Sunday, July 21, 2024

Substack rival Ghost federates its first newsletter

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Newsletter platform and Substack rival Ghost announced earlier this year that it would be joining fediverse, the open social network of interconnected servers that includes apps like Mastodon, Pixelfed, PeerTube, Flipboard, and most recently Instagram Threads, among others. It has now made good on that promise, with its own newsletter as a start.

In the past few days, Ghost says it has achieved two important milestones on its way to becoming a federated service. Of note, it has federated its own bulletin, making it the first federated Ghost instance on the Internet.

Users can follow the newsletter through their preferred federated app at, though the company warns that there will be bugs and issues as it continues to work on integrating the platform with ActivityPub, the protocol that powers Mastodon and other federated apps.

“Having multiple instances of Ghost in production running ActivityPub successfully is a huge milestone for us because it means that for the first time, we are interacting with the broader fediverse. Not just theoretical local deployments and testing, but the real world social network,” the company shared in its announcement of the news.

Additionally, Ghost’s ActivityPub GitHub repository is now completely open source. That means those interested in following Ghost’s progress toward federation can follow changes to its code in real time, and anyone can learn from, modify, distribute, or contribute to its work. Developers who want to collaborate with Ghost are also welcome to participate in the wake of this move.

The company had previously detailed the benefits of an ActivityPub integration as an alternative to closed platforms such as Substack and others.

By offering a federated version of the newsletter, readers would have more choice in how they wish to subscribe. That is, instead of being able to follow the newsletter via email or the web, they could also track it using RSS or ActivityPub-powered apps, such as Mastodon and others. Ghost said it would also develop a way for sites with paid subscribers to manage access through ActivityPub, but that functionality has not yet been implemented with this initial test.

ActivityPub integration is becoming more common in the media business, as writers and editors grapple with reduced traffic from sources like Google and Facebook while AI technology summarizes their work, whether through paid content deals or plagiarism. Several sites, including The Verge, MacRumors, and MacStories (and soon TechCrunch) recently adopted a new feature that would add their reporters’ bylines to news articles when they appeared on fediverse, for example.

Ghost itself has also attracted a number of high-profile users to its platform, often because Substack’s lax moderation policies meant it was increasingly becoming a home for hate speech. Casey Newton, formerly of The Verge, left Substack this year over moderation concerns and migrated to Ghost instead. Another newsletter, Garbage Day, has also left Substack. Other popular publishers powered by Ghost include 404 Media, Buffer, Kickstarter, David Sirota’s The Lever, and Tangle, to name a few.


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