There are many software options to choose from if you want to enter the Fediverse. To name a few, there is of course Mastodon where most people are likely to land on nowadays but there is also Epicyon, Friendica and Pleroma to name just a few. Every option has it’s own unique style, features, pros and cons but in the end they all provide access to the same Fediverse.
I’m a long time user of Mastodon because I like how the web interface enables me to communicate with the Fediverse. The lay-out of the columns with home, notification, local timeline etc always had a certain appeal to me. The last week however, during the first large Twitter migration, I’ve got a bit overwhelmed with too many toots on my home stream not to mention the local timeline. Then my instance Fosstodon had some down time. In these exciting times I was kind of anxious to follow the situation from within the Fediverse. Without access to Mastodon I took refuge to my old Friendica account. I wrote about Friendica in the past but I stopped using it mainly because of the cluttered UI that often confused me.
Entering the Fediverse with Friendica again made me appreciate the Friendica software. First there is just one column or stream instead of three or more in Mastodons web interface. This provides a certain calmness that I was looking for at this moment. Also Friendica provides the option to change the UI by customizing the theme of even by choosing another theme. The combination of these two provides an experience that is currently easier for my eyes and mind.
Another important difference is that I’m easily able to create groups. When I connect with someone I can add that person to a group that I created e.g friend, acquaintance. I even created groups for companies and bots. Now with just a single mouse click I can change my stream to e.g friends to see what they have to tell today. I use this feature often. I know that Mastodon has a list feature where I can do more or less the same but I somehow never really use it. To take it even further I can create a group with RSS feeds and WordPress blogs. This turns Friendica into a news reader.
Getting back to the cluttered user interface I was talking about. Friendica allows the user to make changes to the user interface. There are a couple of themes to choose from and the themes can be customized in color. Also the layout and the content of the stream can be adjusted. This way I was able to create a style that is easier to digest making Friendica a much better experience than it was for me in the past.
And the list of features in Friendica goes on:
- Friendica wants you to be able to communicate with every one so besides ActivityPub it supports other protocols such as Diaspora*.
- It’s easy to access older posts because of the archive option.
- An event calendar.
- And a very advanced text editor to create a post that BTW isn’t limited in length. This doesn’t mean that your stream is filled with long ramblings. Just the first few lines of a post will be shown.
- The ability to create or join a forum. The forum allows people to join a special interest group for discussion etc.
- A feature to ‘quote share’ a post from someone else. It’s my understanding that this is a much requested feature from Twitter migrants.
- As an advantage of Friendica I wanted to mention you can have posts with hashtags in your stream and that you can edit a post that has already been published but with version 4.0 this is also possible in Mastodon.
There are also features lacking in Friendica (or I couldn’t find them) that are available in Mastodon. Notably:
- No option for a content warning in a post you’re creating. This option is heavily used in Mastodon e.g to warn people for a post about a sensitive topic e.g politics. Friendica does respect content warnings from Mastodon though.
- No option to add a text to an image. Mastodon has this option to include visually impaired people.
- No option to blur an image. In Mastodon this is a feature similar to a content warning for a text.
It appears to me that Mastodon has more options for inclusion than Friendica like the features mentioned above and deliberate not having the feature of ‘quote sharing’.
I realize that I haven’t even scratched the surface of all the features of Friendica. But I can safely conclude that Friendica is more for power users and for people that want even more control over their stream and don’t want to get overwhelmed with a flood of information such as the local timeline in Mastodon. It lets you fine tune the information even better with easy one click selections of groups. It’s also for people that want to stay in contact with people over different parts of the Fediverse (e.g Mastodon and Diaspora*) and want to be able to keep these contacts manageable in one single stream together with hashtags and RSS feeds.