According to DailyWIreless.org, there are 4.4 billion users on the internet worldwide, with 3.5 billion on social media networks, and almost the same number regularly accessing their social media networks on mobile. 52% of all internet traffic goes over mobile, but even moreso with social networks. 54% of all mobile traffic is social media usage.
Despite being the future of the web, fediverse networks like Mastodon and Friendica don’t have very seamless mobile experiences. While both networks’ are designed to work in mobile browsers, the decentralized nature of the fediverse means that owners of each specific instance can customize the look and feel of their mobile sites for users, which means a each network may have vastly different mobile experience depending on the instance you choose to sign up for.
Mastodon and Friendica aren’t even in the top 20 of social media networks in the U.S. However, if the communities around Mastodon and Friendica do not prioritize the mobile experience they will never be able to penetrate even the top 100 of mobile networks. The point of a social network is the social aspect, of obviously. But a social network can’t be very …social, if it’s devoid of users. A critical mass of familiar people on a network is needed to make the network appealing to new users looking to interact with their friends. There is an old marketing saying that you have to “spend money to make money.” In social media, you need to have users to get users. But if users are rapidly moving to mobile, and the mobile experience sucks on your platform, this becomes increasingly more difficult.
That said, there are some fledgling efforts to improve the mobile experience on Mastodon and Friendica. It’s time to put a great deal more energy into these.
Fediverse on Android
The ethos of the fediverse are much more in line with the ethos of the open-source, Linux-based Android mobile operating system than the walled garden, closed off proprietary Apple iOS ecosystem, and so the lion’s share of the efforts to improve the mobile experience in the fediverse has been directed toward Android users.
Friendica on Android
The network of users around Friendica are failing when it comes to mobile experience. While the mobile browser experience is decent for Friendica, I can only recommend one single app for Friendica, the DiCa app. Like the Friendica network itself, DiCa is free and open source, developed by and posted to the Google Play Store by Hong Kong based independent amateur developer, JasonCheng. As such, there’s no way to predict if DiCa will remain supported in perpetuity. Though, being open source, means that anyone can take the source code and run with it. It has all the basic functionality of the Friendica network, but it can be buggy. I find that it does not always load content when opening the app with the share functionality built into Android.
While a search of the Play Store may come up with other Apps, they are either not working or no longer supported by their developers.
As Friendica is open-source and decentralized, it is the responsibility of proactive users with app coding knowledge to develop apps for this network if they would like to see it survive and be a viable alternative to Facebook, which has millions and millions of active users on it’s app.
Mastodon on Android
There are dozens of Mastodon apps for Android, So you may want to try various apps before deciding. This could be laborious, because each app takes time to set up properly to start, but this is the best way to assure that you get the app experience that works for you.
I currently use the FediLab app. Beyond just being a solid Mastodon app, Fedilab also supports Friendica, though the functionality is greatly decreased, especially if you’re looking to post longer content. But as far as it’s Mastodon functionality, FediLab does everything the browser version of Mastodon does.
Mastodon’s community of developer also keeps up a page of apps that they recommend. In addition to Fedilab, they also recommend Tusky and Subway Tooter, for Android. Other reviewers also include Mastalab and Twidere among the best Android apps.
Fediverse on iOS
As stated above, the effort to improve the mobile experience for fediverse users has been overwhelmingly directed at Android, to the detriment of Apple users. Of course, this also reflects worldwide operating system numbers. While Android has over 2 billion users worldwise, iOS is still teetering at 800 million. But in most developed countries, that dominance is flipped. In the US iOS controls 60% of the market, Android, only 40%.
The U.S. market has one of the largest shares of social media user-ship. In order to gain traction, Mastodon and Friendica must create a better experience for iOS users. Unfortunately, I can’t even recommend ONE SINGLE iOS Friendica app. The community around the Facebook-like network is leaving it’s iOS users completely behind. While most Friendica instances have decent mobile browser experiences, ultimately, a viable iOS app is needed if we want to see users adopt Friendica. And we’re not there yet. However, there are a FEW Mastodon apps we can discuss.
As I am not an iPhone user, I have to rely on someone else for these recommendations. David Chartier of Finer Tech has a great rundown of three iOS apps he recommends. Check out his article about these three Masoton iOS apps for more:
A challenge for network instance owners for the sake of the future of the fediverse
If you own an instance of Mastodon or especially Friendica it may be incumbent upon you to create your own mobile apps based your instance (apps that allow users from other instances to log in, as well, though). Your users already trust you, they would be more likely to trust your app over someone not associated with the instance. And the development of many different apps at this early stage will help create a verdant field of options to grow from.
“…[I]f I am comfortable with the management of the desktop instance by whoever maintains mastodon.online then I would trust their app over something developed and maintained by someone else,” says new Fediverse user, David Corsar.
The good news is, if you’re already a web developer, you already have the tools you need to do this. Most mobile apps are programmed in the same language as mobile browser sites. Ultimately, an app expert would be the best to turn to to convert your instance into an app. Luckily, the fediverse has already attracted the people on the cutting edge of programming. There must be app developers in the fediverse already that can be appealed to assist with this.
Eventually, the best apps will rise to the top and a development community can grow up around them. We need to at least START with ONE good Friendica app for iOS. It’s a true tragedy that one does not exist yet.
New to the fediverse, but can’t find anyone? Here is a step-by-step guide to tracking down friends on the fediverse.