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Micro.blog, Mastodon, and Ivory

Manton Reece has a fantastic explanation of the underpinnings of Micro.blog and Mastodon and how they work with third-party clients like Ivory, which Federico reviewed yesterday.

Manton’s post is in response to questions about why Micro.blog work with Tapbots’ Ivory since both Micro.blog and Mastodon implement the ActivityPub standard. The answer is that ActivityPub is primarily a service-level server-to-server API that allows Micro.blog and Mastodon servers to interact with each other. However, clients like Ivory use a different Mastodon API for reading and writing Mastodon posts that doesn’t match up feature-for-feature with Micro.blog. Manton explains the problems that causes:

Could Micro.blog implement the Mastodon API, thereby allowing Ivory to connect to Micro.blog as if it was a Mastodon server? Technically yes, but doing so would introduce a couple problems. By design, Micro.blog does not have exactly the same features as Mastodon. We left out boosts, trends, and follower counts, and added other things that are outside the scope of Mastodon.

If Micro.blog worked with Ivory, what would the UI look like when the features didn’t exactly match up? It would be confusing. Ivory would appear broken and it would disrupt the experience we’re going for with Micro.blog’s community.

That isn’t to say that signing into Micro.blog from Ivory to read and post to Micro.blog in the future is impossible. However, as Manton points out, it will require further experimentation and, ultimately, coordination with third-party apps while keeping an eye on preserving Micro.blog’s identity. Because, after all, Micro.blog and Mastodon are two distinct services that approach social media with different philosophies that are reflected in their designs. Interoperability is appealing on the surface, but not if it comes at the expense of the unique features that users of Micro.blog or any other service have come to expect and rely on.