Trying Friendica

My discomfort with the Fediverse might be discomfort with Mastodon itself.

I’ve been making forays into the Fediverse (federated social media using protocols like OStatus and ActivityPub) since 2017, and each of those forays has been on a Mastodon server. I generally end up leaving within six to twelve months.


What’s Wrong with Mastodon?

It’s occurred to me that the problem might not be the Fediverse1 itself, but with Mastodon. I’ve griped about Mastodon before so I won’t belabor the points I had attempted to make back in 2019. In fairness, the Mastodon software has improved considerably in the last four years.

However, Mastodon still lacks functionality that I would like available when I use social media.

However, Friendica seems to provide these. But let’s get into a bit of detail about why this functionality matters to me.

Markdown Support

Admittedly, Twitter never supported the use of Markdown, and since Mastodon tries to imitate the best of Twitter it doesn’t either. Chances are, the “normal people” driven off Twitter don’t care about being able to format text using a lightweight markup language, and that’s fine.

However, I find it useful and the only social platform that came close to supporting Markdown was Google+, and what that platform provided wasn’t actually Markdown, but a subset of Textile. Still, just being able to italicize titles of novels and albums or use boldface for emphasis was vastly superior than having to emphasize with all caps.

It was less shouty, at least.

However, Friendica provides Markdown support as a plugin. That will do.

Importing Posts from RSS

This seems like such a basic integration with the open web, and can’t be that hard to do since RSS and Atom are reasonably well-documented XML formats that have been around for decades, and yet most social platforms don’t provide this functionality.

I can understand why the likes of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. don’t: they depend on “engagement”; they want people glued to their screens with their attention devoted to the platform. If writers could easily and automatically syndicate their work to these platforms, and if other people were in the habit of visiting independent websites from links on social media, then social media users might remember or realize that there’s a whole internet outside of social media and that would be bad for engagement, and thus unprofitable.

Nevertheless, I much prefer to have my own website. I don’t want to devote all of my free time to writing for a platform I don’t own and control. That’s called digital sharecropping and I’ve never liked it. I doubt I ever will.

However, Friendica will let you add RSS and Atom feeds as contacts, just as if they were ActivityPub accounts. When doing so, you can set them to reshare posts as if they were your own. Sounds good to me.

Grouping Contacts

You couldn’t do this on Twitter. You can’t do it on Mastodon. Really, the only platform I remember that came close to getting this right was Google+.

Listen: I have a lot of interests, but I interact with people who don’t have all of the same interests I do. Say I talk to a techie who isn’t interested in heavy metal, or a metalhead who isn’t interested in reading my fiction, or other writers who don’t want to hear about me building my own websites with shell scripts and a makefile.

On Mastodon, the only way to avoid hearing from people you follow about stuff you’re not interested in is to filter by keyword. I’d rather not make people do that. If I can have a group for techies, a group for metalheads, and a group for scifi writers and then target posts accordingly, that seems rather more courteous.

However, Friendica provides contact grouping.

Giving Friendica a Shot

As you might have guessed, I’ve decided to give Friendica a shot. I’ve created an account on a public Friendica server at, mainly because the name reminded me of an old GNU/Linux distribution I used to use.

I’ve already got it set up to import material from my RSS feed and it seems to have pulled in a couple of randomly-selected posts. However, it’s only pulled in titles, summaries, URLs, and preview images. Then again, maybe the feed isn’t valid. Also, one of the developers suggested that I use a headline-only feed instead of the full text version.

Let’s see if it pulls in the text of this new post. If it doesn’t, it’s still better functionality than Mastodon offered, and I can see about migrating away from Mastodon. Hopefully it won’t be too tedious to import my contacts and set up a redirect from my Mastodon profile…

about the author

photo of a pale, blue-eyed man in a black coat with long brown hair outdoors in the winter

writes science fantasy inspired by heavy metal and has a day job as a software developer. He is currently writing a new novel called Spiral Architect. He'll use your pronouns, but doesn't care which ones you use with him. You can reach him at