About Vocata and the Fediverse

Vocata is a vocabulary-agnostic ActivityPub server. That means that, in contrast to other server software on the Fediverse, Vocata does not limit what types of content can be handled by it, and how it is presented to users.

As a transport agent, Vocata merely stores and forwards content, and leaves any presentational decisions to a client.

The principle of a transport agent is not new:

  • In e-mail, an MTA (Mail transport Agent) is responsible for storing and forwarding e-mail, and users use a MUA (Mail User Agent, colloquially: an e-mail program, or webmail) to send and receive mail

  • In Matrix, a homeserver is responsible for handling the rooms and events of users, and users use any Matrix client to log in to their homeserver

Benefits of separating client and server

The Fediverse, at the time of writing, is build on platforms that blend the ActivityPub protocol with an opinionated presentational layer:

  • Mastodon offers a micro-blogging platform

  • Pixelfed offers a photo community platform

  • PeerTube offers a video hosting and streaming platform

  • …and many more…

All these platforms are, to some extent, interoperable, because they all rely on the ActivityPub protocol. However, they all have a baked-in concept, dictating how content is presented to users, and this unification implies some limitations:

  • An identity on the Fediverse is inextricably linked with the platform. Identities (e.g. accounts) cannot be ported between platforms. So, if a user wants a microblog-style presentation and a gallery-style presentation, they are forced to use two identities.

  • Client-server interoperability is very limited, because each platform implements its own client-server protocol, considering the presentational concept of the platform

By shifting the Fediverse towards a separation between servers and clients, or transport agents and user agents in e-mail terms, it can overcome these limitations.

Conclusion: What is Vocata?

Vocata implements an ActivityPub server, and nothing more. It offers an interface for clients to send and receive content to and from the Fediverse with an identity, and handles federation with other servers on behalf of users.

With an account on a Vocata server, a user gains access to the Fediverse with a chosen identity, and can then use any client to act with that identity.