3 January 2020

blog

What is Parastat?

We are making an alternative to Mastodon. Here's why.

Parastat's logo against a bright red background with angular shapes outlined in dark purple in the background.

The internet - something that most people used to feel had a lot of promise, has gone pretty bad. We all feel it, we all know it. A lot of our digital lives are now run by arrogant and predatory corporations that we just have to just put up with.

Software like Mastodon has signalled a potential better future of social networking by taking power normally given to megacorps and distributing it through independently-run ‘instances’. But it’s still been a pretty disappointing experience because of the software itself and how it’s developed.

Here’s some examples of what we mean:

  • It’s not made for efficiency, so it requires expensive hosting fees to keep an instance going.
  • The design is confusing and not friendly for newcomers or non-technical people.
  • It’s very naive when it comes to the security and moderation threats posed by groups of people like the alt-right. It constantly puts community moderators at a disadvantage and wastes their time.
  • It sidelines concerns from marginalised communities and has shown an unwillingness to listen.
  • It has been more and more interested in emulating Twitter through features like trending hashtags, rather than features that foster meaningful interactions between people.
  • ActivityPub - the protocol that Mastodon instances use to connect with each other - has significant privacy and security flaws.

The three of us (Dzuk, kiilas, kyzh) are deeply invested in the fediverse and have been on it for many years. We’ve been instance hosts, admins, community moderators, blocklist authors, custom emoji creators and more. We’ve seen what Mastodon has done with the good will and resources offered to it, and we’re pretty unhappy and disappointed.

Given how things have turned out, we felt that it’s necessarily for something completely new to come along. Something that’s built from the ground up that actually addresses these concerns. Something that comes from people who don’t just want to make a distributed version of Twitter.


What makes this one different?

Really efficient.

Parastat has an entirely new codebase, one based on more efficient languages and technologies like C and Elm.

The server will require no more than 64MB of memory for a 1000-user instance. By comparison, Mastodon uses around 2GB just to get started.

Great design.

Parastat has a dedicated, experienced designer on the team who is working on a user experience that’s easier to get started with, more customisable, more accessible and more joyful to use every day.

A social media interface with two vertical portions - one side featuring header icons depicting different tasks and a box below representing that task (in this case, it shows a post compose menu). The other side has a tall column with tabs and it shows different kinds of posts. The aesthetic is quite minimalist and rounded and the colour palette is a cyberpunky dark blue/green.

(A very early prototype of our ‘advanced’ interface.)

Peaceful and productive moderation.

A moderation model that isn’t naive. New moderation tools that actually values moderators’ time and actively suppresses threats posed by hostile actors.

A new protocol.

Parastat will introduce a new federated protocol. It will be more secure and private than ActivityPub in several crucial ways. It will be more efficient too.

Parastat will also be backwards-compatible with ActivityPub so Parastat admins and users will still have access to everyone using Mastodon and similar apps.

A different leadership.

Parastat is run by a worker-owned cooperative, consisting of a gender diverse team with different accessibility needs.

A systemic approach to social issues.

Software isn’t ethically neutral. The kind of software you develop enables certain outcomes. While many others refuse to acknowledge this in their design decisions, we will.

An example of our commitment to social issues is in the license we will use - CNPL. It’s a pretty new and different license, and we believe it’s designed for the future of ethical technology.


What’s going to happen?

We’ve already started development, and we’re going to show more and more of Parastat over the coming months. We’ll also be launching a crowdfunding campaign pretty soon so we can raise the money we need to really make this strong alternative to Mastodon.

For now, you can follow us on Twitter, Mastodon or keep track via our newsletter. You can also join our Discord ^^.