“ActivityPub Integration Launches on Flipboard: Expanding Federated Capabilities”

Today, the social magazine app Flipboard is announcing it has also now integrated with ActityPub. That changed this year, when Flipboard shifted its Twitter integration over to Mastodon and another alternative social app, Bluesky. All this was in the lead-up to making Flipboard itself a federated social app, a process that’s kicking off today. As this rolls out, all Flipboard users will have one Flipboard.com account connected to the fediverse, even if they host numerous Flipboard magazines. Today, Flipboard has over 10,000 publishers of social magazines on its app and over a quarter million individuals who are curating content using Flipboard’s app.

Instagram Threads isn’t the only app joining the decentralized social web. Twitter/X rival Mastodon and other apps are also a part of this movement, with Flipboard now adding support for the networking protocol ActivityPub.

In exciting news, the social magazine app Flipboard has integrated with ActityPub. While initially only select accounts will be discoverable, eventually all profiles on Flipboard will be available in the fediverse, as the decentralized social apps network is known.

Earlier this year, Flipboard announced its intention to participate in the fediverse. The company first integrated with Mastodon through an API and set up its own server, flipboard.social, to prepare for full ActivityPub integration. This move allowed Flipboard to gain insight into the world of decentralized social media and understand user response. It also served as a way to stay connected to social media after Twitter/X raised its API fees for third-party developers, making it unsustainable for many to continue working with the company.

The primary purpose of the Flipboard app is to curate news and information from the web into social “magazines,” featuring links to articles, photos, and other social posts. Previously, Flipboard relied on Twitter as one of its sources. However, this year, Flipboard shifted its Twitter integration over to Mastodon and another alternative social app called Bluesky. It also created its own Mastodon server and curated news from the fediverse through editorial “desks” focused on improving news discovery on Mastodon.

Now, Flipboard is taking the next step to become a federated social app, which begins today.

Initially, Flipboard will test the integration with select accounts, including popular publishers such as Semafor, Pitchfork, Fast Company, Medium, LGBTQ Nation, Refinery 29, Digiday, Polygon, SPIN, Kotaku, Frommer’s, The Verge, Smithsonian Magazine, Refinery 29, The Root, ScienceAlert, AFAR Media, and more. While many are focused on news, there are also non-profits like The News Literacy Project and education-focused news site The 74 included in this debut list.

“As we said earlier this year, we will be embracing ActivityPub into Flipboard and effectively reworking our whole backend to that,” explained Flipboard CEO Mike McCue in a conversation with TechCrunch about the upcoming changes. He added that the company initially integrated with Mastodon at the API level, allowing users to log into their Mastodon accounts, see those posts, and interact with others in the fediverse from Flipboard. However, users needed an account on each platform.

“What we’re announcing on Monday is basically our roadmap for how we will be rolling out ActivityPub and effectively tearing down the walls around our own walled garden,” McCue continued.

With the changes, when Flipboard users curate an article or post into one of their social magazines on Flipboard’s app, with an optional comment, that “flip,” as it’s called, will also appear as a post on their new flipboard.com Mastodon account. This is not the same server as Flipboard had set up before (flipboard.social), which was a place to experiment with decentralized social media. Instead, it’s the Flipboard app itself that’s now connected to the fediverse. Users’ posts on Mastodon will include a link to the article being flipped and to the user’s Flipboard magazine, while the user profile will point to their Flipboard profile page.

As this rolls out, all Flipboard users will have one Flipboard.com account connected to the fediverse, even if they host numerous Flipboard magazines. While this may not be ideal as their magazines may focus on different topics, McCue believes that Mastodon could one day support a notion of sub-feeds that would allow for more differentiation.

Users will have the option to opt-out of having their “flips” posted on Mastodon, but being opted-in will be the default experience. The company expects to have all of its user accounts connected to the fediverse by the end of January. This won’t impact any magazines set to “private” on Flipboard, as those will remain private, McCue notes.

Currently, Flipboard has over 10,000 publishers of social magazines on its app, and over a quarter-million individuals who curate content using Flipboard. With around 1.5 million monthly active users, Mastodon could see a significant increase in the fediverse once Flipboard’s integration fully rolls out.

Flipboard is one of several companies that have embraced decentralized social media. In addition to Instagram Threads, which began testing ActivityPub last week, other tech companies are moving in this direction as well. Automattic made it possible for all WordPress.org and WordPress.com blogs to become federated and is working to do the same with Tumblr next year. Medium and Mozilla have also set up their own servers, and the latter backed a Mastodon client called Mammoth.

Flipboard doesn’t require funding to support its new developments, as it’s running off the profits of its own business while moving in this direction. The company is also betting that federated social media is only the beginning of what’s to come for the web.

“I saw what was happening with ActivityPub and it became very clear to me that this is the future of the web, period,” McCue said. “The social web is people linking to pages and people linking to people. So it’s a much more intricate web.”

He sees Flipboard as a part of this opportunity, saying, “There needs to be a way to do discovery and search and have it be beautiful and simple and easy to use. That is what we’re focused on.”

Despite all the changes, Flipboard’s front end does not need to look different to support this new age of social media.

“The front end was built at a time pre-federation,” noted McCue. “What are the implications of federation in the front end? How do we think about curation and all the capabilities and tools that we’ve created over the years? How does that work in a world that’s federated, and from a user experience point of view? That is a great question,” he said.

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Zara Khan

Zara Khan is a seasoned investigative journalist with a focus on social justice issues. She has won numerous awards for her groundbreaking reporting and has a reputation for fearlessly exposing wrongdoing.

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