Christopher Lemmer Webber on MediaGoblin and ActivityPub

Sean Tilley
May 25, 2018 · 15 min read

Thanks so much for joining me, Chris. In your own words, please introduce yourself!

The landing page of a MediaGoblin instance.

When did you initially become interested in federated networks?

Obligatory screenshot of the old Identi.ca instance of StatusNet

“At the time I was really loving using StatusNet for microblogging, but I was doing a lot of artwork which I wanted to share with friends. I was troubled by the growth of YouTube, Flickr, DeviantArt, etc as mega-hubs of media, and I thought… maybe I could build something here for myself, and others could use it too.”

Chris preaching the federation gospel in a Libreplanet 2015 talk.
OStatus, the old fediverse protocol.
An early infographic used in the implementation tutorial. At a high level, ActivityPub is about sending and receiving messages between Actor objects.
From Mediagoblin’s crowdfunding campaign. Some great original art assets.

Unlike quite a few federated platforms in the space, Mediagoblin is a GNU project. What was it like to create this system under the GNU umbrella?

“I think it was the right decision for MediaGoblin. I think MediaGoblin is philosophically aligned with GNU, and I believe in GNU’s history and core ideas, and being under the FSF’s stewardship has been great.”

What does the landscape of federated communication look like in 2018?

“Federated social web work tends to have peaks and valleys, but I think we’re at another peak.”

Funkwhale version 0.13, an audio catalog server with fledgling support for ActivityPub

You are listed as one of the co-editors of the ActivityPub protocol standard. Could you tell us a little more about what that effort looks like, and how you got involved?

“There’s a lot to it… you have to reply to *every* issue that’s raised and either satisfy the person who raised it or clearly document why they weren’t satisfied, and any non-satisfied responses get reviewed.”

Photo of the W3C Social Web Working Group taken at Face to Face Meeting, 2016–03–16 at MIT. (Source: W3C Wiki)
W3C SocialWG group at TPAC

“The vast majority of my time for three years ended up being involved in ActivityPub standardization.”

What projects and organizations are involved in AP’s development?

Why work on a new protocol?

Pubstate, an early test client Chris built as an ActivityPub implementation
Soci-el, an ActivityPub client written in emacs lisp.

Within the last year, Mastodon made the decision from v1.6 onwards that they will support the AP protocol. Are there any other platforms on your radar that are implementing it as well?

What’s your impression of all the new ActivityPub implementations coming into the fediverse?

What features of ActivityPub are you most excited about?

Will MediaGoblin support the AP protocol?

“MediaGoblin and the federation branch both diverged quite a bit, and work on reconciliation needs to happen to get that merged.”

“It’s hard for me to not be struck when looking at Peertube that maybe Peertube is in many ways a better MediaGoblin.”

PeerTube v1.0.0.0-beta6

Now that the ActivityPub spec work is done, what are you working on?

8Sync, an asynchronous programming library Chris wrote

Is there anything you’d like readers to know about your work?


We Distribute

Reporting on decentralization and the free web.

Sean Tilley

Written by

Editor of WeDistribute. Obsessed with Free Software and Decentralization. Also makes things, sometimes with Elixir.

We Distribute

Reporting on decentralization and the free web.