Introducing Fedigardens, and why I’m not fond of Hyperspace Desktop

The app space for the fediverse was sparse when I started working on the Hyperspace project back in 2019. Although there were a good handful of clients on mobile and a couple decent web interfaces, I felt none of them were fully suitable for college students to use.

Introducing Fedigardens, and why I’m not fond of Hyperspace Desktop

The app space for the fediverse was sparse when I started working on the Hyperspace project back in 2019. Although there were a good handful of clients on mobile and a couple decent web interfaces, I felt none of them were fully suitable for college students to use. This was ostensibly a big problem for me, since I wanted to show what the fediverse had to offer to others. So, I decided to make one myself, and thus Hyperspace was born.

The year is now 2023, and many things have changed since then. Twitter is burning to a crisp, and the fediverse is growing more than ever. At the time of writing, there are twenty-two unique apps listed on Mastodon’s apps page, and the Mastodon project finally has its own official app. The Hyperspace project has two apps in the incubator: Starlight, a Mastodon client with Twitter integration for Apple platforms, and Luna, the spiritual successor to Hyperspace Desktop. Although I’m unsure if these projects will see the light of day, it’s exciting to see the fediverse expand and take center stage. With all of this said, there are some things I’ve been reflecting on and pondering for a while now, which I’m going to present to you today alongside my yearly goals post.

Hyperspace Desktop wasn’t my finest hour.

Important Note: The Hyperspace project, including the desktop app, is maintained by a small team. However, I will be focusing on my particular contributions, hence why I use “I” instead of “we”.

There: I said it, and there’s not much you can do about it. I won’t deny that I really enjoyed creating this app; I learned a lot about software development and teamwork through this project. For the goals I had set forth, the app did exactly what it was supposed to; in fact, I often see many posts under the #hyperspace tag talking about its simplicity, even if there are parts of the app that are out of date. I’m glad that I’ve helped make the fediverse less daunting.

Yet, simultaneously, I consider Hyperspace Desktop to be one of my weaker attempts in the world of app development. First (and foremost), Hyperspace Desktop is unashamedly an Electron app. Yes, I did the best I could to have native integrations where possible, but I could only go so far with essentially a limited Chrome browser. It flagrantly breaks the design guidelines of the operating systems it runs on, and accessibility and performance were thrown out the window. This obviously made for a terrible experience for those fronts alone.

Scale and maintainability became major issues with Hyperspace Desktop as well. Several Node dependencies needed to be updated constantly because of the various vulnerabilities found, and the code was simply harder to maintain with all its spaghetti code and object-oriented approach. It became a grueling chore to maintain the codebase, especially with newer advancements such as Apple Silicon coming around the corner at the time. It was no surprise that Desktop was discontinued in 2022 as I made plans with the current desktop team to create Luna to supersede it.

A flower blooms in the garden

Last year, I revisited the topic of social media and fediverse clients as I wanted to experiment with how to make social media apps more humane. This experiment became the basis of my capstone project at Goucher, and Codename Shout was created as a result. Codename Shout treated the Mastodon timeline like a mailbox and stripped out typical social media features, like statistics for favorites and reblogs. Likewise, it focused heavily on being discussion-oriented with its text-first approach. It also aimed to be lightweight and frugally performant by limiting network resources and preferring a native UI on iPhone, iPad, and Mac.

Unfortunately, I never got to the testing phases due to some other hurdles; however, Codename Shout did get me to rethink social media and how we interact with it. Moreover, it rekindled my interest in the fediverse and creating a decent client.

A few weeks ago, I rummaged through the source code for that old project and started refactoring the code, tweaking it to take advantage of iOS 16’s new APIs for SwiftUI. These tweaks included customizable toolbars, improved navigation, and proper multiple window support. I also stripped the macOS support because I felt the Mac version wasn’t as polished as I’d like, and I was already using my own personal fork of the Mastonaut app, anyway.

Sooner than later, I realized I had a decent, email-styled Mastodon app that I’d want to use on my iPad and iPhone. Not only that, I realized that others might want a similar experience, where they can contribute to a conversation and then walk away just as easily, free from social media engagement traps. So, I spent some extra time preparing the app for general use and decided to make it available on TestFlight. That app became Fedigardens, the simplified, discussion-oriented Mastodon app for iPhone and iPad.

This is Fedigardens.

Fedigardens is all that I imagined Codename Shout to be and more. I’ve taken the lessons I’ve learned from Hyperspace Desktop and tried to create an experimental app that takes the fediverse in a different direction. Fedigardens is still in its infancy, however, and is by no means a finished product. I hope to continue working on it and making it suitable for general use in the coming months while doing my day job and working on Indexing Your Heart.

I recognize that most people might not be interested in how Fedigardens approaches Mastodon, and that’s fine. They are more than welcome to use more typical apps such as Ivory, Toot!, and the official Mastodon app. But, for those that are keen to join me in this experimental journey, you can head over to to get into the TestFlight program.

I’m not sure what’s going to happen with Starlight and Luna; the future for those projects is unclear, and we haven’t done much since May. I wouldn’t be surprised if Hyperspace rides off into the sunset this year. Regardless, there are new contenders that can follow in Hyperspace’s footsteps, and anyone is more than welcome to make a fork of the original Desktop app. You might need to make a few adjustments, though.

In any case, I’m excited to keep playing around with and continuing the Fedigardens experiment. I hope you join me as I try out different ideas to change how we engage in discussion on Mastodon in a more humane way.