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Posts tagged with "mastodon"

Tapbots Releases Ivory 1.9 with Quote Posts

Today, Tapbots released version 1.9 of their award-winning Mastodon client Ivory for iOS, iPadOS, and macOS. The update brings the long-awaited ability to quote posts, and to view quoted posts inline in the timeline.

Quote posts have been on the team’s roadmap ever since the app was first released early last year, while the feature was already supported by other Mastodon clients, including Mona for Mastodon. As expected, quoting a post in Ivory simply works by pasting a post link in the compose view, or by tapping the ‘Boost’ button on any public post, which now features an additional ‘Quote’ option.

Although quote posts currently aren’t supported directly by Mastodon, Tapbots says Ivory isn’t changing anything fundamental to the way Mastodon posts work:

All we are doing is showing the post you are linking to visually vs just having a link to a Mastodon post which anyone has been able to do since the beginning of the service. That and making the process of copying a link to a post and pasting it in the compose view more automated.

Following Tapbots’ announcement, Mastodon CTO and core team member Renaud Chaput reiterated in a thread that the Mastodon team is currently working on bringing quote posts to all Mastodon users:

We are working on implementing Quote Posts. This is a much more complex feature than showing a preview for a link to a post, which is done at the moment by multiple clients.

Renaud Chaput most notably detailed the team’s desire to build the feature with user safety in mind, to be able to prevent harassment behaviors, and to allow Mastodon users to control who can quote their posts.

Quote posts are currently listed as “planned” on the official Mastodon roadmap, but if you want to start quoting posts on Mastodon today, Ivory 1.9 is now available on the App Store for iOS, iPadOS, and macOS.


Mona 6 Moves from High Visual Customization to Advanced Automation

Mona, the Mastodon client for iOS, iPadOS, and Mac from Junyu Kuang, is out today with a significant version 6 update. Mona is my choice for using Mastodon primarily due to what John referred to in his review as its ‘epic level of customization.’ Everything from how the taskbar at the bottom of the screen looks to how posts are displayed is fully customizable. Even the main app view on iOS can be vertically split in two.

But Mona is not just about looks; it’s also a solid tool for navigating Mastodon. Things like the ability to privately set colors or notes to other users, timeline syncing across your devices using iCloud, and full support for VoiceOver make it a strong choice for a wide variety of people.

Which brings us to this new update. In the year and change since the mass Twitter exodus, Mastodon has matured a lot as a platform, introducing new features that users can take advantage of while filling some of the gaps impeding the platform from growing. Version 6 of Mona includes those new features while advancing its power user functionality with powerful new Shortcuts actions, including one that takes advantage of the Action Button on the iPhone 15 Pro.

Let’s dive in.

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Tom Coates on Integrating Threads with the Fediverse

Just before the holidays, Meta held a meeting at its San Francisco offices with members from the fediverse community about its plans to use ActivityPub to integrate Threads with Mastodon. Last week, Tom Coates wrote a detailed post about everything covered during the meeting from Meta’s roadmap for Threads to Meta’s motivations, content moderation, and Threads’ algorithm, which is lengthy but well worth reading in its entirety.

Coates described Threads’ roadmap as follows:

  • December 2023 – A user will be able to opt in via the Threads app to have their posts visible to Mastodon clients. People would be able to reply and like those posts using their Mastodon clients, but those replies and likes would not be visible within the Threads application. Threads users would not be able to follow or see posts published across Mastodon servers, or reply to them or like then.
  • Early 2024 (Part One) – the Like counts on the Threads app would combine likes from Mastodon and Threads users

  • Early 2024 (Part Two) – replies posted on Mastodon servers would be visible in the Threads application

  • Late 2024 – A “mixed” Fediverse and Threads experience where you will be able to follow Mastodon users within Threads, and reply to them and like them

  • TBD – Full blended interoperability between Threads and Mastodon

The schedule struck Coates as both optimistic given the complexities involved and likely to be controversial because the early stages are lopsided in favor of integrating Threads into Mastodon and not the other way around. As Coates explains, there are technical, legal, and regulatory reasons for that, but that won’t make it any less contentious.

Scale is quite literally another huge problem for Meta that could easily lead to unintended consequences that cause problems for Mastodon users no matter what Meta’s intentions are. As Coates explains:

The community that Threads is planning to participate in is that of Mastodon servers federating with one another via Activity Pub. The estimates of this community are that there are about 9,500 separate mastodon instances participating in this ecology, with roughly 1.5 million Monthly Active Users (MAUs). This is a fairly substantial number but of course it pales in comparison to Meta more generally, which has closer to three billion active users. Or to put it another way, Mastodon users represent about 1/2000th of the number of people using Facebook/Instagram/Threads/WhatsApp etc. worldwide.

Threads itself has only been around for a few months now and it still towers over the rest of the Mastodon community in terms of users. It’s based on the Instagram user base, and Instagram users can opt in to use Threads with a single tap. Because of that—as of a recent earnings report—Meta can currently claim around 160 million total users and about 100 million MAUs for Threads alone. So, again, maybe we shouldn’t be thinking about Threads ‘integrating’ with the fediverse and instead think about Threads attempting to engage with the Fediverse without entirely crushing it in the process.

