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Exploring Social Media Alternatives: Pixelfed and Odysee

Last month, I described what it was like to move from WhatsApp to Signal. In this post, I want to continue my exploration of social media privacy-focused platforms. This time, I will discuss my experiences with Instagram and Youtube alternatives Pixelfed and Odysee.

Pixelfed (Instagram, Imgur)

Beyond the social media fluff, there are some real benefits to having an Instagram account. It's an easy way to connect to other people with similar interests, start a network with them and view original content. This is ideal for artists, musicians an other creatives. Instagram works well as a public sketchbook for ideas, which can then be worked out more fully later. The possibility of feedback from other users can be a great motivator for posting new creative work.

Imgur has a simpler function: it's a place to store photographs which you can link to from other places (like this blog, for example). It pairs well with Reddit, where inserting images work best through hyperlinks.

Both Instagram and Imgur are proprietary. They are owned by Meta and MediaLab, respectively. Instagram has addictive features built into its user interface, which include a like button, the unpredictability of which will keep users coming back for more. We also can assume both work on a business model of selling user data for advertising. Please see my previous post "What Is Big Tech?" for more information about attention engineering.

The recommended open source alternative to Instagram is Pixelfed. Similar to Mastodon, Pixelfed is a decentralised social media platform where users can host pictures. You can hyperlink these images to places like Reddit where uploading images may not work, or you can interact with the content and images posted by other users, similar to Instagram.

Verdict: While PixelFed does have many Instagram-like features, there were two problems that made the experience feel stilted: there are few active users, and the social interaction features are confusing to use. I see posts appear from Mastodon, so there must be cross-over between these two federated social media websites, but I have no idea how this works. My trending feed shows a bunch of innocuous wintry nature scenes (a lot of birds, for some reason!) and individual trending posts have low engagement: 0 - 3 likes, with a single comments at best. I am currently on the pixelfed.de instance and don't understand how to access content from a different instance, like pixelfed.social, without creating a new account there. There probably are answers to all of these questions, but a social media platform should be self-explanatory and easy to get started with.

On the other hand, as a replacement for Imgur, PixelFed is great! You can upload up to 12 photographs per album, and once posted, these can be hyperlinked to to appear on forums like Reddit, or blog sites that don't allow file hosting, like Bear Blog. The screenshot below is linked from my Pixelfed account.

Example of '#lego' search on Pixelfed.social at time of writing:


Odysee (YouTube)

YouTube needs no introduction. Aside from its many notorious 'rabbit holes', it's a great platform for entertainment, tutorials, music and even films. Wikipedia tells us YouTube "is owned by Google, and is the second most visited website, after Google Search."1 Similar to Instagram and Meta, we can assume money is made by selling user information to data brokers, though YouTube also has subscriptions.

A recommended alternative to YouTube (that is not a front-end for YouTube content2) is Odysee. In order to find out more, I set up an account and tried to use Odysee as an alternative to YouTube for a while.

Verdict: Odysee has an attractive, logical user interface. I like that the current video will continue to play in a smaller window in the corner when you want to browser further. Some people are doing well on Odysee, though the number of follows and likes are nowhere near those on YouTube. This makes sense, given the large number of users on YouTube, which is in the billions.3

Controversial privacy gurus like Rob Braxman Tech have a largish following (81k at time of writing), which shows Odysee is growing. But once you start doing searches for specific topics of interest, like 'Lego' or 'Ambient Music' Odysee suddenly feels static and lifeless, especially when compared to YouTube results under similar headings.

I have noticed some big names (like Braxman) have started posting parallel content to both YouTube and Odysee. This allows users with an interest in privacy to follow them on Odysee instead of on YouTube, and it also gives these creators a guaranteed preservation of their content, should their accounts be cancelled on YouTube. I don't know of anyone with a large YouTube audience who has decided to switch and rely entirely on Odysee. In short, if the content creator whose work you like has an account on Odysee, it works perfectly well to follow them there and reduce your reliance on YouTube.

For those without a following wanting to create and share content, Odysee will work, but the lack of audience growth and engagement may end up being quite discouraging. As is the case with Pixelfed, I see a lot of interesting, well-produced videos with very low engagement: the dreaded 0 - 3 likes. What's more, the automatic YouTube sync tool only works if you already have a large audience on YouTube; if your following falls below a certain threshold, you just have to double-upload your content yourself, and Odysee won't import all your previously posted YouTube content. Regarding this point, Odysee explain in their FAQ:

Why Are There Sync Limits and Requirements?
If it was up to us, we would allow everyone to sync with no restrictions. As it stands now, we have limited resources for channel syncs and have to allocate them as best we can.

To sum up, Odysee is not bad for content viewing, especially if people you like are there. For people who want to create and post content but who don't have a large following yet, Odysee feels discouragingly dead at the moment.

Example of a 'Lego' search on Odysee at time of writing:


Current use and looking ahead

For following content creators I like, Odysee worked well for a while, but then I ended up having to switch back and forth with YouTube for creators not on Odysee. In the end, I stopped using Odysee. I downloaded Chrome just for YouTube, and don't use that browser for anything else.

Posting original content on Pixelfed with the aim of social engagement was a disheartening experience, so I stopped. I do find it useful as an alternative to Imgur, and continue to use Pixelfed for image-hosting.


Pixelfed.org - see 'Join a community server' button.


If you have no interest in audience engagement but just need a place to post videos, PeerTube is another option. Owned by Framasoft, a French privacy-focused company that has created other interesting tools, PeerTube is a federated platform for hosting video content. To find out more, see their webpage.


Someone on Reddit gave a useful tip to solve the issue of switching between Odysee and Youtube. The browser extension Watch on Odysee "automatically redirects you to Odysee from YouTube when a video is also available there," according to the extension description. That seems like a useful tool!

--------------------Discuss on Reddit--------------------

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  1. Wikipedia

  2. Invidious is one example of an open source front-end to YouTube. It does look a bit complicated to set up.

  3. Source

#digitalprivacy #journey #odysee #pixelfed #review #socialmedia