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Flipboard joins the Fediverse with a Mastodon integration and community, plans for ActivityPub

Magazine app Flipboard is joining the Fediverse -- the group of interconnected servers powering a range of open source, decentralized applications, including the newly popular Twitter alternative Mastodon. Starting today, the Flipboard app for iOS will include a beta feature that will allow Mastodon users to visually flip through their timeline to view posts from the people they follow, much like they've been able to do with Twitter. But the company's Fediverse ambitions extend beyond a product integration as Flipboard is launching its own Mastodon instance, flipboard.social, to provide an easy way for Flipboard users and magazine curators to participate in the decentralized web. It also plans to support ActivityPub, the underlying protocol that powers Mastodon and other federated apps.

Access to the new instance, for the time being, will be limited to Flipboard curators on an invite-only basis. But Flipboard says, over time, it aims to onboard more users into the Fediverse through its instance.

The news follows a similar announcement from the blogging platform Medium, which last month launched its own Mastodon community for its authors. Other companies weighing Fediverse integrations include Tumblr and Flickr, both of which have discussed adding support for ActivityPub, as well.

For Flipboard, the new Mastodon integration serves to plug up a potential hole in its service. The company understands its longtime Twitter integration may become unreliable with Twitter's API changes under Elon Musk, which has already impacted a range of third-party apps -- including many Twitter clients. Flipboard, which began its life as a social magazine where users could read their news feeds alongside updates from social apps like Twitter, knows that its time with Twitter may now be limited.

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"We don't know how much longer this is going to stay alive," said Flipboard CEO Mike McCue, about the app's Twitter integration.

He says the company no longer has a contact at Twitter in the event of any API issues, though it hasn't yet experienced a major disruption. Still, he says, what's going to happen next is "anyone's guess."

By integrating with Mastodon, Flipboard users will be able to continue to browse a feed of short updates from the people they follow within Flipboard's app. This includes Mastodon posts with text, images and link previews, just as Twitter offered. They can also use the integration to compose their own Mastodon posts with links and photo uploads of their own. Plus, they can reply to, like, and boost posts from others, and click on hashtags to follow larger topical discussions, among other things.

Flipboard curators can also "flip" (add) Mastodon posts to their magazines using the plus button, the way they've been able to do with Twitter previously. And Flipboard's newly added Notes feature, which allows curators to include original content in their magazine, will be able to be turned into Mastodon text posts.

While it's not a fully featured client -- the way that apps like Ivory, Mammoth or Ice Cubes are -- Flipboard offers an easy way to keep up with your Mastodon community alongside other news and stories.