The entire post is worth reading because it explores interesting ways to deal with distributed content moderation, identity, public education about federation, and all the other large-scale problems that Threads will bring with it into the fediverse by virtue of its size and commercial goals as an ad-funded company. None of these issues will be easy to solve, and the meeting happened before an upturn in objectionable content served by the Threads algorithm to many users. However, I’m still encouraged by Coates’ overall reaction to the meeting and the teams at Meta who are working on integrating Threads with the Fediverse:

But I can report that in my opinion the teams building it and the integration seem to be decent people, trying to build something they’re excited by, wanting to be part of something new and truly federated, and wanting to be respectful and careful about how they do it. And whether or not you think their arrival in the space is a good thing, that apparent good faith and care has mitigated at least some of my concerns.

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Ivory for Mac Review: Tapbots’ Superb Mastodon Client Comes to Apple Desktops and Laptops

Ivory, Tapbots’ Mastodon client, is now available on the Mac, and like its iOS and iPadOS counterparts that Federico reviewed in January, Ivory for Mac is every bit as polished.

A lot has changed since Ivory was released on the iPhone and iPad. At the time, there were hardly any native Mastodon apps for the Mac, so I was using Elk in a pinned Safari tab. That’s changed. There are several excellent native apps now, including Mona, which I reviewed earlier this month. What Ivory brings to the growing field of native apps is what we saw with iOS and iPadOS: impeccable taste and snappy performance that few other apps can match.

By now, most MacStories readers are probably familiar with the table stakes features for Mastodon clients. Ivory ticks all of those boxes. Also, if you’ve already tried Ivory for iOS or iPadOS, you’ve got a big head start on the Mac app because they’re very similar. However, if you’re new to Ivory, I encourage you to check out Federico’s review of Ivory for the iPhone and iPad because I’m not going to cover that same ground again. Instead, I want to focus on the Mac version’s unique features and the details that make it such a compelling choice for Mac users.

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Mona: A Unique Mix of Customization Options and Features You Won’t Find in Any Other Mastodon App

Mona is a brand new, highly customizable Mastodon client from Junyu Kuang, the developer of Spring, which is one of the few remaining third-party Twitter clients that still works and pioneered many of the features found in Mona. Mona, which is available on the iPhone, iPad, and Mac, is a power-user app through and through. The app has a dizzying array of settings for customizing the entire Mastodon experience. If, like me, you enjoy the sort of tinkering that Mona enables, you’ll absolutely love this app.

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Social Media Management Utility Buffer Adds Mastodon Support

One of the things I immediately missed when I moved to Mastodon was the ability to schedule posts. This isn’t something I do a lot. However, with a busy editorial calendar at MacStories, I’ve used a variety of services over the years, including Buffer, to allow me to set up draft posts in advance when we’ve got a big story or episode of AppStories coming up. Losing that convenience wasn’t the end of the world, but it introduced friction I hadn’t had to deal with in years.

That’s why I’m glad to see Buffer has added Mastodon support to its web and iOS apps today. I’ve been testing Buffer’s beta for the past day, and the best part of the update is that there’s not much to say about it because it’s so easy to use. If you’ve used Buffer before, the process is similar to any other scheduled post you’d create: draft the post, add any media and hashtags you want, and then schedule it. If you want, you can also use Buffer to cross-post to other services.

Scheduling a Mastodon post with Buffer.

Scheduling a Mastodon post with Buffer.

Managing posts for multiple accounts has always been the sort of thing that can disrupt my other work. It’s too easy for me to get distracted and wind up browsing my timeline after I post something from one of our company accounts. With Buffer’s new Mastodon integration, I’m looking forward to creating those posts as part of our production workflow and avoiding getting sucked into my timeline when I have more pressing tasks.


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.

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Ivory for Mastodon Review: Tapbots Reborn

Ivory for Mastodon.

Ivory for Mastodon.

There’s an intangible, permeating quality about Tapbots apps that transcends features and specs: craftsmanship. With Ivory, launching today on the App Store for iPhone and iPad, you can instantly appreciate that level of care and refinement that the Texas-based duo is well known for after more than a decade on the App Store. But there’s something else, too: for the first time in a few years, it feels like Mark and Paul are having fun again.

Ivory is a Mastodon client, and it’s tricky to evaluate it right now because its version 1.0 is launching under extraordinary circumstances.

As we’ve documented on MacStories, Twitter’s idiotic new “leadership” recently decided to unceremoniously and crassly put an end to third-party clients such as Tweetbot with no warning, which forced Tapbots to scramble and figure out a solution on how to discontinue Tweetbot while dealing with subscription renewals while also accelerating the timeline for the launch of Ivory, which they’d been working on for months. I’ve been following the development of Ivory very closely (I’ve been using the app as my main Mastodon client since its first alpha in late November), and I know that the Ivory 1.0 launching today isn’t the debut version Mark and Paul were envisioning. By Tapbots’ own admission, there’s still a lot of work to do on Ivory, but given how the Twitter situation evolved, they had to ship something. There is already a roadmap on Tapbots’ website for Ivory, if you’re curious to know what the developers are planning for the foreseeable future.

