I love federation. I really do. Being independent of large corporations for social media is awesome and it should be the future; lest something like what happened to Twitter—now X—happens again to another platform used by hundreds of millions of people.
Being able to leave one platform for another without losing the ability to partake in your favourite conversation circles is inherently good for the consumer.
This isn’t even a new concept. Look at email. If, for whatever reason, you want to, you can switch to a different email provider any time. Yes, you would have to let your contacts know your new email address and subscribe anew to your mailing lists, but you can do it relatively easily and will still be able to communicate with each and every one of your contacts.
The option to do it is such an inherent part of email communication that not a single programmer coding the UI, or the backend, thinks about whether it is necessary to allow the user to change their email address. And most every user expects that they are able to change their email.
This should also become the case for social media. Users should not be forced to stay on a specific platform if part, or most, of their circle does not want to change to a different platform, irrespective of the reason, or be forced to leave their circle behind and look for a new one.
But what does this all mean and where does self-hosting come into play?
As with email you can setup your own server to join the federated social media network, which is called the fediverse. There is a plethora of different software for different purposes:
Mastodon has the most servers and most users in total. but it’s not the oldest or only piece of software. Similar to Mastodon are Pleroma, Misskey and their Forks—as open-source software anyone can choose to “fork” it and continue down a different development path—which can be compared to Twitter in concept.
And just to name a few others not quite like the aforementioned: PeerTube, PixelFed, Friendica, BookWyrm, WriteFreely…
What all these have in common is ActivityPub, a protocol that enables them to communicate with each other, even though they look so different on the outside. This means you can subscribe to your friend’s PeerTube account with your Misskey account and comment on the videos without having a PeerTube account of your own.
You can of course choose to join some instance with open registrations, based on arbitrary criteria, or you can host your server yourself.
For that you need just two things: A domain and a server.
Domains, generally, are cheap. .social is on the more expensive side of domains, but it is not a necessity to have a .social domain to join the fediverse. Any domain will do, as long as you are able to point it at your server.
Servers come in all price ranges, but a good first approach would be to check if you can provision a decently sized ARM instance from Oracle Cloud for free. I have been using Oracle Cloud’s Always Free Tier for a while now and the up to 4 Core, 24 GB RAM ARM instance is much more than enough to host my single-user Pleroma server.
Considering all the incredible guides out there on how to setup your own server, I’m not going to put one here myself. If you do have questions though, don’t hesitate to ask, either here or in the fediverse, we are mostly happy to help.