Sometimes a creator loses touch with how people use their creation. I worry that Eugen Rochko has found himself in a bubble and doesn’t understand why the rest of us like Mastodon.

Eugen and friends released the new official Mastodon for iPhone app, and users noticed that it doesn’t show local or federated timelines. He responded:

The omission is intentional and I do not intend to add these types of timelines into the app. […] The fediverse is diverse because you can follow anyone from any server. The local timeline plays no role in that and doesn’t even exist in ActivityPub as a concept. Being able to choose a different server has always been about trust for the service provider and rules.

Thing is, Eugen also operates the mastodon.social instance, which accounts for about 600,000 of Mastodon’s 3,000,000 users. From his perspective, I’m sure the local timeline does look like a confusing mess because his is populated by over half a million users talking about random things. However, the other 80% of Mastodon users are on much smaller instances, many of them themed. FreeRadical.zone has a lot of political postings. Hackers.town has plenty of infosec and maker posts. Dolphin.town limits users to posting only the letter “e” so that their messages look like a squeaking dolphin (“eeeeeEEEEEeeeeEEE!"). In each of these, the local timeline is a large part of the reason they exist. Removing that feature destroys their uniqueness, reducing them to fungible clones of each other.

My inner conspiracy theorist thinks that might be something the operator of a very large instance might want as a means of making other culture-centric instances less attractive, but I don’t actually believe that’s what Eugen had in mind. Still, this new app erases the unique perspectives of thousands of smaller servers. No one chooses an email service because they want to chat with other users on it. They might like its reliability or spam policies, but there’s no concept of a local culture. Mastodon is not like email in that way. If it were, I never would have started this instance.

I had originally said the new Mastodon iPhone app was nice. Now that I see it’s lacking basic functionality, I can’t recommend it for anyone.