As I was saying above, however, there’s something else about Ivory that, in many ways, makes today’s release an important milestone in our community worth documenting and celebrating. Ever since we at MacStories decided to abandon Twitter, we’ve gone all-in on Mastodon and, broadly speaking, we want to embrace the idea of decentralized and federated social media. Over the past few weeks, I’ve seen hundreds of other people I used to follow on Twitter do the same. I believe we’re witnessing the beginning of a new social networking era, and even though Mastodon has been around for a few years, many of us (myself included) are only realizing now that we should have paid attention to this kind of technology years ago.

For the second time since I started MacStories in 2009, I can observe developers imagining what interfaces for reading and posting status updates on the web should look like. New conventions are being created as we speak, and we are, once again, witnessing the rise of a vibrant ecosystem of third-party apps designed for different needs, platforms, and people. Only, this time, there is no single company that controls the fate of all this.

So that’s the something that makes the release of Ivory a special one in the Apple community. More than a reactionary “what if Tweetbot, but for Mastodon” move, Ivory marks a new beginning for Tapbots in a way that Netbot never was. (If you know, you know.) We’re living in new and exciting times for indie apps, and I think that you can feel it when the creator of an app feels the same way. Ivory exudes enthusiasm. Even though it’s not the most feature-rich client I’m testing right now, it’s the one I’m constantly drawn towards. Ivory is going to establish a baseline for quality and polish on iOS and iPadOS; it’s the app future Mastodon clients for iPhone and iPad (and, hopefully soon, Mac) will have to measure up against.

Ivory is the start of a new chapter for one of the most beloved indie studios in our community. So let’s take a look.

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Making ActivityPub Your Social Media Hub for Mastodon and Other Decentralized Services

For many people who have stepped away from Twitter, Mastodon is their first experience with a decentralized social network. There’s a lot that can be said about the pros and cons of decentralization, but I want to focus on one very specific technical feature that Mastodon shares with a growing list of other services: ActivityPub.

ActivityPub is a W3C-recommended standard that was published by its Social Web Working Group almost five years ago and defines a decentralized social networking protocol for client apps and servers that connect them. The benefit to users is interoperability among services that adopt the protocol.

In practice, that means users of one ActivityPub service can follow and interact with users of a different service, which opens up some interesting possibilities. Tumblr seems to agree. The company plans to add ActivityPub support, so its users can interact with Mastodon’s users. That news piqued my interest in ActivityPub, but I’m not patient enough to wait for Tumblr to add support. I wanted to take two ActivityPub services for a spin now, so I set up a Pixelfed account on pixelfed.social.

Following Federico using Mastodon's web app (left) and my Pixelfed profile viewed from Tapbots' Ivory Mastodon app (right).

Following Federico using Mastodon’s web app (left) and my Pixelfed profile viewed from Tapbots’ Ivory Mastodon app (right).

Pixelfed is sort of like a decentralized version of Instagram that has adopted the ActivityPub protocol. Users can post photos, follow other users, and send each other messages. The service recently started beta testing an iOS app that is available on TestFlight, so I downloaded it, set up an account, and posted about it on Mastodon.

Because Pixelfed and Mastodon servers both comply with ActivityPub, anyone can follow my Pixelfed account from Mastodon without having to create a Pixelfed account or download the app, which is exactly what Federico did:

In practice, following someone’s Pixelfed feed is even easier. Instead of searching for my username, Federico could have searched for the URL for my Pixelfed profile in a Mastodon app and followed me that way. It’s worth noting, though, that not all Mastodon apps support searching for non-Mastodon servers. If you have trouble adding someone to your Mastodon feed, try Mastodon’s web app, which I’ve tried and know works. Also, be patient because some Pixelfed servers like pixelfed.social are struggling with an influx of new users that have hurt its reliability.

Photos posted from Mastodon (left) appear in the Pixelfed app too (right).

Photos posted from Mastodon (left) appear in the Pixelfed app too (right).

As the owner of a Pixelfed account, ActivityPub provides me some additional benefits too. First, I added my Pixelfed account to Ivory, the Tapbots Mastodon app that’s currently in alpha testing. That lets me post photos and respond to followers in the same app I’m using for Mastodon, which is nice. I’ve also followed my Pixelfed account from my Mastodon account, which allows me to view my posts from my Mastodon feed and boost them to my Mastodon followers, creating the equivalent of cross-posting on two services without actually posting separately to both.

Although there are a growing number of services that support ActivityPub, including PeerTube, a YouTube alternative for video, micro.blog, which supports parts of the protocol, and many others, it’s still early days for the protocol. However, with Twitter reminding users of the peril of relying on a centralized service provider, the pace of ActivityPub adoption is picking up, which should make 2023 a very interesting year for the open web.