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Theme fund: NGI0 Discovery
Start: 2019-10
End: 2020-12


ActivityPub driven decentralised photo sharing platform

Pixelfed is an open source and decentralised photo sharing platform, in the same vein as services like Instagram. The twist is that you can yourself run the service, or pick a reliable party to run it for you. Who better to trust with your privacy and the privacy of the people that follow you? The magic behind this is the ActivityPub protocol - which means you can comment, follow, like and share from other Pixelfed servers around the world as if you were all on the same website. Timelines are in chronological order, and there is no need to track users or sell their data. The project has many features including Discover, Hashtags, Geotagging, Photo Albums, Photo Filters and a few still in development like Ephemeral Stories. The goal of the project is among others to solidify the technical base, add new features and design and build a mobile app that is compatible with Mastodon apps like Fedilab and Tusky.

Why does this actually matter to end users?

After you take a picture of your brand new car, your smiling baby or the food you were just served, what do you do? You want to show it to everyone you know of course. But do you really know who you are actually sharing your private snapshots with when you post them online? With high grade cameras in nearly every mobile phone and numerous instant messaging apps and social media platforms available, sharing photos is just as easy (and perhaps more popular) than typing out what you want your friends and family to know about your life.

Social platforms and apps make us feel like we are only sharing our images with our own social circle and maybe some faraway friends we met online. But because many so-called 'free' social sharing tools like Instagram actually monetize your data and online activity to sell you personalized ads, your online picture book may not be so private at all. And where do those snapshots, that sometimes contain very personal information about where you live, what you are doing and who you know, actually end up after you clicked that upload button?

When you want to show someone your holiday pictures, you simply want to share those pictures, instead of also handing over a copy to the postal service to check where you went to and possibly send you a cheap flight deal for the coming holidays. Pixelfed is a platform that makes this possible on the internet. Users can choose to run and host the service themselves or choose someone they trust to store their pictures and private data with. No one will track what photos you share and which people you follow. The pictures your friends and family share pop up in your timeline one after the other, without ads or algorithms that decide what you can and cannot see. This project aims to give users tools and features they can use to search, find and share photos on the platform, making Pixelfed a more attractive (and ethical) alternative to for example Instagram.

Logo NLnet: abstract logo of four people seen from above Logo NGI Zero: letterlogo shaped like a tag

This project was funded through the NGI0 Discovery Fund, a fund established by NLnet with financial support from the European Commission's Next Generation Internet programme, under the aegis of DG Communications Networks, Content and Technology under grant agreement No 825322.