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Add your WordPress site to the Fediverse

The what, you say? The Fediverse is a collection of social media applications that can communicate with each other using a common communication standard. (The word itself is a mashup between Federated and Universe.) Fediverse apps don’t need to be owned by the same company or be hosted on the same server. And your WordPress site can be part of it, significantly extending its visibility. With the addition of a single plugin, anyone, anywhere in the Fediverse can see what you post on your site.

I’ve been around long enough to have seen several “open web” initiatives come and go. I love the idea of independent websites being interconnected but I could never find a lot of value from a business perspective. The Fediverse may be a breakthrough system, because of user’s frustration with proprietary “walled gardens” (looking at you Twitter/X), and the increasing number of platforms that are already connected. The largest of these is Threads, the micro blogging application owned by Meta and attached to Instagram. Also Mastodon, the service that a lot of people moved to when they abandoned Twitter, and of course all WordPress sites, whether self-hosted or on WordPress.com. At the moment, integration with Threads is one-way, allowing Fediverse users to see and follow Threads accounts that have opted in but not vice versa. This will eventually change, according to Threads engineers:

In the future, we expect content to flow from the fediverse into Threads. Federated Threads users will be able to see and engage with replies to their posts coming from other servers, or follow people on other fediverse servers and engage with their content directly in Threads. Our plan is for fediverse-enabled Threads profiles to ultimately have one consolidated number of followers that combines users that followed them from Threads and users from other servers. 

What this looks like now

All pages on the Webdancers site have an email subscription form. Below this form, you’ll find the text, “Subscribe in the Fediverse: webdancers@www.webdancers.com”. Searching for this user in Mastodon results in this:

Mastodon screenshot

By following Webdancers in the Mastodon account, every time a new post is published on the Webdancers site, it appears in the Mastodon feed. When someone comments on one of these posts in Mastodon, that comment flows back through to the WordPress site. The same is true for any application that has been integrated with the Fediverse, potentially extending the Webdancers site’s reach by an order of magnitude.

How to make this happen

The integration magic is handled by a WordPress plugin called ActivityPub, the development of which was taken over last year by Automattic, the WordPress parent company. The plugin is available in the WordPress.org repository and is installed using the standard process. The settings are straightforward and allow control of the following:

  • Profile names for the blog as a whole and individual authors. These profiles may be searched for and followed in Fediverse apps.
  • Installation of optional plugins that allow two-way integration so that the WordPress site can follow other Fediverse users.
  • Post content, to control what is displayed to Fediverse users.
  • Post types to display (pages, posts, products or other custom post types).
  • Display post tags as hashtags in Fediverse apps.
  • The ability to block individual Fediverse servers.
  • A listing of all users currently following the site.

Where we go from here

It’s too soon to say whether adding your website to the Fediverse will increase traffic and engagement but the cost of entry is low and you’ll be giving people a new option to connect with your site. You will also be joining a growing number of individuals and companies with a Fediverse presence including the BBC, Flipboard, Joe Biden (via Threads), CNN, Rolling Stone, ProPublica and many millions more.

You don’t need any other type of Fediverse account to integrate your WordPress site but you might enjoy learning more about decentralized social media by setting up a Mastodon account. There’s a bit more to it than signing up for other social media sites, and TechCrunch has a good beginner’s guide to Mastodon. You can find me in the Fediverse at gfalken@toad.social.

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