporate players with your participation, hosting, moderation, etc as a best-case scenario, or feel consumed over the network being wholly repurposed for whatever the Facebooks and Amazons and Googles of the world want it to be, removing the rest of us in the process.

We have no idea if, when and how messages FROM the organic network that's been growing here all this time will be presented or hidden out there on the ThreadNet. Nor will we ever know what is being done with the farmed public data: we may be rolling out the red carpet to Zuck. Also, any ideas on what Threads will do with Peertube, or writeas or Owncast? As artists we care about trying to grow these things for artist agency but what will this behemoth do with all that?

You could say Mastodon right now is pretty awful at privacy and stack quality and that is fair, but pound for pound for what it is, despite mission creep and narrative hogging, anything current fedi is leaps and bounds better for data sovereignty and agency than Threads direct use or transient adjacency will ever be.

Saying “but it's public data anyway” is also not the point. You don't get to be a closed source node in an open federation while through sheer scale and unknown effect, potentially muscle the open and transparent small players off the network.

If you want a giant corporate network, then you have plenty of those options. What really is to gain for indie artists by injecting a corporate platform, one resembling places many of us left, into the non-corporate space that we ran to?

What's the best case scenario for a scale apologist living on a non-corporate server, but still wanting all the imaginary clout crumbs from corporate daddy overlord land? trying to siphon some of the natural fedi engagement while getting to follow a bunch of brands and politicians? Weak. What's the best case for the corporate player? Walmart effect and running everyone else out of the network? Shit. What's the best outcome all the plebs on the network we built together? Surviving? Fuck.

Fedi was weird. None of this is keeping Fedi weird. None of this scale is for the benefit of open two-way and organic interaction. How many examples have you heard featuring empty numbers and zero “engagement” from corporate platforms? None of this feels like an invitation to build something beautiful together. Whatever this is, it's not the Open Web.

Wanting scale at any cost casts a shadow on the big players involved of maybe having little interest in an open and organic web that is actually inclusive. If not, then something of substance from them other than a few buzz words about being “great” and “open” would be welcome. It might be prudent to think they are happy leave communities and small actors who can't afford to subsidise their scale in the digital dust.

With all this we can't in good faith, at this time, include Threads federation as a tool we agnostically look to. A platform like this does little to help existing Fedi artists feel community nor achieve reach. While full federation from Threads does not yet exist, there is no good communication on how or if Threads will put non corporate Fedi users on a level or safe playing field: historically, you have absolutely zero reason to trust Meta nor to extend them any benefit of any doubt so hope with extreme caution.

Pragmatically, all we can see coming is increasingly more challenging tasks for artists to navigate around such a presence, or sit in some vague “allowlist ring of trust” maintained by the organic and human part of Fedi, or be absorbed by the corpo brand fedi 3.0, or try to straddle them without losing our spoons more, again affecting our ability to create much less thrive.

We love that you are here with us, we love that you love being here with each other.

We are sorry we cannot see a positive framing that is honest and realistic for this latest rift.

As always our allegiance is 100% in defense of our small, indie, and marginalised artist cousins being safe, well, empowered with some agency, and hopefully getting the support to create, emotionally and materially so we have some damned lunch without a Zuck or minion threatening to swipe it away every other minute.

Many of us have endured quite a bit of ephemera, frustration and loss navigating the fediverse as it has been, yet when we manage to work through, it has at times been rewarded with an experience that is unrivaled by any corporate platform. Again, no matter what you think of Threads or it's incursion into the verse, we will continue to face amplified challenges of scale, safety, privacy, and indeed non-Threads server to server reach due to ethical, political and personal rifts.

That is scary and infuriating given the opportunity for many of us to have experienced in the fedi of some level of being able to operate as artists with way less social signaling, popular performative stress, or even just a fear of fucking existing.

Given the current topography of the fediverse, and the real lack of ability to effectively operate in a choice of modes such as ring of trust allowlist, greylist, or yolo corporate hellhole without that affecting the other modes, there is so much work to do and so few spoons. Unfortunately the bros with all the coin and the numbers have been working hard on full steam ahead for follower numbers at all costs and quite frankly, if the bros at Masto Inc don't believe they'll incur any costs from dancing with the devil, that's folly on their part, but shamefully, it will be taking so many others with them.

So, here we go again. Does being on Radio Free Fedi mean we support genocide in Myanmar or Ethiopia? Because Meta sure did. No. Does being on Radio Free Fedi mean we tolerate Moms for Liberty or LibsofTikTok cause Threads sure does? No.

In principle we can't really include an artist that is solely on Threads since it is not possible to communicate and collaborate with those users at this time. We would also not omit an artist who is on both parts of the network, if they feel they are getting some benefit and support from that. To be fair, the feedback we hear on this leads us to firmly hope some group comes up with a good way for the non-corporate fediverse to continue existing, with as much reach as possible while shielded from the resource and network threats of vast corporate instances. We love artists and want like hell for them to get some damned lunch, but as always while minimising the damage to their well-being and agency.

This all hits waaay different than our regular calls to please do your best to support artists on the platforms and methods they can navigate. In this case the entire network our organic community space thrives in involuntarily merging with a corporate actor of questionable motivation. Even if the Fedi we know isn't merging with Threads directly, we still have to face the potential network load, along with other damages from a corporate actor who bears a long rap sheet of letting human rights and humanitarian crimes slide.

Safety, privacy and quality of content aside, that is a literal heavy load to bear while we also continue navigating fedi admin wars as well as the volatile nature of who can even afford to host nodes where a very poorly built and scalable tech stack in Mastodon with a history of already causing serious network and resource pains downstream from having massive “flagship” instance now leading the charge for an exponential incursion of noise and load.

RFF would not like to give a single iota of community trust to Meta or anyone who values content-siphoning cult of personality they embody. What we are interested in is a network that values human empathy.

We have witnessed that organic human interaction for artists has the ability to organise, motivate, and transform. How do we not lose that? How do we all stay energised to keep reconnecting through all these power imbalances, dramas, and platform fatigue battles?

Does radio free fedi need to exist? Is the name going to be embarrassing going forward as corporations and sponsored shills for an unknown amount of time tolerate our existence adjacent to them?

Look this is not “old man yells at cloud”. Rather, this is a serious reflection on how our points of difference that rallied us so beautifully have been eroded over time, from various directions, and are now queued up for a speed run demolition.

We so want to carry on promoting, celebrating and fostering the discovery and support of amazing, talented, weird and wonderful indie artists, but we need to remain connected to do that, and we truly fear the safety, durability and resilience of our current model for artists and listeners.

The transmitter is on. Our signal remains on full power set to love and comradery. If our existence and your awesome indie community vibes become even weirder in this cowardly new world being thrust upon us, then join us as we raise two fingers to those that were so happy to crap in our collective cornflakes and try to co-opt or muscle us out of our weird, interactive and supportive spaces.

let's punch upward by lifting each other up out there. Support independent artists!