fuzzy felt heart

about Felt

Felt (felt.dev, @feltjs on GitHub) is a free and open source toolkit for building and maintaining communities, publishing to the web, and collaborating with information. Felt.social (@feltcoop on GitHub, Twitter, and Mastodon) is an operator of felt-server instances, providing hosting services for end-users. The goal is to create a collectively-owned platform, free of ads and investors, to support communities that are human-scale, self-governed, consentful, private by default, and deeply customizable and programmable. We provide free and open source tools to design our social spaces and share our creations with others, or that's the plan... check back here in Q1 2023, and for updates see our monthly newsletter and podcast.

Felt designs for collaboration:

  • creation: the ability to create is a wonderful gift we all share β€” Felt will support authoring many kinds of media, beyond the familiar textbox our social media gives us today β€” imagine designing a novel conversation format to achieve a specific goal, like figuring out where to eat lunch with your friends, that's more structured than a chat and more freeform than a poll, and tailored to your group's specific needs
  • consumption: Felt has (plans for) the familiar social media content like text, images, videos, chats, forums, podcasts, and polls, as well as underexplored and novel forms of media like structured deliberations, virtual spaces with audio/visual streams, and, getting back to the real world, events β€” imagine going to lunch with friendsπŸ˜‹
  • curation: if creation and consumption are the primary inputs and outputs of our social systems, curation is the buzz of activity around them β€” in today's social media this includes liking posts and sharing links, and there remains a vast wilderness of tags, scores, lists, feeds, and other forms of curation β€” imagine sharing the lunch-with-friends decision-making conversation format with others, and discovering similar conversation formats made by the broader community, filtered and sorted to your needs

Felt is more than a website with features. It's a bunch of open source web software projects, a community and business and co-op, and we're working to become a platform co-op (communities owning themselves? absurd) β€” all with a purpose that puts people first. If we do it right, Felt is tech that feels good.

Felt The Business plans to make money through the revolutionary strategy of selling value to users. The current plan is a paid subscription service at Felt.social. We want a business model that keeps our incentives aligned with our users, so we accept no funding from third parties (e.g. advertisers and investors), and we won't sell coins or transferable tokens. We hope to provide an excellent customer experience, but we'll make it easy to export your data from our service and migrate to another.

The company behind Felt is a democratic worker co-op where us workers share equal ownership and control. We believe this model will help Felt The Business remain β†’ accountable ← to its users, workers, and society. To learn more about why we chose this business structure, see our (forthcoming) blog post "Why Felt is a worker co-op". In the future, we want to explore the platform cooperative model to share control and ownership with our users. (you, we hope!) Our GOVERNANCE.md reflects this goal while being up front about our current dictator status as workers.


When can I use Felt?

Our current plan is to release the first alpha version of our software in Q1 2023.

Is Felt a secure private messenger?

This is a nuanced subject: to be clear, from a technical perspective, Felt is not a secure private messenger. Even though we support direct messages between individuals, we currently recommend using Matrix or Signal for those usecases.

We don't currently support E2EE and minimizing metadata; we hold the keys to your stuff, and you'll have to trust both us and your fellow community members with the data you share. We plan to offer E2EE in some contexts in the future, starting with the low-hanging fruit like ephemeral 1-to-1 chats, but Felt is designed to be a powerful programmable platform for communities, which makes privacy and security with good UX an extremely challenging problem. Matrix prioritizes privacy and security in a federated context; we prioritize UX in a centralized context. What goes for Mastodon goes for Felt: don't send anything in DMs that you don't trust the admin with, or anything sensitive at all.

Why isn't Felt decentralized/federated?

We expect our tech β€” which is focused on communities, not messaging β€” to eventually be decentralized/federated/etc, perhaps with ActivityPub or Matrix or both, but today we are focused on UX quality and implementation velocity. We find it much easier to deliver good UX with a centralized architecture given the nature of decentralized systems and our small self-funded team with no expertise in such things. If Matrix fits your usecases, we recommend considering using it instead of Felt. For microblogging, we recommend Mastodon. Felt's focus is on communities and their custom needs, with an emphasis on delivering a polished UX in smaller scale, higher trust environments. We are however attempting to follow the standard ActivityPub/Fediverse/Mastodon/etc ActivityStreams vocabulary, (but not ActivityPub the federated protocol, not yet) setting us up for potential future compatibility. We're also maintaining JSON schemas that can be used in any programming language, so at least our off-spec stuff is machine-readable.

What features will Felt have?

Here's the current plan (it'll change):

  • customizable tools for online and offline communities
  • chats and forums and all sorts of novel variations
  • malleable media that we design and share
  • advanced moderation and shared governance
  • polls and fun interactives
  • events and rsvps
  • note taking and sharing
  • tasks and todos and reminders
  • bookmarks and aggregation and adventure
  • p2p video, audio, messaging, etc
  • blogs and web publishing
  • maybe one day, galaxies of interesting communities to explore
  • client software that users fully control
  • client software that works with many service providers in a single app
  • server software that's easy to self-host
  • and more, you know
How much does Felt cost?

Some modest amount of money, hopefully less than you think. We'll probably have a way to invite friends for free. Check back in Q1 2023.

Why does Felt use permissive and public domain software licenses instead of copyleft?

Currently, all of our public software is licensed either permissively with the MIT License or public domain with the Unlicense. This is not a statement against reciprocal copyleft licenses; on the contrary, we enthusiastically support people choosing strong copyleft licenses like the AGPL. The current consensus of Felt's membership is to use permissive and public domain licenses; each member has their own reasons, and this is subject to change. Please be aware: this means contributions to our projects are subject to the license of each repo, which currently allow usage in closed-source proprietary products, and each repo's license may change in the future subject to the co-op's governance procedures. The current licenses are compatible with changing to a copyleft license in the future.


Felt is free and open source software released under the permissive MIT License (see Wikipedia), and it's designed to be easily self-hosted, so you can run a private instance for your communities and maintain full control.