Concerns about the potential implications of instances being too cut off from each other


#1

Hi, I hope this is the kind of place to put this kind of feedback.
To make things clear, I do understand that the decentralization aspect of Mastodon is one of its biggest selling points as it allows for community-level moderation and management, and I am all for the potential benefits that implies.
I see a lot of potential in this and look forward to how it may develop as a social media network.
However, I’m also worried that the current state of Mastodon prioritizes this decentralization so much that it has a lot of detrimental side effects.

For context, I currently work as a hobbyist musician and overall creative content producer who works in various different fields, and since I work on commission I like to advertise myself to any kind of audience that might be interested in my work. Unfortunately, at least four different circles that I work as an active participant in have decided to make their own separate instances, and right now, no matter what instance I choose I will have cut myself from all the other communities that are starting to form around the timelines.

In general, my concerns about Mastodon’s decentralization come from the fact that it basically encourages the formations of cliques, which is another entirely dangerous atmosphere to foster – in the past I’ve watched as clique formation has caused communities to get more and more self-contained and hostile to outsiders, often not by intent but because they’ve become so insular that they have no outside interaction with anyone.
Especially for creators, this is a really bad position to be in – it starts fostering the atmosphere that you have to limit yourself to posting content relevant to the community you’re trapped in, without any hope of crossover or ability to present yourself as someone who works in general things.

Another concern I have about the decentralization is that it basically slaves your account itself to the instance you’re in. To my understanding Mastodon still provides a number of tools to let you migrate your account easily. But no matter what, as Twitter has demonstrated when an account gets shut down, losing all your followers in one fell swoop and having to start entirely from scratch can be severely damaging to someone who relies on making an audience (in my case, it’s not that I particularly seek popularity or notoriety as much as I really need my work to be seen for the sake of my work).
If the admin(s) who manages my Mastodon instance goes MIA or they end up unable to sustain their server anymore, suddenly everything I’ve built up will be gone, and because of that I get nervous relying on a single instance. Twitter’s problems lie in the fact it’s run by a single organization that you can lose all your data in one fell swoop due to arbitrary rules, but even if you pick a Mastodon instance that’s kinder about moderation, the fact that you’re still dependent on the fate of one single entity hasn’t changed.

Again, I understand that Mastodon’s decentralization is its selling point, but is there no way to provide a happy medium?
Suppose there were a way to open pages on multiple instances (let’s say, for example, I make an account on mastodon.a, and another one on mastodon.b) and “link” them into one account. I would post toots to one of my accounts, and they would post to the timelines of the other accounts it’s linked to.
Functionally I don’t think this violates the decentralization principles of Mastodon; I can still pick and choose which communities I consider myself a part of, I would still be obligated to follow the rules of both mastodon.a and mastodon.b, and in fact this is functionally no different from posting everything onto mastodon.a and just boosting everything on it with the mastodon.b account (it’s just that for obvious reasons, doing this with the current options would be incredibly impractical).
This also provides a way out of the issue of account loss; if mastodon.a suddenly became no longer able to fund their server’s instance and the instance got shut down, my account would still be active on mastodon.b and I wouldn’t have to worry about losing my follower base.

This is just one suggestion, of course; there are possibly many ways to approach the problems I described above, but the ultimate point I want to make is that these are significant problems that worry me going forward.


#2

Please look at these issues and vote for the ones (or heart the comments) that interest you most:

There are further related feature requests linked within those.