Identity in the Fediverse
A recurring problem I and others see in the fediverse, with both new and veteran users, is the issue of a single identity.
I wrestled with this when I first created a Mastodon account, going straight for one on mastodon.social, as most people do. But when I wanted to start my own writing-centric instance, I had to create a new personal account on it and mention my mastodon.social account in the bio, and vice versa. I was the same person, but speaking to different audiences — one, a general audience and the other, more about writing.
Many people create multiple accounts — the point, especially on niche instances, is to get access to the local timeline and see the conversations around your instance's niche. (There are probably better ways to handle this specific problem, but I digress.)
The issue of identity really started to grow as new platforms popped up. There's PixelFed / Anfora for photos, PeerTube for videos, Plume and WriteFreely for blogging, and many more in the works. Though #ActivityPub allows you to follow and comment on all these services from a single identity, current implementations unfortunately don't accommodate the other side: the publisher hoping to utilize all these services under a single identity.
But I think I have a solution — one I mentioned in a recent conversation in the fediverse.
Essentially, we could make each ActivityPub service work both as a publishing platform and a client to other AP services. So for example, if I wanted my primary identity to be a Mastodon account, I could also create a PixelFed account like normal and hook it up to that Mastodon account. In this scenario, PixelFed would let me turn off publication of any ActivityPub endpoints (so people aren't also following my PixelFed account), and would simply interact with Mastodon's API as a client. With this kind of setup, I could use PixelFed's photo uploading / filtering features and have everything go to the profile of mine that people already follow, over on Mastodon. With this, people could combine any number of services to publish a variety of posts all to a single identity.
With the projects I'm building, WriteFreely and Read.as, you might use your WriteFreely blog as your primary identity, and then by hooking up your Read.as account, any posts you boost from there would be published to your blog.
Of course, making this work in practice will involve much more work that wouldn't otherwise be needed. For one, each platform would need to be able to store any kind of activity out there published by another platform. And some platforms will be more suited to play the “identity” role than others.
Still, I think it's an interesting idea. And I'll be experimenting with it in the future to see if it's all actually possible.