Do the many Fediverse services launched by Mike MacGirvin confuse you already? Friendica, Hubzilla, Osada, Zap, Misty...
And how many of them have you heard of anyway?
If you know Friendica already, have you heard of Hubzilla yet? If so, have you heard of Misty?
Okay, here's a non-OpenSim, non-Metaverse post for a change. I think I've managed to see through this maze of networks. Maybe this could help you pick one if you want to join the Fediverse on something more powerful and versatile than Mastodon.
The "stable" networks are:
- Friendica (2010). The federate-with-no-mercy pioneer, formerly known as Mistpark (until someone told Mike MacGirvin what that means if you take it as a German word). Of the three, it used to be the absolute champion in federation, and it's the most well-known, but being the oldest of the bunch, it has fallen behind so far that it has a harder time catching up to Zap and Misty's pace and new developments. However, this also means that Friendica is unlikely to confront you with unexpected new features or big changes that need getting used to.
It's mostly popular amongst those who have never heard of the newer networks, those who have always been using Friendica and want to stay faithful to it and those who have tried Hubzilla but found it too cumbersome and overwhelming and haven't heard of Misty. Its killer feature over Hubzilla, next to an easier UI, used to be the Facebook connector which I guess is dead and gone, not only because Facebook restricted its use, but also because it was a performance hog due to people mirroring their entire Facebook timelines into Friendica.
- Hubzilla (2015). The near-omnipotent kaiju of networks, formerly known as Red and then Red Matrix before it went stable. Of the three, it's the most powerful by far, but its UI surrenders to its feature richness.
In comparison to Friendica, Hubzilla has lost a connector or two, mostly stuff that hardly anyone needs or you shouldn't really use anyway such as Facebook. But it has piled tons of stuff on top. Unlike the others, Hubzilla wasn't intended as a social network but as a decentralised CMS, although it ended up being seen and used as a social network again.
One major new feature are channels; you can basically have the functionality of multiple Friendica accounts separately from each other within one Hubzilla account. Each channel can have multiple profiles again.
The social aspect is enhanced by an app called Friend Zoom that allows you to assign a "degree of friendship" from 0 to 99 to each one of your connections and use it to control which content you see in your stream.
Where Friendica has one calendar, Hubzilla has two calendar systems, the old public Friendica calendar which is now your channel's calendar plus a new one which is private and also a CalDAV server for multiple calendars. Both use the same UI. You've got a CardDAV server as well. A file server with WebDAV support which also enhances the photo/media storage. Hubzilla can be a full-blown cloud server. You've got planning cards. You can make blogs, websites, even wikis with it.
Hubzilla immediately introduced nomadic identities via the new Zot protocol. That said, Hubzilla requires you to manually activate each connection protocol that isn't Zot in your channel settings, i.e. once per channel if you've got multiple ones, before you can connect to anyone or anything outside Zot-based networks. ActivityPub is off by default, too. Then again, your identity can only be really nomadic if everything except Zot is off, but then you can't connect to Mastodon etc.
I'd say it's mostly for geeks who want to do as much as possible on one platform. Hubzilla didn't have "skill levels" for nothing back in the day.
- Misty (2020). The new kid in town, formerly known as Mistpark 2020 and emerged from Osada and Zap. Of the three, it's the most advanced and probably the one with the best and easiest UI, also because its features are cut down in comparison to Hubzilla.
Unlike the all-powerful Hubzilla, Misty is meant to be a social network again and thus geared towards more casual users. This comes with a somewhat improved and easier UI, a more versatile post editor and the cutting of a lot of features that casual users won't need anyway. These cuts also helped Misty become faster than Hubzilla.
Blogs, websites, wikis and cards are gone, but they were hardly ever used anyway. CardDAV is gone, too. The two-calendar system was axed in favour of what used to be Friendica's sole calendar, and it's still public, but now with CalDAV. That's an improvement over Hubzilla whose public calendar doesn't have CalDAV, you can now sync your public channel calendar, but you don't have private CalDAV calendars anymore. Also, the calendar is easier to use.
Many other new features from Hubzilla are still there such as multiple channels per account, Friend Zoom or WebDAV access to your files and pictures.
As far as connections go, the biggest downside may be that, unlike Friendica and Hubzilla, Misty cannot connect to Diaspora*. But then again, Diaspora* itself has never wanted federation, much less actively sought it, and Friendica had to latch itself onto Diaspora's undocumented and thus almost reverse-engineered inner workings. On the other hand, ActivityPub is still supported and always on, so that's easier for you, too.
If Misty is as stable as it's said to be, and I'm pretty sure it is, and if you'd like to run a public server for one of these services, you may want to give Misty a try. I'd actually expect it to allow for more users on the same hardware than Friendica and Hubzilla.
By the way, if you're looking for public instances of anything that isn't as big as Friendica or Hubzilla, don't rely on third-party public instance lists, they may be quite lacking. What I recommend instead is a nifty feature that I guess was introduced in Osada and Zap back in the day, and that's a part of Misty, its development networks and its forks now: the Sites page that lists all Fediverse servers known to the instance. You'd normally first have to find an instance of one of these networks, but I've done that for you. Here are the Sites pages of mistpark.net
(sorry, sign-ups closed) and misty.casa
(only Misty instance known to me with open sign-ups so you may just as well stay right there).
The "development" networks underneath Misty are (you shouldn't expect public instances with open sign-ups, though):
- Zap. It has developed from a Zot6 testbed that couldn't connect in any other way (and thus a platform for those who didn't want anything to stand in the way of their nomadic identity) to Misty's testing branch. It's still said to be pretty stable, also because people use it as a production system. Yes, there are public Zap instances, but I guess they are for developers, testers and those who absolutely have to be ahead of Misty.
- Redmatrix. Hubzilla's old development name has re-emerged as the most basic development platform for Misty. It is basically what Zap used to be: a Zot testbed, but now probably for Zot8. It's mainly used for developing Zot without other protocols interfering.
- Osada. Zap's ActivityPub-enabled twin brother is back, but there's no saying what Osada actually does and where it stands. I guess it's the connection between Redmatrix and Zap, maybe something like Zap/Misty's unstable branch.
Well, and then there is Roadhouse.
Nothing is officially known about it, even much less than about Misty. But it's out there with at least four instances, none of which allow sign-ups (also because one is currently Mike MacGirvin's private instance). It seems to have Misty's look and feel. And some food for thought: One of them
has a URL that indicates that it was upgraded to Roadhouse from a Misty install. Makes you wonder why they didn't stick with Misty, but it also looks like you can theoretically upgrade from Misty to Roadhouse.
has a running instance already, and this is something that I've read about for the first time today. From the look of the help page, it's another Zap/Misty spin-off.
Last but not least, it's worth mentioning that all these networks can connect with one another (except for Friendica and Redmatrix because they don't speak a common language).