Flipboard social magazine app continues its investment in the federated social web with today’s news integrating with decentralized social networks Bluesky and Pixelfed. The move will allow users of the Flipboard mobile app to visually browse posts and photos from both networks, comment, favorite, comment, and scroll through custom feeds, such as Bluesky’s “What’s Hot” feed of popular posts. Notably, this also makes Flipboard the first major tech company to integrate with Bluesky, the emerging Twitter alternative that remains in an invite-only private beta, as well as the first mobile app to support all three decentralized networks.
According to Flipboard, the Bluesky integration will roll out to users on iOS and Android today, while Pixelfed support will roll out in the coming days.
As with Flipboard’s previous support for Mastodon, users can visit the accounts section of the app (under the Following tab) to add their Pixelfed and Bluesky accounts, including using an app password for Bluesky for added security , instead of their main login credentials.
Once installed, Flipboard users can effectively use the app as a Pixelfed or Bluesky client to browse other people’s posts, photos, and articles; browse individual profiles; and reply, like and repost content; and read replies and comments from others. Bluesky users can also browse the “What’s Hot” trending feed and, in the future, any other custom feeds that will eventually be supported.
While Flipboard defaults to a more visual layout where you scroll through posts, there’s an option in the settings to switch to a scrollable feed if you want a more Twitter-like UI for browsing the Bluesky timeline. (Or “skyline,” as its users have dubbed it.)
The new integrations are part of Flipboard’s larger effort to embrace the future of the social web, which now includes a push toward decentralization.
Since its inception more than a decade ago, Flipboard has focused on building a platform that allows users to discover content from around the web and create “magazines” dedicated to their interests by sharing content from media sites, blogs, and various social media platforms. manage networks. But with Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter, Flipboard’s ability to manage from within the microblogging app has been impacted by the changing policies around Twitter’s API usage and pricing. Twitter then shut down Flipboard’s access last month.
At the same time, interest in decentralized social networking began to grow as users looked to Twitter alternatives, such as the open source, decentralized platform Mastodon, to meet their needs. Flipboard saw the potential in a decentralized social web — or “fediverse,” as it’s called — and announced in February that it would add support for Mastodon in its app, launch its own Mastodon server, and eventually integrate with ActivityPub, the underlying protocol that powers Mastodon and other federated apps, such as Pixelfed, a decentralized Instagram alternative. The ActivityPub integration has been underway for a few months and will take several more months to complete, Flipboard notes.
In the meantime, Flipboard has been slowly expanding its Mastodon instance, flipboard.social, which currently requires an invite to access. And Flipboard users can now communicate with their Mastodon network in the app, just as they could with Twitter before.
But unlike Mastodon and Pixelfed, Bluesky is developing its own decentralized protocol, the AT protocol. While some have criticized this decision while a fairly established W3C-recommended option exists with ActivityPub, Bluesky has different ideas about account portability, user identity, and algorithmic choice – so the team felt it was necessary to start over.
Today, that means users wanting to browse both decentralized networks – the AT Protocol-powered Bluesky and the ActivityPub-powered Mastodon (and the wider universe of federated apps) have had to use different apps to do so.
Now they can communicate with both networks directly from Flipboard’s app.
Flipboard CEO Mike McCue is not concerned about the competing standards, as he believes the issues will be resolved over time.
“The power of the social web, I think, is definitely going to happen,” he says. “The details of the AT protocol, the ActivityPub protocol and how all those things come together will eventually be fleshed out. Those are like tactical friction points… but this happens.
Additionally, he notes, Flipboard is working with other developers to collaborate on building a bridge between the two protocols.
“That way, users on ActivityPub could track users on Bluesky using AT Protocol and vice versa,” explains McCue.
For now, he wanted Flipboard to work with both protocols without disrupting the user experience.
“What we’re doing here is very reminiscent of what email clients used to do when you had POP3 and IMAP: two different email protocols. It’s still email. And users mostly didn’t care. The client has just integrated both protocols and made it work. That’s really what we’re doing here with Mastodon and Bluesky,” says McCue.
For now, however, Flipboard currently integrates with the Mastodon and Bluesky APIs – not their respective protocols. That work is underway for ActivityPub. And the future for the AT protocol, including possible connectivity to ActivityPub via a bridge, is unknown.
And while both networks are accessible through the Flipboard app, users are not yet ready to post once to have their content shared on both platforms. (That means you might see duplicate posts from people posting the same content in multiple places.)
Longer term, Flipboard sees an opportunity to bring its curation expertise to the decentralized social web as well. It has already started running editorial offices on Mastodon to help people discover interesting content and follow people. In time, it could also introduce its own custom feeds for the decentralized web.
“Flipboard has great feeds… We have feeds driven by AI, feeds driven by users – with the curation they have. And we have mixtures of the two,” McCue notes. Flipboard’s AI engine can analyze any content posted to Mastodon, Bluesky, Pixelfed, and other supported integrations such as RSS and YouTube, then classify it by topic and who curates it, and turn it into a high-quality magazine, personalized to the wishes of the user. interests.
“It’s a really powerful capability,” McCue says. “This is only available in the Flipboard app right now, but you can imagine this feed is something we can make accessible to users on Bluesky,” he hints.
Those custom feeds may also eventually showcase new business models, whether through advertising or subscriptions, or others yet to come. But that’s further down the road, says the exec.
The new integrations are coming to Flipboard’s iOS and Android apps starting today.