a rickety bridge of impossible crossing

we need a textodon

My home fediverse instance, gamemaking.social, (as well as many or all instances on masto.host) was down for a couple hours last night. Which isn't that big a deal --- this isn't critical infrastructure and I don't expect any number of "nines". Anything higher than 90% uptime is probably fine. I guess that's one nine. But when they say "nines" they just mean to the right of the decimal point, right? The 99% is implied?1 Man, if I'm ever in a position where I have to think about anything with precision beyond a hundredth of a percent, my life has gone severely off the rails.

But the cause of the disturbance was, as it so often turns out to be, a problem with the media host. Every instance using masto.host was unable to fetch images and videos, which led to a snafu with the "sideKiq queue", which meant even non-media-related queries like status updates and favorites were timing out.

This got me thinking, not for the first time, that there really oughta be a text-only implementation of mastodon or one of the other fediverse ecosystems. Or the idea should at least be on the table. Back in the days of scrappy little independent forums, hosted by yahoo or ezBoard.com, which is what the fediverse most reminds me of in spirit, there was never an expectation that the forum would host gigabytes of images and video for everyone who used it. Not for free, and even paid forums like somethingAwful, to the best of my recollection, never offered any kind of in-house image hosting solution. There was waffleImages, but I don't think that was ever officially affiliated with the site. Prior to 2006, It was just understood that if you wanted to post pictures, you'd find your own place to put them. There were all kinds of options, some better than others, like tinyPic and photoBucket and, not to blow any minds, the web space included in your ISP package. Remember when that was a thing?

Then twitter and faceBook came along with their billions in venture capital and were like "don't worry! We'll take care of you :)" and social media took over the world, and look where we ended up. Now that there's finally a meaningful pushback against the corporate internet takeover, we're having to re-examine a lot of our norms, and I think the expectation that a scrappy community should be expected to shoulder the burden of hosting gigabytes of data for us should be one of them. It makes running a community a lot harder for the average person, which leads to centralized solutions like masto.host, which is effectively a central point of failure for the majority of a federated network, which I'm sure everyone would agree isn't ideal.

Why not have a version of mastodon that doesn't allow image uploads? That doesn't fetch media? It can have avatars and emojis, which internet forums could do because those don't take up much space; and it could show you placeholder images with the description and a link to view the image on the remote site. If anyone on that instance wants to post media, they can host it on their dropBox account or google drives or on imgur or one of the many solutions still used by smaller online communities. Heck, that's my reality here on the free tier of bearBlog, and I don't have a problem with it. I can figure out my own image hosting, and in return, I only cost the person generously providing the service pennies instead of dollars. The paid option which includes media hosting is always there, should I be able to afford it/decide I need it.

I'm not saying every fediverse instance has to be text-only, obviously this wouldn't make sense for pixelFed or mastodon.art, and people who can afford to pay for media hosting out of pocket or rely on donations from the community can continue to do so. But having a text-only option would make it a lot easier for your average individual to spin up their own mastodon (or akkoma or goToSocial, more likely) instances. You might see others enter the masto.host provider space, offering to set up text-only instances for a fraction of the cost of a full-service instance, with significantly fewer outages and significantly less load on the fediverse as a whole.

I dunno, I think this is just one of those ways trying to replicate twitter exactly has led to a distortion of realistic expectations. The small internet cannot and should not provide a 1:1 replacement for the corporate internet, because the corporate internet can raise billions in venture capital and operate at a loss for years to sell us a lie, a version of reality that never should've existed. We should at least try to imagine a world where things are different. And that's my 2’ worth of plainText 🐫

  1. nope, had this wrong, "five nines" refers to 99.999% uptime. The power of looking things up! So yes, One Nine is Totally Fineℒ↩