An unlikely couple

Electrical connections between two boards

Farcaster, meet Newsmast.

It’s weird when two things pop up around the same time, looking the same. Like Hollywood releasing two versions of the same story, in the same year. Even more weird when one is a crypto start-up with a billion dollar valuation. And the other an under-funded non-profit in the Fediverse.

That’s the story of an unlikely couple: Farcaster and Newsmast.

Back in December 2022, Diana Shurman, a brilliant Ukrainian app designer and I sketched out plans for Newsmast (a project name which stuck). It's short for News and comment on Mastodon.

The Figma designs from that time are pretty much what’s in the app now. We wanted to make communities front and centre, so we built the app around community timelines. Users select their favourites, which can be pinned at the top of the app for easy navigation. All posts are tagged by community and when users create a post they have a pop up where they see their favourite communities, and choose which to post to. Based on this, posts are automatically given a relevant hashtag, to help discovery in the wider Fediverse. 

Fast forward to 2024 and let's take a look at Farcaster, a booming crypto start-up which just completed a $150 million dollar funding round valuing it at a billion dollars.

A few things make Farcaster stand out. It’s decentralised, just like the Fediverse which Newsmast inhabits. It’s “on-chain” - 110% committed to crypto and the whole world which comes with that. It has a highly committed, super-lively user base, which has recently taken off with the success of Frames - lightweight add-ons to the app which mint NFTs and do other crypto stuff. And like Newsmast, it’s built around communities, called channels. These channels are even more integrated into the overall experience than Bluesky Custom Feeds - which have just been bumped from the nav bar by DMs. Posts are all tagged with a /channel name, like a sub-Reddit, and just like Newsmast. There’s a pop up showing channel options when you post, just like Newsmast. Cleverly, channels can also be referenced and linked in-line within a post, in the same way as hashtags in the Fediverse. Something we'll work on with Patchwork.

Easy to make once you're "on-chain", channels are as big a success on Farcaster as Custom Feeds on Bluesky. Yes, they're not what's behind the huge valuation (Laurens Hof digs into that here.)

What’s exciting to me is that Farcaster channels are close to the way we’ve built Communities in Newsmast - showing how these could take off in the Fediverse.

Why the difference in take up? Growth and hashtags. Farcaster channels, like Bluesky Custom Feeds, are successful within fast growing platforms, where hashtags either don't exist or were only just introduced. So they're the natural place to go. On the Fediverse, we've an established user base that's used to hashtags. So Newsmast has to work harder to sell the benefits of curated communities for sharing ideas, and win over existing users.

Take a look at Farcaster channels on the Warpcast app. And if you’d like to try Newsmast, just download the app or log on at with your Mastodon account. And no, we’re not valued at a billion dollars. So drop by our Patreon, we’d love your support.