One interesting draw to Twitter’s early popularity came in the form of its permissive third-party client API. During the early years of the platform, a plethora of alternative mobile and web clients shipped, some of which became very popular for Twitter users. Eventually, Twitter tightened the reigns, killing off many of these in favor of its official applications for the purpose of maintaining platform control and serving up advertisement and engagement algorithms.
The fediverse doesn’t have a single authoritative entity capable of closing off access to clients, and it doesn’t leverage a specific revenue model or specific algorithms. That being said, a number of volunteer developers have spun up their own unique web clients for fediverse microblogging platforms. Each of the clients below work with Mastodon and Pleroma, because they support the same set of client APIs.
Glitch (also known as Glitchsoc or Glitch Social) is a fork of the Mastodon default frontend with new features and a slightly different design aesthetic. By default, the columns are wider to fill the available space, icon indicators reflect what type of content a status is, and images can either be letterboxed, or expanded to fill a status preview.
Curiously, Glitch also ships with a drawing interface. While the usefulness of the feature is up for debate, it’s a cute idea, and absolutely works for a general MS Paint-style use case.
Halcyon has a visual design intended to resemble Twitter, and can serve as a fine alternative if someone is migrating from birdsite to the fediverse. Built entirely from Twitter’s own Bootstrap interface library, the resemblance is absolutely uncanny.
In addition, every status leverages a lightbox, threaded comments, and preview cards for links and multimedia.
At first blush, Hyperspace feels like a mashup between Twitter’s UI, MissKey, and Tumblr. Profiles and individual statuseses are dynamically loaded in a sidebar.
Currently, Hyperspace supports content warnings, visibility settings, emoji, and polls. Image uploads are not yet supported, but currently in the works. Hyperspace also ships an Electron-based desktop application.
There’s also a next-generation rewrite of the frontend client available here, though it doesn’t currently seem to authorize against many instances yet.
Pinafore is another single-column UI that somewhat resembles Twitter in passing. Instead of offering lightboxes for status views, it functions as a single-page web application with smooth visual transitions, fading out its UI elements as you navigate from the main timeline into an individual status.
Overall, it’s a simple, clean, no-frills interface that loads very quickly. One extra neat feature is that it allows users to log into multiple accounts and switch between them with the client!
Brutaldon’s visual design is definitely an acquired taste, but the frontend is fully-functional and loads fairly quickly.
Micro UI is currently still in the works, and isn’t yet available to the general public. You can read more about it here.
Feather is largely a proof-of-concept client written to demonstrate how someone can build their own Pleroma frontend using Node and Vue.
It’s a little broken at the moment, and might require some updates to work properly. That said, the overall design goal is to build something that looks less like a traditional microblogging client, and more like a long-form social network. It could eventually serve as a basis for a Diaspora-style interface.