Regional Instances, Federation, and Scalability has been very successful in the last couple of months, which has a lot to do with our awesome team of volunteers. We are not only keeping the systems up and running and scale them to satisfy the demand, but we also care about the culture, safety, and general enjoy-ability of our town square.

And while we are working towards improving longevity and long-term stability of the SFBA instance (changing the donation provider being one of the many efforts), we are also talking a lot about what the future might hold for the fediverse.

Below I’m writing down some of these thoughts, just to document them, so we can read them in a year or two and laugh about our naivety 🙂

Regional Instances

SFBA is one of the (if not The) biggest regional instance on the fediverse. So, naturally we think that regional instances are the superior concept 😉

But in all honesty any community is capable of creating a nice and welcoming Mastodon instance. Regional communities just have much more of a town square feel to them, which seems to align better to what humans want from a social network.

(We need some Anthropologist to chime in on this topic – If you are well versed in the studies of Anthropology, please feel free to enlighten us all on the Timeline!)

Sharing information about local politics, events, and sports is a significant part of our Local Timeline and it is very enjoyable. The cool thing is that you don’t have to go out and hunt for accounts that might post about things happening in your area, it is built into Mastodon by default.

Federation vs Birdsite

So what difference does a federated social network make? Well, there is the obvious complain from everyone, who starts: It is hard to choose an instance! Yes, that is true and there are a good amount of efforts going on that try to make that easier – and are just two of many, many efforts to ease that pain.

But there is another difference, which I think is often overlooked but is one of the fediverse’s biggest strength: The ability for the individual to choose a place with just the right amount of rules and drama.

On the birdsite you have no choice, you have to participate in All the drama. 200+ million individuals and bots live under the same set of rules.

On the fedi every individual can block and mute other individuals or block/mute full instances/communities. In addition the moderators and admins of the instances help out with removing noise that doesn’t follow the rules the specific community accepted. This provides for a much more granular balancing of the “fediverse society” and much more protection for the individual. (Especially now after the birdsite let go of half its staff, the moderator to user ratio is much, much better on the fedi than it is on the birdsite.)

We all learn that in preschool: When someone is annoying you, we don’t yell or hit them, we go away and play with someone more pleasant.


Especially @Moritz (our resident SRE) and I are talking a lot about how far this technology/software can scale. And the answer is: It can scale a lot! The software pieces are modular enough and the underlying technologies (postgres, redis, nginx) are robust enough to scale an instance up to a million friends. However, the UX probably doesn’t scale all the way up to that number.

The concepts of the Local and Federated Timelines are awesome! At SFBA we love our Local Timeline – It is the place where we learn what’s happening in the Bay Area today. The Federated Timeline is just an endless stream of posts that nobody can read anymore (at our size).

@cd24 and I have watched the Local and Federated Timelines of SFBA transform through the growth from roughly 2000 friends to now 34,000 friends – Let me tell ya: It is very, very different!

At the moment I estimate that the flair and charm of our Local Timeline might start to suffer at around 100,000 friends, but we will see…

What does that mean for the Bay Area IRL? Well, the Bay Area has roughly 7.76 million people, so they won’t all fit on and likely not everyone will want to join SFBA. That is OK. We can just build many instances for the Bay Area as the fedi grows.

Wouldn’t it be great to have an instance just for North Beach or Fremont?

PS: If you are interested in running an instance on a subdomain of, please ping us, we are happy to help (not just with the domain).