The Interledger Community 🌱

Cover image for Web Monetization in the Fediverse — ILF Grant Progress Report #1
Jeremiah Lee
Jeremiah Lee

Posted on

Web Monetization in the Fediverse — ILF Grant Progress Report #1

Overview

In April 2023, I began working with the Interledger Foundation as a technical ambassador to advance Web Monetization in Mastodon and other applications using ActivityPub. ActivityPub is a W3C standard that adds a social layer to the Web platform. It enables any website or app to have social networking functionality that can interoperate with other websites and apps. Instead of everyone having to join one social network, people can now pick a social network provider like they can pick an email provider. My project’s goal is to adapt Web Monetization to work within federated social networks with Mastodon being the reference implementation.

Project Update

Building a fediverse home for the Interledger Foundation

My first task was to setup a Mastodon instance for the Interledger Foundation. This required more effort than I anticipated. The Mastodon project did not have an automated way to operate the server application and its required dependencies with the security and reliability expected of commercial services. I created a Terraform project to provision the cloud infrastructure necessary to run a Mastodon instance and deploy the Mastodon software on Google Cloud Platform. This code is now open sourced and anyone can use it to easily deploy their own Mastodon instance onto Google Cloud Platform in under 30 minutes! I also submitted multiple fixes and bug reports to the Mastodon project and to Google Cloud Platform’s Terraform provider.

Once the technical part was ready, I worked with the foundation to establish community guidelines, a privacy policy, and moderation plan to support inviting the general public to join its Mastodon server. I documented Mastodon-specific norms for brands and worked with @julaireh to start posting all of the foundation’s great social media posts on Mastodon too. We then opened Interledger.social to the world. I hosted 3 office hour sessions to help people learn about Mastodon, federated social networks (aka “the fediverse”), and get their accounts setup.

Building Web Monetization into Activity Streams

Before support for Web Monetization can be added to Mastodon, support for Web Monetization must be added to the technology standards that Mastodon uses. Mastodon and other federated social network servers send data to each other using a protocol called ActivityPub. The data must be sent in a format called Activity Streams.

Web Monetization requires a payment pointer, which is a URL to an Open Payments API entry-point. I wrote a proposal for how to add a payment pointer to the Activity Streams data format. It’s now being reviewed by people working on the Web Monetization standard.

The W3C group that defined the Activity Streams standard concluded its work in 2018. Extensions to the data format are now proposed and adopted informally by the developers of federated social network servers. Once the Web Monetization group agrees on how to represent payment pointers in the Activity Streams data format, I will submit a Fediverse Enhancement Proposal for consideration by server implementers.

Building Web Monetization into Mastodon

Once the Fediverse Enhancement Proposal is finalized, I will submit a pull request to the Mastodon project that adds functionality to:

  1. Allow a server to set its payment pointer
  2. Allow a user to set their payment pointer
  3. Append a user’s payment pointer to their posts and profile
  4. Store payment pointer information for received posts and user profiles
  5. Dynamically set the active payment pointer in the Mastodon web app based on the post or user profile being viewed

When this work is completed, Mastodon servers and creators with payment pointers will start receiving streaming micropayments from followers who use a browser with Web Monetization support.

Project Impact & Target Audience

Federated social networks allow a digital creator to finally, truly own their online presence, relationship with their audience, and their distribution. It’s now possible for digital creators to break free from the problematic algorithmic curation of centralized social networks that never shows their work to their followers or unjustifiably moderates their posts. Marginalized communities can create their own safe places online, set their own rules for acceptable behavior, and decide how to deal with bad behavior by people on other servers. We have a unique opportunity and momentum right now for people to choose an online community managed by people like them and say goodbye to exploitative, privacy-invading, ad-filled social networks like Instagram, Twitter, and others.

These community servers are not free to run. They need tools to help financially sustain their operation. Similarly, digital creators need tools to be supported financially by their fans. If we can get Web Monetization added as a standard feature in fediverse servers and we can convince fans to setup a digital wallet in their browsers, we can expand the economic opportunity for digital creators globally.

The potential is huge. This is a multi-year journey dependent on several other efforts the foundation is investing in. The exciting part for me is how achievable this all feels in this moment.

