Tech

Substack rival Ghost federates its first newsletter

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

Over the past few days, Ghost says it has achieved two major milestones in its move to become a federated service. Of note, it has federated its own newsletter, making it the first federated Ghost instance on the internet.

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

“Having multiple Ghost instances in production successfully running ActivityPub is a huge milestone for us because it means that for the first time, we’re interacting with the wider fediverse. Not just theoretical local implementations and tests, but the real world wide social web,” the company shared in its announcement of the news.

In addition, Ghost’s ActivityPub GitHub repository is now fully open source. That means those interested in tracking Ghost’s progress toward federation can follow its code changes in real time, and anyone else can learn from, modify, distribute or contribute to its work. Developers who want to collaborate with Ghost are also being invited to get involved following this move.

The company had earlier detailed the benefits of an ActivityPub integration as an alternative to closed platforms, like Substack and others.

By offering a federated version of the newsletter, readers would have more choices on how they wanted to subscribe. That is, instead of only being about to follow the newsletter via email or the web, they could also track it using RSS or ActivityPub-powered apps, like Mastodon and others. Ghost said it would also develop a way for sites with paid subscribers to manage access via ActivityPub, but that functionality hasn’t yet rolled out with this initial test.

ActivityPub integration is becoming more common in the media business, as writers and publishers grapple with reduced traffic from sources like Google and Facebook while AI technology summarizes their work, either 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 in the fediverse, for instance.

Ghost itself has also attracted several 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 due to moderation concerns and migrated to Ghost instead. Another newsletter, Garbage Day, also left Substack. Other popular Ghost-powered publishers include 404 Media, Buffer, Kickstarter, David Sirota’s The Lever, and Tangle, to name a few.

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