What would it take to replace Facebook with Discourse?


I’m genuinely looking to dump Facebook and I’m sure I’m not alone (!!!)

Discourse is clearly a great much better alternative to Facebook & Yahoo Groups. (and others)

But how about modifying it to support befriending and personal feeds with associated privacy control?

Would this be a total rewrite?

Am I totally off here?

I guess this might not scale as sign-ups iterated recursively? You could quickly chew up server capacity and have to migrate to bigger and bigger machines?

If not Discourse, what social network platform could I replace Facebook with?

(Just seen Ability to Follow and Friend other users, feel free to close if you believe this is not adding anything)

(Blu McCormick) #2

Do you think the new, unread, top, latest feeds are sufficient as news feeds? If so, are you thinking of then giving people the ability to have feeds that access multiple discourse forums under one umbrella? As that basically is what facebook does.

Looking up a person in discourse gives you their activity, badges, etc. Would you want to see the ability to maintain an activity log that captures activity in multiple discourse forums?

I am kinda allergic to the whole facebook friend concept. Nothing worse in my book than meeting someone at a party and next thing you are asked to be facebook friends. Cue awkward silence. However, there are some people in here I’d like to follow as I learn a lot from them and enjoy their themes and contributions. The way I follow such people is to watch their topic. This is one feature that I wouldn’t mind having – the ability to follow a particular member and get notified when they generate a topic.


Let’s start with a simple idea.

Unfortunately it quickly runs away with itself and this is probably the crux as to why it’s not a simple win:

  1. You set up a Discourse forum for you and your mates
  2. Eventually their friends you don’t know want to join
  3. Now you need sub-networks (befriending with privacy) as most will not be comfortable with all posts being public to all on the forum.
  4. These guys think Discourse is cool and recommend it to friends, who also join.
  5. Soon enough you have a scaling challenge.

Paying for all that horsepower will require a funding solution.

No I don’t think that’s enough. The friend collections can be arbitrary and different unpredictable, overlapping sets. I think Facebook newsfeed is a little more complex in that sense … its totally unique to each user.

(Blu McCormick) #4

Interesting. Thinking about that the back-end logistics it would take to achieve your vision is beyond my scope. My first thought after reading your idea is that Discourse seems to offer something different than Facebook – a focus on the topics/subject matter more than the members. It’s more about the information and product offered than the “look at me” posts. I am biased when it comes to Facebook, though, if you can’t tell. :laughing: I don’t follow people in Facebook, just particular news feeds. The forums I’ve checked out that use Discourse seem to be making use of the more sophisticated moderating tools offered, tend to provide more fact-checked information, and to be focused on niches where the niche more than the people involved is the focus. It seems to me like the public is ripe for this kind of culture with the Facebook fiasco and growing awareness of all the misinformation spread online. But . . . if Discourse is looking to make bucco bucks your line of thinking could be worth exploring.



I agree with you Discourse excels at the features you list.

What I’m struggling with now is … how to get past the Facebook-era?

How do we replace Facebook?

There is no option but to tackle this … we can’t let a single private company control so much private data … it’s completely untenable!!

So what will replace it?

(Blu McCormick) #6

I like how you think. Whoever solves this question, could find themselves being the next Mark Zuckerberg. There are the tools and structure put in place in the forum itself and then there is the culture that is set up via enforced ground rules and how human interactions are handled which is more subject to the whims of whoever runs a particular forum. What I am hearing from people in my town is they are tired of the bullying and misinformation in Facebook and Nextdoor and want more common sense, fact-checked info and to feel safe when posting. So far as we’ve been thinking how to achieve this (not launched yet :pensive:) we’ve focused on ground rules and utilizing different inbuilt moderating tools, themes and plugins to give people the power to self-moderate and be a part of making a better culture in the forum. People also distrust forums as far as sharing their private information. I know 5 people who quit Facebook in the last three days.


Perhaps something like this?:

Has anyone used this? Thoughts?

And would you believe it? … They use a Discourse meta to support their project!:


So true. Trust is hard to earn, easily lost (to use a great platitude) … and guess what? They lost it.

(Blu McCormick) #9

I am checking out Mastodon now. So . . . watching the explainer video, one real cool thing they do which discourse doesn’t have yet is being able to follow a member, AND, being able to follow a member across forums (“instances” as they call it). Mastodon and Discourse both permit forums to set up the forum how they want using open source software with each forum having their own rules and culture which you don’t have to nearly the same degree in facebook or nextdoor. Both have “user anti-abuse tools” as Mastodon calls them, but the explainer video doesn’t go into what those tools are. I am hoping someone comes along who has used both Discourse and Mastodon to give us a comprehensive report of their experiences in both.

I mentioned earlier there are definitely people in this forum I’d follow if I could. My way of doing this in a roundabout way is to follow their topics if I catch them coming up in the feed. I also know of some members in this forum who I’d follow in their respective forums if I had that ability to do so as I want to see what they are doing in their projects and am interested in their blog-like topics. Given that there are people self-hosting discourse instances and various hosts for servers for discourse, I don’t know how doable it would be to have a system where you opt into cross-forum feeds.

So is Mastodon a forked version of discourse open-source software? Anyone know?


No it’s not a fork of Discourse, I think it’s safe to say.

It is a decentralised social network that employs some common open standards.

Good 'ole Wikipedia has a reasonable article on this new species:

Another one to explore is:


Which uses, you guessed it, Discourse as their meta :slight_smile:

(Michael Downey) #11

Once upon a time, there was the #discourse_hub idea …

I wonder if anyone has been thinking more about federating Discourse forums lately with all the news going around. I know I have. :slight_smile:


/heads to search … :male_detective:

I really think a key moment in internet history is about to happen … (clue: one day we will have to tell our grandkids what Facebook was … )

(Michael Howell) #13

The fact that Mastadon runs an instance of Discourse tells me that they definitely see them as complementary, and not as competitors.


For sure … but I was careful not to post a topic that was irrelevant to Discourse, so trying to see it from the Discourse perspective.

It’s becoming clear that presently Discourse is not in this space … but could it one day be in this space?

(Blu McCormick) #15

It seems to me that a big selling point for Mastadon is that you can follow people AND follow people across forums (“instances”) if you watch their explainer video on their home page. A big leap for discourse might be to link discourse forums as wanted with some type of feed. One way would be to follow particular people as Mastadon does or perhaps instead it would be that you follow a topic-type, which fits the ideology of Discourse better (topic-focused more than people-focused).

(Michael Downey) #16

There’s this …

If the original global username idea from Discourse Hub were reworked to be more federated like Mastodon, maybe watching/following users across Discourse instances would be possible. Of course, this isn’t possible on a local level yet, either…



(Michael Howell) #18

Sounds to me like what you really want to join is Friendica, since it’ll interoperate with Diaspora and it’ll interoperate with Mastadon. You can even subscribe to a public Discourse topic or feed with it, since it’ll pull in bare RSS feeds.

Edit: Or hubzilla


Now THAT sounds interesting, thanks Michael!

(Blu McCormick) #20

The ability to follow other users is not on the radar for discourse, but Jeff kindly outlined a round about way you can do it.