Decentralized Social Media

With the recent Twitter drama surrounding Elon Musk's acquisition of the company, and Reddit locking down their API access, more users are flocking to social media solutions that don't have a single controlling entity.

The web itself is decentralized along with systems like email, XMPP, cryptocurrencies, and more. However, social media has been dominated by a few large players that have incredible control over the content that is hosted on their platforms. With some calling for more questionable content to be removed from these platforms, and others discussing issues of shadow banning & overbearing censorship. Seemingly the only thing that can be agreed upon is that the current centralized social media platform system is not working for users.

First let's talk about a few key words. Federation means having multiple servers talk to each other (creating a decentralized social network). If you don't have federation enabled, only users on the same server can talk to each other (which is centralized). Some platforms allow de-federation, or the ability to stop talking to a specific server. This is primarily done to stop malicious activity, but as we'll learn, can cause harm to decentralized social media platforms.

We are going to discuss 3 decentralized social media platforms: Mastodon, Bluesky, and nostr. Then we'll talk about bridges, and how they can be used to connect these platforms together.


Mastodon was launched in October 2016, and (as of the time of writing this) has 1.5 million monthly active users. The platform boasts 9,400+ individual servers with administrators who are able to make decisions that best suit their users. Clearly one of the veterans in the space, Mastodon received a massive influx of users after Elon Musk purchased Twitter and users began to look for alternatives.

Mastodon was built on top of the ActivityPub protocol. Which is important because Instagram's Threads recently announced they will support the ActivityPub protocol. This means that Mastodon users will be able to interact with Threads users and visa versa. This is a huge step forward for decentralized social media. Currently a few Threads accounts are accessible from Mastodon, but it is still in the early stages, and many things are not yet supported. Sadly, many Mastodon servers have blocked Threads entirely. And reports indicate Threads has even blocked certain ActivityPub servers. The concern here is the lack of transparency from both sides regarding this. Meta has not given any guidance on what servers they are blocking, and why. Transparency is key to a decentralized system, and this is a major concern.

The biggest downside to Mastodon is the lack of account portability. If you want to move to a different server, you will lose all of the posts you previously made. However, you can transfer your followers and following accounts seamlessly to your new server. Full account portability would really diminish the concerns of lack of transparency on the Mastodon side, as users would feel more free to move to a different server if they felt their current server was not acting in their best interest.

I am concerned about Mastodon's funding and resources to continue to develop the platform and features necessary to continue to compete in this space. Mastodon relies entirely on donations, and only a very small percentage of users donate. Mastodon operates as a gGmbH, the German form of a non-profit. Funding is a key theme for all of these decentralized social media platforms, and something we'll discuss more for each.

However, one of the most important things of any social network is users and content. If you aren't finding content you enjoy, you won't stick around. Mastodon has a large user base, and a lot of content. It is a great place to start if you are looking for a decentralized social media platform. With the upcoming Threads integration, it will be even easier to find content you enjoy.

I personally think as the veteran in the space, Mastodon has an incredible lead here. It is currently my favorite decentralized social media platform, and I hope it continues to deliver.

Follow me on Mastodon.


Bluesky was founded on October 4th 2021, and it opened in February 2023. It was spun out from Twitter, and now operates as a public benefit company. The platform is still in invite only beta, but has over 2.8 million total users. Although it should be possible to calculate active users, I wasn't able to find any information on this.

Technically at this point Bluesky is not a decentralized social network. remains the only server, and it is owned and operated by Bluesky. Federation is not currently enabled, but sounds to be a goal for 2024. Additionally, their roadmap isn't that public except for bits and pieces. They also only open sourced their code in May 2023 (3 months after launch). While I understand it's very early days for Bluesky, this lack of openness and transparency is slightly concerning. Bluesky is also the only incorporated LLC on this list. Which is concerning for a decentralized social media platform. I'm not ready to write off Bluesky yet, but these things are worthy of careful observation and scrutiny. I look forward to seeing how it develops after it opens up the ability to create your own server.

It is also very unclear at this point how Bluesky plans to fund itself in the long term. It is currently relying on it's initial funding from Twitter, and an investment round of $8 million completed in July 2023. This is another area that will need to be closely monitored, and Bluesky should really be more transparent about.

One of the coolest things about Bluesky is the ability for anyone to create a feed for users to use. Instead of relying on chronological feeds, or feeds that are controlled by a secret algorithm, users can build and view any algorithm they want. If you are dissatisfied with the algorithm feed you are using, you can simply switch to a different one, without losing the content and platform itself. This is a huge step forward for social media, and I hope it catches on.

All of that being said, so far I have tremendous confidence in Jay Graber the CEO of Bluesky. She clearly has a lot of experience in decentralized applications having worked on Zcash. While all the things I'm concerned about are likely due to the early nature of Bluesky, almost every decision Jay has made from the limited public perspective I have has been incredibly solid. I cannot point to one concrete decision that she has made that I disagree with at this point. I'm excited to see where Bluesky goes with more time.

