Matthias Pfefferle on ActivityPub, WordPress and Decentralised Social Networks – WP Tavern

Matthias Pfefferle started using WordPress in its early stages when it was still known as b2. He became passionate about blogging and the web 2.0 era. Over time he dedicated himself to making blogging relevant and developed various tools to compete with social networks, building communities professionally and working for a European hoster. Matthias ultimately joined Automattic to focus on WordPress and the ActivityPub plugin full-time.

We start off talking about the importance of owning your own content, and how it grants us control over what gets published and when it gets deleted or amended. Matthias introduces us to Mastodon, a social network that operates on a non-algorithmic, chronological feed. This means that the content is displayed in the order it was created, breaking free from possibly addictive patterns we see in other platforms.

We learn about the Fediverse, where users can set up their own servers and customise their own rules. Matthias explains how servers communicate with each other through following and federating, creating a truly decentralised network. He shares insights into how relays can be used to generate traffic and activity on new Mastodon servers should you find your feet a little quiet at the start?

There’s definitely some new workflows to learn using the Fediverse and Matthias highlights the differences between Twitter and the Fediverse, with the latter starting off quiet and gradually growing as users find and interact with others.

He introduces us to the ActivityPub plugin for WordPress, which allows users to publish their blogs on Mastodon, and federate the content to different servers. We get an explanation of how it works, what it does, and where it strays from the way you’re used to interacting with a proprietary platform.

We discussed the various waves of migration to Mastodon and the factors that triggered them, including Reddit’s decision to monetize their API. Matthias sheds light on the challenges faced by decentralised networks, and how has implemented his ActivityPub plugin, albeit in a modified form, making it easier for users to migrate their accounts. The adoption of the plugin has been steadily rising, and Matthias expresses his confidence in the plugin’s potential, citing the press coverage and impact of Automattic’s takeover.

He also provides insights on how interactions on Mastodon federate, explaining how likes, comments, boosts, updates or deletions to blog posts are reflected across platforms.

Towards the end Matthias shares his thoughts on the future of federated social networks and the potential support from existing platforms like Meta. He emphasises the profound benefits of using protocols like ActivityPub, allowing users to own their own data and have more control over their content, unlike closed platforms that can delete accounts and cause data loss.

If you want to learn more about the Fediverse, Mastodon, ActivityPub, or just want to know how to make WordPress a first-class citizen in social networks, this podcast is for you.