Something occurred to me the other day as I shared a YouTube video on my Mastodon profile. The Fediverse as a concept does not really have a distinctive brand that faces the consumer, and that is a potential problem as the network develops and grows.
The Fediverse's Lack of Branding
By definition, the Fediverse is a network of services that all interact with each other through common protocols. It's part of what makes the concept so wonderful; users are not tied or locked into a single service and all the problems those have. This landscape approach mirrors reality, and reflects the unique aspects of human life that homogeneous services like Facebook ignore.
The Fediverse doesn't have it's own branding because it delegates that to individual protocols and services. Mastodon and Pleroma are both distinct brands and do a fine job of attracting users on their own. Hubzilla and other services are similar. The compatibility of protocols ensures that their respective users can interact without ever knowing which services they're on.
Why Branding Is Important
Variety comes at a price however. The sheer breadth of choice on offer can be overwhelming for new and unfamiliar users. Once within the system it becomes less of an issue (except if one wants to talk about features) but unless there is some familiarity with the fediverse the its nature, there's a risk new users will feel overwhelmed and simply retreat to the closed-source silos.
Mastodon attempts to overcome this 'overwhelming' issue with its Join Mastodon
page where users can find an instance that best suits their interests. Such a service helps usher new users into the system and guides their first foray into an entirely new universe for them.
Mastodon's brand is pretty strong and as a brand, it forms a shortcut for users and non-users alike who want to use, discuss, or share information of the service. The Fediverse doesn't have that kind of trait and arguably doesn't need it. However, I would posit that while the concept
of the Fediverse does not need branding, the service
of the Fediverse does.
Find me on Facebook
These four words ought to be familiar to you; as should 'Follow me on Twitter'. They're more than invitations, they're invocations. 'You should really connect with me on Facebook if you're not a member, and if you are, you can find me there and we'll do awesome things together' is what those words really say.
Such a concept is critical to both the brand and service of Facebook because it not only helps grow the userbase, it also helps reinforce its relevance to user's lives. Of course Facebook's motives are purely commercial with the ultimate goal of extracting revenue and data from users, but the Fediverse could benefit from the idea too.
Right now, there is no cohesive manner in which members of the Fediverse can advertise their participation. I know this is partly because many existing tools don't cater towards federated services, and that it's only a matter of time until they do. Yet my own issue highlighted a need for something like the 'Follow me on Facebook' call to arms where people could see where or how extensive my presence in the Fediverse is.
Discover me in the Fediverse
What form this would take I do not know. It could be as simple as a link to a single profile, or it could go to a page where a user's presence across all services is listed. It would likely need to be flexible enough to cater to both extremes. Either way, it would have to achieve the goal of conveying to people outside the Fediverse that they can follow and interact with someone by signing up for, or following them on one or a range of services.
What would be necessary regardless is some form of badge that serves as a consistent identity for the Fediverse across the web. Such a badge would serve to advertise the Fediverse 'brand' and provide a visual beacon for people to recognise.
If something like this were implemented, it would provide a good way to not only increase awareness of the Fediverse, but also to encourage new members to join.
Just a thought.