Wildebeest is a new project from Cloudflare that’s designed to make it easier for individuals to set up and run their own Mastodon-compatible servers. It highlights one of the key strengths of Mastodon over centralized competitors like Twitter, which is that anyone can host an instance of the microblogging service that’s connected it to the wider network (aka Fediverse).
“You can quickly deploy your Mastodon-compatible server on top of Cloudflare and connect it to the Fediverse in minutes,” Cloudflare’s Celso Martinho and Sven Sauleau write in a co-authored blog post. “You don’t need to worry about maintaining or protecting it from abuse or attacks; Cloudflare will do it for you automatically.”
Cloudflare’s Wildebeest helps configure Mastodon’s software and manage updates, leaving you with the benefits of being in charge of your own corner of social media, including having control over your personal data. Cloudflare emphasizes that while its systems can help with the setup and management of a server, you’re the one who’s in charge. “Wildebeest is not a managed service,” Martinho and Sauleau explain, “It’s your instance, data, and code running in our cloud under your Cloudflare account.”
Cloudflare describes Wildebeest as a “minimally viable Mastodon-compatible server.” It’s compatible with “most” popular web, desktop, and mobile Mastodon clients (although the team says it’s still looking into compatibility with buzzy Mastodon client Ivory), and supports basic Mastodon features like publishing, editing, boosting, and deleting toots. Text and image posts are supported, but video is coming later.
And perhaps most importantly, multiple accounts can be registered under an instance, in case you want to use a Mastodon server to create and moderate your own community.
While Cloudflare is attempting to make the technical side of running a Mastodon instance easier, being responsible for even a small pocket of social media users can create some big non-technical challenges, which FT Alphaville outlined when it shut down its own Mastodon server last month. The whole post is worth reading, but the takeaway is that there are a whole bunch of messy compliance, security, and legal considerations to at least be vaguely aware of if you’re seriously interested in running an instance.