I’ve talked about Diaspora* before, when people were annoyed at tumblr doing something stupid and/or evil. (I’ve forgotten the details; this sort of thing happens often enough that the individual incidents tend to run together.)

This time, the culprit is Twitter, and my recommended alternative is Friendica.

I discussed federation in social networks in my article on Diaspora*, but for context, a summary review is in order.

Social networks have very strong network effects: the value of a social network scales with the number of users. Since the big players are all walled gardens, users generally have little choice but to congregate on a few major sites.

Federated social networking platforms such as Diaspora*, StatusNet, Pump.io, Gnu Social, and so forth attempt to address this by allowing the various servers to interact with each other. Just as you can send email from a Gmail address to a Hotmail address, so also a Diaspora* account on shrekislove.us can follow and interact with an account on socializer.cc.

Facebook and Twitter and tumblr and Google+ aren’t primarily competing on features, so much as on culture: which one has the community of users that you want to be a part of? They act as monopolies: fundamentally anticompetitive. Even if another network might be better in an objective sense, you don’t really have the option to switch unless you’re willing to lose all your contacts – which defeats the whole point of a social network!

Federated social networking, by contrast, actively encourages competition. If you like a particular server – whether for its features, content policy, UI scheme, whatever – you can just use it, and you can still connect to all your friends.

That’s the theory, anyway.

For all its virtues, most of the federated social networks – Diaspora*, StatusNet, Pump.io, Gnu Social – have one major flaw: all your friends are on Twitter/tumblr/Facebook/Google+. “The federated social web” is internally very democratic, but it still has to compete with the monopolists on the monopolists’ terms.

There have been some attempts to correct this. Diaspora* allows crossposting to Twitter and (buggily) tumblr; I think it might also do Facebook as well but I haven’t tried. Unfortunately, this is only one-way: your Twitter friends can see your Diaspora* posts, but their tweets don’t show up on Diaspora*.

Friendica solves this problem.

Friendica can, like Diaspora*, post to traditional social networks. Unlike Diaspora*, though, Friendica can read from them as well. This two-way connection means that, using Friendica, I can engage in conversations with people on Twitter and tumblr and Diaspora*, all through a single unified interface on a single site that I control.

Furthermore, these different networks aren’t just collated – they’re integrated. Because my Friendica is connected to both my Twitter and my tumblr, this means that my Twitter and my tumblr are – through Friendica – connected to each other.

I can retweet to tumblr.

Friendica is the one social networking platform to rule them all, one platform to bring them all and bind them together.

Switching to Friendica doesn’t mean switching away from your existing social network. It’s not a sacrifice, but an upgrade.

(Edited to add: The tumblr integration is currently somewhat limited, but my impression is that this should be a temporary situation.)