Is Mastodon Development Sustainable?

We need a better way to keep Mastodon development moving forward.

At the time of this writing Mastodon has over 3.400 open issues, and over 200 open pull requests.

We need a better way to keep Mastodon development moving forward.

Who gets to decide which of the 200 open PRs are worthy of being included in the main distribution? How do we find the resources to go through all those open issues?

Knee Jerk Reaction

My gut reaction was to simply go through all the PRs, merge them all in, and just publish a version which includes everything anyone wanted.

It would definitely be possible to do that. But even if someone did that, would the result be desireable? Would it gain traction?

The Challenge

Some of the features require critical mass adoption before they are usable (like text formatting).

Some of them are mutually exclusive.

Some are catering to small minorities.

If we look at Linux, there is definitely some amount of fragmentation in the community stemming from all the available distributions.

The challenge here is intensified by the need for interoperability. Some of the changes include introducing new content types which would not even be visible on current versions of Mastodon.

Leaning Into Fragmentation

What happens if we get "your grandmother's distribution" (think of ZorinOS catering very much to Windows users), or a very specialized distribution (think of Adriane focusing on the vision impaired)?

One could imagine a Mastodon fork which mimics Facebook or TikTok.

If the federated world becomes as fragmented as Linux, does that mean that it will never gain widespread adoption? The Year Of Linux On The Desktop has been touted for nearly as long as there have been desktop environments for Linux. Will ActivityPub suffer the same fate?

Current State Of Affairs

Currently, Mastodon is the as heavy as an elephant (tee hee) and all others are relative lightweights.

Source: the-federation, graphics: @matt@matthauger.com.

It seems like mainline Mastodon is going to stick around no matter what we do.

This leads us back to the original question: How do we solve the current state where the maintainers are drowning in issues and pull requests?

Our options all seem to be bad:

  1. Fork Mastodon into a lot of niche, market-specific versions and suffer all the consequences of a fragmented community.
  2. Rally all the individual contributors into a new and potentially less focused, but hopefully faster paced version.
  3. Keep our fingers crossed that Mastodon GmbH can power through this zergling rush and come out on top.

Or there might be some fourth option that I've completely overlooked.

So What Did I Miss?

Do you have a brilliant idea for how we might move Mastodon forward?

Comment in the thread on Mastodon.

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