Several years ago, I heard about GNU social. That sounded like an interesting change from the centralized giants like Facebook and Twitter, so I installed it on a spare server. It was… interesting: not great, not terrible. Shortly after, I started hearing about this Mastodon thing, which was basically GNU social but prettier. I gave in and installed it on my laptop as a trial, and was immediately blown away. It wasn’t just nicer looking, but polished and professional. I loved it.
I decided to replace my little toy social server with a dedicated Mastodon instance. Naming things is hard, and I pestered a patient friend with a thousand ideas. It should be a little cyberpunky, a bit edgy, and maybe kind of dangerous. After lots of rejected ideas, we stumbled across the notion of a Free Radical, and its connotations in chemistry and politics were exactly on brand. And the then-new .zone TLD? Perfect!
And with that, five years ago today, FreeRadical.zone joined the fediverse. It’s been an amazing ride! People started signing up for our little community and the messages started rolling in. Some people left, but more arrived. I’ve made a lot of friends, and have met a surprising number in real life (why is it always at security conferences?). We had our growing pains, and difficult decisions like deciding to stop connecting to specific people or instances, but still we grew.
I want to take a moment to appreciate all the weird, wild, and wonderful people who’ve made this adventure so fun, interesting, and gratifying. I love y’all. You’ve made my life better. In return, I hope I’ve been able to add a little joy to yours.
See you next year.
PS: Hit the gift shop on your way out of the museum.