This is a good, real-world explainer of a core philosophy behind Mastodon and the greater fediverse of connected, interoperable services, like PixelFed. I’m a big fan of this grown platform of content and social platforms, especially their underlying design and mission.
Eugen, a core developer behind Mastodon:
Decentralization is biodiversity of the digital world, the hallmark of a healthy ecosystem. A decentralized network like the fediverse allows different user interfaces, different software, different forms of government to co-exist and cooperate. And when some disaster strikes, some will be more adapted to it than others, and survive what a monoculture wouldn’t.
Last but not least, decentralization is about fixing power asymmetry. A centralized social media platform has a hierarchical structure where rules and their enforcement, as well as the development and direction of the platform, are decided by the CEO, with the users having close to no ways to disagree. You can’t walk away when the platform holds all your friends, contacts and audience. A decentralized network deliberately relinquishes control of the platform owner, by essentially not having one. For example, as the developer of Mastodon, I have only an advisory influence: I can develop new features and publish new releases, but cannot force anyone to upgrade to them if they don’t want to; I have no control over any Mastodon server except my own, no more than I have control over any other website on the internet. That means the network is not subject to my whims; it can adapt to situations faster than I can, and it can serve use cases I couldn’t have predicted.