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Open source Substack competitor Ghost may join the fediverse.

Ghost, the open source alternative to Substack’s mailing platform, is thinking about joining the fediverse, a social network of networked servers that includes applications like Mastodon, Pixelfed, PeerTube, Flipboard, and, more recently, Instagram Threads, among others. John O’Nolan, the creator of Ghost, reports that the nonprofit organization is considering federating Ghost with ActivityPub, the social networking protocol that powers the fediverse.

According to O’Nolan, the most often requested feature in recent years has been the ability to federate his program. “There seem to be several methods to do this. Curious to hear how you’d want it to work?” he asked in a Threads post that was published to Mastodon using Threads’ own interface with ActivityPub.

The poll asks participants whether they utilize any ActivityPub platforms, such as Mastodon or Threads, and how they anticipate ActivityPub’s capability to operate in Ghost if it is enabled. It also inquires about how federation might help Ghost users. Additionally, it requests survey participants to provide their email address if they want to receive further feedback in the future.

While the publication of a poll does not necessarily imply a commitment to federating Ghost, it is another piece of evidence of the larger transformation of the web that is now unfolding.

Following Twitter’s purchase by billionaire Elon Musk, internet users have encountered the disadvantages of placing their confidence in centralized platforms: A change in ownership transformed Twitter into a new platform, dubbed X, with altered ethics and long-term goals. (Musk wants X to be an “everything” app for transactions, creator content, video, commerce, and more, while taking a more hands-off approach to content control.)

For some who were dissatisfied with Musk’s modifications, having a portable social networking persona suddenly became more appealing. That is, if you don’t like how your Mastodon server (or other federated service) is operated, you may take up your profile and transfer it somewhere else, bringing your followers with you.

With Ghost, however, the goal may be to combine the accounts of authors who use Ghost to post their writing. They could also publish their postings on the web and send them to their newsletter subscribers in the fediverse, enabling others to read, like, and respond to them using their preferred app. They might also syndicate these responses back to Ghost as comments.

If Ghost took this approach, it would be analogous to how WordPress federated with ActivityPub after purchasing an ActivityPub blog plugin. Users using applications like Mastodon and others in the fediverse can follow WordPress blogs when enabled, and they can respond by leaving comments on their own sites.

After viewing O’Nolan’s article, Mastodon CTO Renaud Chaput came out to offer assistance with the ActivityPub integration, which O’Nolan accepted.

Similar to why some have abandoned X, Ghost has gained traction as a Substack competitor in recent months due to differences in platform control. Substack has moved to encourage free expression, like Musk does on X, but this has also resulted in the platform being utilized by pro-Nazi publications, as The Atlantic reported late last year.

As a result, one of Substack’s best-known authors, Casey Newton (formerly of The Verge), quit the platform and moved to Ghost.

“I’m not aware of any major U.S. consumer internet platform that does not explicitly ban praise for Nazi hate speech, much less one that welcomes them to set up shop and start selling subscriptions,” Newton said at the time.

In addition to Newton, famous Ghost users include 404 Media, Buffer, Kickstarter, David Sirota’s The Lever, and Tangle.

Today, Ghost has been installed over 3 million times, which would be a welcome addition to the larger fediverse, which has about 13 million total members, approximately 1.5 million of whom are active monthly. (This statistic excludes Threads’ 130+ million monthly active users, who are not yet completely linked with ActivityPub.)

Juliet P.
Author: Juliet P.

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