Ghost Going After Your Inbox

Everyone likes the 'Fediverse' concept, will users adopt it at scale?
Newsletter Platform Ghost Adopts ActivityPub
To ‘bring back the open web’ as interoperable social media is having a real moment...

I briefly commented on the notion that Ghost – the service on which Spyglass runs – could join the "Fediverse" in last week's newsletter. At the time, it was just an "exploration". Well, it only took them a few days to seemingly go all-in:

Open platforms keep gaining support out there — newsletter platform Ghost just published what amounts to a manifesto in support of the ActivityPub protocol with plans to ship ActivityPub integration “in 2024.”

That’s a big shot of support for the fediverse — the network of open and interoperable social services that have all been gaining momentum over the past year. Ghost founder John O’Nolan recently said that federation over ActivityPub was the platform’s “most requested feature over the past few years” — a comment he made on Meta’s Threads, which itself is slowing beginning to federate.

Okay, that all sounds nice, but what does it actually mean?

The idea here is that all these networks will allow users to follow and share content between them, keeping you from needing to have multiple accounts and lists of followers and so on — you’ll just be able to get content and engage with it from any service across multiple different platforms. Ghost an makes explicit comparison to email in its manifesto...

Here's that manifesto:

Building ActivityPub
Ghost is federating over ActivityPub to become part of the world’s largest publishing network.

That site also features some mocks of what Ghost is envisioning – a sort of "inbox" as it were, of new posts, as well as a new reading experience. Both are features that rival Substack offers, but not built on these open protocols, but instead as a pretty clear attempt to keep you using Substack more (which is fine, though their push from email subscribers to Substack followers feels very bullshitty).

So yes, this could potentially take newsletter delivery out of your email inbox and into your Ghost inbox, which would obviously be more focused around reading.1 This makes sense, especially if you have the choice of where you wish to deliver such things, as I assume most readers would still choose to use email.

In a way, it's also a bit like newfangled RSS, which is also a way a number of people subscribe to Spyglass. But that protocol, while not as old as email, is also pretty long in the tooth and not something younger generations seem to know about, let alone use.

The most interesting aspect of this may be the idea of automatically publishing to fediverse-compatible networks like Mastodon and soon, Threads. Sharing your work on all the different networks post-Twitter-shitting-the-bed is a huge pain in the ass, to say the least. If this makes that less of a pain, that's great.

Honestly, I'm still mildly skeptical of the whole notion of a "Fediverse" because it just sounds like one of those things that's "winning" to talk about, but that the masses don't actually tend to use. But this growing support here gives some hope that this time will be different, I suppose.

1 For what it's worth, this is something Matter, a service in which I'm an investor, offers as well)