The silhouette of a wholly mammoth or mastodon

Cloudflare unveils Wildebeest, a Mastodon-compatible server hosted on its supercloud

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With the Mastodon social network and the Fediverse becoming such a hot topic recently, Cloudflare Inc. is coming to the rescue of people who want to join the network by running their own server or instance in order to experiment with the platform.

Cloudflare introduced Wildebeest today, an open-source, easy-to-deploy Mastodon-capable server built entirely atop the company’s supercloud that will enable anyone to own and operate their own instance in the social network.

Mastodon is a decentralized social network that is made up of independent servers, called communities, each of which has its own specific themes, topics or interests. Each one is owned and administered by its own community and has its own rules and policies, but maintains access to the rest of the social network, in this fashion, it is part of a federated network or a “Fediverse.”

The network is similar to Twitter in that it is a microblogging network where people can post and view short messages with pictures and videos attached and reply to one another. Except Twitter relies on a single centralized service to distribute its messages.

Due to recent upheavals at Twitter, specifically billionaire Elon Musk purchasing the social platform, Mastodon received a massive spike in popularity. Between November and October, the network saw its monthly active users shoot up to 2.5 million from 300,000.

There are two ways to join Mastodon: a user can apply for an already existing server or self-host their own. The latter option means spinning up the infrastructure needed to run the necessary server implementation of Ruby, Node.js, PostgreSQL and Redis, as well as spending the time to install it, configure the database, and manage all the technical work.

“Wildebeest serves two purposes: you can quickly deploy your Mastodon-compatible server on top of Cloudflare and connect it to the Fediverse in minutes, and you don’t need to worry about maintaining or protecting it from abuse or attacks; Cloudflare will do it for you automatically,” Cloudflare wrote in its announcement.

The servers do not operate as a managed service, so the data and code will be running Cloudflare’s cloud under the user’s account and directly accessible. It is also entirely open-source and will receive updates with new features. Cloudflare has put Wildebeest on GitHub where it is accessible to anyone to submit code modifications, which means the entire community of open-source developers can enhance it.

Currently, Wildebeest supports numerous Mastadon-compatible application programming interfaces, as well as ActivityPub, WebFinger, NodeInfo and WebPush. It can connect to and receive connections from other Fediverse servers and it is compatible with the most popular Mastodon web, desktop and mobile clients.

People can use it like any other social media platform to publish, edit, boost or delete posts. And it supports text and images – and it will soon support video. Followers are also enabled, content searching, as well as profiles. For signups, authentication can be handled through email or any Cloudflare Access compatible identity providers such as GitHub or Google.

Cloudflare built Wildebeest entirely on its own products and APIs and it represents a highly complex project that does a great deal of heavy lifting behind the scenes for the user. It runs on top of Cloudflare’s Supercloud infrastructure and uses Workers to scale and Pages for deployment. Under the hood, it uses the D1 database to store metadata and configurations and Zero Trust Access for handling authentication and Images to manage media.

To get started, Cloudflare included a tutorial on the Wildebeest GitHub that will give most potential server operators an idea of what they’re jumping into. Most of the dependencies for running Wildebeest have free plans for experimentation that allow hobbyists to try them out. Although, some, such as Images and Workers (depending on server load) would require a subscription plan.

“Wildebeest is a minimally viable Mastodon-compatible server right now, but we will keep improving it with more features and supporting it over time,” Cloudfare said about the project. “After all, we’re using it for our official accounts. It is also open-sourced, meaning you are more than welcome to contribute with pull requests or feedback.”

Image: Pixabay

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