Mastodon vs. Finger

I am too young to use Finger protocol when it was a common thing. I got to know about Finger years later, as one of the Linux/Unix commands, and put into my head a theoretical description of it. But that theoretical description of Finger protocol and command can obscure the whole idea behind it. So imagine a world where an average user has access to a shell account and has the ability to operate on the Internet from inside of the chosen server. So an average user can read and write files, the same as today's average user. But that former average user had, almost forgotten today, ability to write and publish files for a wider audience. Because today most of us is thinking that publishing data is a big thing. So big that it need to use special tools for that. We can't put the data into a regular file, instead of we put that data on special platforms.

That tools and platforms have grown over the years. It isn't only a web server for that, despite even a web server isn't a simple tool today. Everyone who was [Installing from source] Mastodon instance has knowledge that there are many tools for that. So there are PostgreSQL (relational database), Node.js (first runtime environment), Yarn(additional package manager), Ruby (second runtime environment), Nginx (webserver), and so on.

Even when we want to publish once a week what we do on our server, we are tempted to install so complicated stack to do so. Instead of publishing an ordinary file. We can go back to the Finger protocol, which was invented to simplify the use case of publishing [now page] data. With finger protocol, there isn't a need to install any additional tools. Because it's serving content from standard files .plan, .project, and several system information of the last login time or state of an e-mail box to other people.

It's easy to mix Finger usage with a single file acting like an archive of past Finger data, and we are creating almost (on the base concept level) a complete alternative for Mastodon.

Subscribe to an account and read the last activities from subscribed accounts

The result of this section is a draw, we can easily subscribe for an account in Mastodon and Finger (run several times a finger command).

Read activities of any account

A draw. It's worth saying that Mastodon wants to create an ability to run thematic instances, with public timeline functionalities but it isn't working for me on the concept level for now. So on the ability to read any given user name data, there isn't any advantage for Mastodon.

Publish an activity

Mastodon content support is a more complex thing because it embeds text, media, and special interacting content like polls. But it seems that there are workarounds for all things on Finger. The result in this section depends on what the user needs.

Set permission for an activity

Mastodon wants to add an extra layout over the data for: marking it as sensitive, for subscribers, or private. It can't be done with Finger. But users must be aware that part of that functionalities are illusory because so-called, private data could be accessed on the server (for example by its admin and so on). So it's some kind of a dead end, and maybe tools like Mastodon shouldn't wander so far.

Respond to an activity (make a thread of activities) and mention an account

It's easier to make a readable discussion and thread on Mastodon. But it's possible to do reply on Finger too. Mastodon is offering a notification for replies. But threading on Mastodon for a big thread is proving that it isn't a tool for discussions. So we are using it for discussions, and probably at the same time we are wondering for what sins we do so.

Mention a hashtag and read activities by hashtag

The Finger doesn't have support for hashtags. Mastodon is using hashtags as a main thing for searching. It's useful for accessing the last activities of a certain topic. But it isn't working for advanced searches and it's not so convenient to scroll through the history of a hashtag. Probably it will be easier to implement a nonexistent Finger service for searching now. If needed.

Read accounts in a catalog

Mastodon has the wish to build a working catalog of users. The Finger has a list of users but without extended descriptions.

Finger in the wild

You can run a [] script or go through users listed there manually.

[Installing from source]

[now page]



@ Sun 19 Mar 2023 04:06:46 PM CET

tags: #finger, #mastodon