The following is an email sent to all vmst.io members on July 3, 2023.
Hey there, vmst.io Member!
Before you swipe left on this message, allow me to clarify that I’ve considered for a long time whether to send an email to all of you. I deeply respect your privacy and understand that you didn’t provide us with your email to subscribe to a newsletter. Whether you joined yesterday or nine months ago, we’ve only ever used your email for account alerts. I hope you’ll forgive me if, perhaps once a year, I reach out with some updates? (And I’m crossing my fingers that Fastmail doesn’t get upset when I copy and paste 2400 email addresses into the Bcc field.)
Twitter’s restrictions and rate limiting access over the weekend has resulted in a resurgence of interest in Mastodon and the entire Fediverse. Although things at vmst.io never really slowed down (our server activity levels have been pretty consistent since January), on Sunday our backend queues processed over 2.12 million jobs. For comparison, on the first Sunday in June, we handled 1.051 million.
This surge isn’t solely because vmst.io was twice as busy on Sunday, although I noticed some of you returning. We are “well federated” and now relay with some of the largest instances in the Fediverse. Relays enable all content from participating instances to be directly federated to everyone else, without needing a direct user connection to be established first. This promotes content discovery and helps to complete conversation threads and hashtags for our users. Federation and content discovery would still happen without relays, but relays create a fast lane between participating instances.
Being a vmst.io member gives you the benefits of a highly available and powerful backend, careful moderation, and the opportunity to be part of the wider Mastodon community, without missing out.
Speaking of our highly available backend, it handled the 2x traffic spike this weekend without any difficulty.
Twitter’s loss of popularity wasn’t the only event of note last month. The partial shutdown of Reddit due to moderator protests, followed by the effective shutdown of their third-party client API at the end of June, has prompted exponential growth in platforms like kbin and Lemmy within the Fediverse. While I don’t plan to operate an instance based on these platforms, I am excited by these developments. I enjoy running vmst.io as a Mastodon instance because it provides the most “Twitter-like” experience, and that’s where I’ve spent much of my time for the past 14 years. I’ve never been a major user of other social media platforms.
However, thanks to the Fediverse, you can comment, like, and interact with kbin and Lemmy posts from your vmst.io Mastodon account! I do it all the time; simply copy and paste the URL of a kbin or Lemmy post into our website’s search bar and let the ActivityPub protocol do its magic.
In addition, there’s Meta… which, whether we like it or not, is coming to a Fediverse near you before the end of this year with a product called “Threads”. This will be a microblogging experience based on your Instagram persona. In June, there was a fair bit of controversy among instance administrators and other community leaders on this topic, which escalated when Meta began meeting with administrators of some instances to communicate their plans directly. I have not been a part of these discussions, but I regularly communicate with a few individuals who manage much larger instances than ours who have been. The calls to “defederate” (block) Meta from instances before Threads is even launched are, at best, misguided. The calls to defederate those who don’t defederate Meta are actively harmful to the health of the network.
I firmly believe that ActivityPub is the key to the future of social media (Bluesky is forgettable in this context) and as an open protocol, no one can or should control who gets to use it. Mastodon, Calckey, Lemmy, Pixelfed, Micro.blog, WriteFreely, Peertube, etc., all function because of ActivityPub. I have no illusions that Meta is some kind of benevolent force, but I do appreciate their decision to adopt ActivityPub for Threads. We’ll see where this leads us in the future.
Lastly, I want to acknowledge that this is all made possible thanks to your financial contributions to vmst.io. Just about 100 of you subscribe either monthly or yearly, with a contribution of at least $2 a month via Ko-Fi, Patreon, or Open Collective. Your support sustains us, allowing us to handle 2x traffic over a weekend without missing a beat. All contributions are used to cover server bills and other hosting costs. From a technical standpoint, scaling up is straightforward as long as we can cover the expenses.
If you’re able to, I would sincerely appreciate you visiting https://docs.vmst.io/funding and considering a “2x” increase in your contribution (unless it’s currently $0 wink) to ensure we’re prepared for whatever comes next.
Monday July 3, 2023