Follow me on Bluesky.


As far as I can tell the first concept for nostr (which stands for: Notes and Other Stuff Transmitted by Relay) was published on November 7th 2020 on this GitHub commit by @Fiatjaf. However, reports indicate @Fiatjaf started development in 2019. Instead of servers nostr uses relays to connect users. The idea is that users connect to multiple relays and your posts are sent to all the relays you are connected to. Hence reducing a single point of failure or single source of authority.

Jack Dorsey (former CEO of Twitter) donated 14 Bitcoin to @Fiatjaf for nostr development. Later Jack donated another $5 million to a non-profit to help further fund nostr development. Right now like Mastodon, nostr is relying on donations to fund development of individual developers building on top of the protocol.

Due to the nature of the protocol, it's very difficult to ascertain the number of users using nostr. However it is estimated to be just over 350,000 over the past 6 month period. Right now nostr feels extremely Bitcoin centric & early adopter focused. It hasn't gained the mainstream adoption that Mastodon & Bluesky have. While each of these platforms have things they need to succeed, nostr's without a doubt is getting that mainstream adoption. Luckily due to the decentralized nature of it's protocol, developer Alex Gleason wrote, which is a bridge between ActivityPub & nostr. This allows Mastodon users to interact with nostr users, and visa versa. I'll discuss bridges more later.

That being said, the relay concept is extremely interesting, and out of all of the platforms we discussed, nostr is definitely the most decentralized, which I think is really awesome.

One super intriguing feature of nostr is the ability to "zap" users/posts by sending them small amounts of Bitcoin. This is a really cool way to financially support users you enjoy. Sadly at this point setting this feature up is a bit tedious for the average user, and Apple has cracked down on allowing this for nostr apps in the App Store.

nostr is also meant to be a protocol. While I haven't seen very much support for it, features like marketplaces and other things are possible with the protocol. While social media is the primary use case right now, it is very intriguing to think about what else could be built on top of this open protocol.

Follow me on nostr.


Now that all of these platforms are decentralized this opens the possibility for Bridges. Bridges are a way to connect two different decentralized social media platforms together. For example, links Mastodon & nostr together. If you have a Mastodon account and want to follow a nostr user, you can do that. Or if you have a nostr account and want to follow a Mastodon user, you can do that.

It sounds like Ryan Barrett is planning on adding support for Bluesky to Bridgy Fed once Bluesky enables federation. This would allow Bluesky users to interact with Mastodon users, and visa versa. And possibly even nostr users through the bridge. Bridges on top of bridges! is even a bridge for Mastodon that allows you to follow Twitter users on Mastodon.

Sadly, these bridges aren't without drawbacks. One major drawback is it creates a big source of centralization. If a popular bridge goes down, or is attacked, it can create an extremely poor user experience on other platforms. Additionally, the bridge itself can be a source of censorship. If a bridge operator decides to block a specific platform, or a specific user, it can cause a lot of issues for users on the other platform.

Many bridges are open source, which reduces some of these concerns. However, very few bridges have multiple operators running on the same bridge codebase. So while theoretically you could run your own bridge, of the options I discussed, very few people are doing that, and it tends to create more problems for the end user experience.


I'm incredibly bullish on decentralized social media. I truly believe it is the future of social media. The fact that big companies like Meta are starting to support the ActivityPub protocol says a lot.

One of the things that I personally think is super cool about all of these platforms is the ability for developers to build on top of them. They are ecosystems. If you don't like the app you're using to interact with a platform, chances are someone else has built a client that you will like. Or if you are a developer, you can build your own client. Or if you want to build a bridge, you can do that too. The possibilities are endless.

However, many big organizations are still solely relying on Twitter/X & Meta. I think this is a mistake. These organizations should be building a presence wherever their customers/users are. And with Twitter/X losing users, there is no better time to start building a presence on decentralized social media platforms.

I have been building some technology on top of decentralized social networks, and plan to keep investing my free time into this space. In fact, I'm thrilled to share as of this post my blog now supports decentralized social media comments! You can read more about that here. While this feature is still in beta, I'm excited for everyone to try it out.

I hope this post has helped you understand decentralized social media a bit better. I really want to answer any questions you have about decentralized social media. If there is anything I can do to help you get started, please contact me. The more people we can get on decentralized social media, the better it will be for everyone. Hearing different perspectives, and having healthy discussions is what can make social media great. I hope you'll join me on this journey.

PS (for the more technical audience). I know a lot of concepts here I oversimplified or didn't explain completely accurately (ex. I stated Mastodon in many cases where ActivityPub would have been a more accurate term to use). This post is meant to give people a high level introduction to decentralized social media. I aimed to keep it as simple as possible.