Communications and Marketing

I led a session on financial sustainability of fediverse server operators at Fediforum virtual conference and participated in the MozFest workshop on the next steps for the fediverse in March. That led to creation of the Fediverse Developer Network, a group that meets regularly to discuss progress and challenges in developing fediverse servers.

I presented an introduction to Mastodon and federated social networks at the June Open Payments Huddle (video) and to the Future Money Grantees in July. I also wrote a summary of that presentation.

I submitted proposals to several conferences and hope to speak more about my work this fall and into next year.

What’s Next?

  • Finalize the representation of payment pointers in Activity Streams with the Web Monetization standards group
  • Submit the specification as a Fediverse Enhancement Proposal
  • Complete the code and submit a pull request to the Mastodon project implementing the specification

Community Support

If you haven’t already, follow Interledger on Mastodon or your preferred fediverse server.

If you haven’t joined a fediverse server yet, read my getting started guide and consider joining Interledger.social.

When my Fediverse Enhancement Proposal is published, please add a comment stating your support for the idea and why you believe this particular implementation is the best one. This will show Mastodon and other federated social network server developers how much support there is. I do not work for the company that created Mastodon, so I cannot guarantee my pull request will be accepted. My hope is that people who believe in the fan-supported creators will join me in advocating for this feature to be included.

Special Thanks

  • @ericahargreave for brainstorming with me early on about bringing federated social networks and Interledger together and encouraging me to apply for the ambassadorship
  • @laka for providing constructive feedback along the way
  • @chrislarry for connecting me with the right people within the foundation, generally making things happen, and getting up super early to fix Zoom meeting issues
  • @ayeshaware for helping me prepare for the Open Payments Huddle, being a fantastic MC, and answering my newbie questions about setting up Eventbrite webinars
  • @julaireh for making the Interledger fediverse account worth following with great posts
  • @ adrianhopebailie and Kevin Swiber for feedback and guidance on using JSON-LD
  • Anna Sheard for reviewing my blog post drafts
  • @ huijing for approving my PRs
  • @ sabineschaller, @ lwlkarama, and Melissa Henderson for the productive conversations about how the Web Monetization spec should evolve

(Sorry for the broken username tags. The website won't let me tag more than 7 people in one post!)

Top comments (9)

Collapse
 
jeremiahlee profile image
Jeremiah Lee

(Tagging @adrianhopebailie @huijing @sabineschaller @lwlkarama in a comment since the website won't let me tag more than 7 people in the post.)

Collapse
 
gfam profile image
gFam

This is all super impressive Jeremiah! I'm not going to pretend to understand all the technicalities here, but I'm really excited about this implementation and hopefully helping the community and creators to understand the benefits in truly owning their digital identifies and the monetization options they should want.

Collapse
 
naeemaslam3832 profile image
Naeem Aslam

Hey!

Firstly, hats off to the extensive work and dedication you've poured into this! It's honestly mind-blowing to see how federated social networks have come from being a mere concept to now being on the brink of integration with Web Monetization, all thanks to your relentless efforts.

Your guide and partnership with the Interledger Foundation are noteworthy. I genuinely appreciate how you're not just ticking off tasks on a checklist, but are deeply committed to the real change and progress this initiative promises for digital creators.

The technical challenges you've overcome, especially with Mastodon on Google Cloud, will surely serve as a stepping stone for many others wanting to hop on this bandwagon. It's innovations like these that pave the way for greater inclusion and collective growth.

I've made a mental note to keep tabs on the Fediverse Enhancement Proposal. Rest assured, once it's up, you have my full support in championing its cause!

A big high-five to all the folks you've mentioned. It's the collective spirit and collaboration that make projects like this a reality. Excited to see where this takes us in the world of digital interactions!

Keep pushing boundaries, and know that your work is genuinely inspiring many of us out here. Here's to many more milestones!

Best,
Asif 🌟

Collapse
 
ayeshaware profile image
Ayesha Ware

🎉

Collapse
 
besspaysocial profile image
BessPay • Edited

An excellent grant progress report, Jeremiah! I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and felt genuinely inspired by the potential of your work. The positive impact this could have on hundreds of thousands, if not millions, really gets our energy pumping :) .

We fully endorse and support this, please keep up this great work .