The Challenge


How can we strengthen the Internet for free expression and innovation? read the brief


MediaGoblin: Decentralized Social Media Publishing for Everyone

MediaGoblin is a decentralized and social media publishing system focused on user freedom. It supports many different media types; images, video, audio, 3D models and more. Instead of needing a seperate service for each one (YouTube+Flickr+SoundCloud+Vimeo+Thingiverse), each controlled by a specific company with a walled-off network, when you use MediaGoblin you need just one account -- and it's yours to control. For maximum independence you can host your own network node, or just create an account on a node you trust. It archives all your media, and lets you share with as large or small a circle as you wish. MediaGoblin is free and open source software, making it the censorship- and surveillance-resistant solution for global media sharing.
MediaGoblin is a highly extensible free and open source media publishing system with a great plug-in architecture. That means that its evolution can be user-driven, allowing it to be adapted to a great variety of user purposes. Nodes focused on citizen journalism may have different requirements than music publishing nodes. If a person, project or business using MediaGoblin needs an extra feature, they will always have the right to extend the software or hire someone to extend it for them -- as long as they contribute the code back to the community they build on.

This extensibility is already evident in the areas of theming, media types, and plugins providing additional features like embedded OpenStreetMap support, and flexible authentication options including OpenID and Persona. MediaGoblin's codebase and legal tooling makes it ideal for extension, and because it's written in Python, it's accessible and easy to modify.

The internet is becoming a fragmentary landscape of competing but incompatible services, with business models commonly designed to exploit and endanger users rather than aid them. But it doesn't have to be that way. MediaGoblin is designed for federation, the way email is. Federation helps people talk across different systems. Imagine if every email user of could only email other Blahoogle users, and needed another subscription at CatMail to talk to users there. That is what is happening across the media-rich social web. MediaGoblin doesn't want to see the internet become a hopelessly fractured and chaotic space where everyone has to keep up with a zillion services and networks, always chasing their feature and social needs. These services are not prioritizing the open standards and user rights that protect the internet itself while keeping it an egalitarian and safe zone to live in. Rather than cultivate its own private commercial fiefdom that relies on preventing interoperability with everyone else, MediaGoblin builds tools and communities that benefit everyone. MediaGoblin is a powerful framework that people can build on, benefit from, and share the benefits back to the common good. We don't think people should have to trade their freedom for usability. MediaGoblin is designed to offer people the same kind of social media sharing features they find in their existing services, but better: simpler, more powerful, connecting a global user base, growing with every bit of user investment, and all while protecting user freedom.

The call for an independent media publishing system that resists censorship grows urgent as we see increasing cases of the centralized commercial services exerting censorship and restricting content -- on behalf of their own interests, and in collusion with regional governments. The silos that are the main current points of media sharing are not only vulnerable to attacks on free speech, but also hamper important grassroots economic activity by privileging the interests of a tiny minority over those of most of the world. As more and more people conduct their lives online, the accumulation and commodification of granular personal data presents a tremendous encroachment on privacy, security and anonymity -- not just the hallmarks of free society, but even the preconditions of our freedom of thought.
In ONE sentence, tell us about your project to strengthen the Internet for free expression and innovation.
MediaGoblin builds a decentralized, social media publishing system, and a set of tools any other project can use to be social AND protect user freedom on the internet.
Who will benefit from what you propose? What have you observed that makes you think that?
Media authors -- whether artists, journalists, individual users or organizations -- gain an innovative publishing system without censorship, centralized surveillance, or corporate monopoly, on a social platform the user can customize and control. In place of being locked into centralized and vulnerable corporate media silos, users gain the enormous benefit of a world-wide independent media sharing network that can be extended to defy even national and language boundaries.
What progress have you made so far?
After one year of crowdfunded development, MediaGoblin has issued 5 major releases and built the groundwork of an ambitious system that could reverse the trend of fragmentation into proprietary media silos, and empower the future of user-driven media communications on the web. Its active community of over 75 volunteers need to be augmented by full-time developers in order to implement the next key targets of MediaGoblin's roadmap such as federation and private media sharing. MediaGoblin would greatly benefit from more resources and is working hard to become a self-sustaining project, having launched successful community-funded crowdfunding campaigns while providing complete financial transparency related to the expenditure of those funds.
What would be a successful outcome for your idea or project?
MediaGoblin's success can be measured by the following criteria being met: complete and usable decentralized/federated media publishing software, the presence of well-functioning privacy features and private sharing, and growing public adoption with a multitude of MediaGoblin nodes.
Who is on your team, and what are their relevant experiences or skills?
Christopher Allan Webber is lead developer of the MediaGoblin project and provides the technical vision of the project, as well as the goblin drawings. He previously has worked as tech lead at Creative Commons and began development of Miro Community at the Participatory Culture Founation. Deb Nicholson is commmunity manager and additionally handles much of our communication. She has a background in social justice, currently works at the Open Invention Network, and previously worked for the Free Software Foundation. We also have a team of over 75 contributors from around the world that do everything from coding features to graphic design to documentation to translations.
Madison, WI, USA


Join the conversation and post a comment.

Mark Joe

September 08, 2014, 05:01AM
This is really great software for global media . All social media sites in a one software. I will install it soon.

Deb Nicholson

April 18, 2014, 16:56PM
Massive centralized sites will never be able to serve the people's interests. Every day we see the race to the bottom hitting new lows for content, because clicks are all that matter. As long as content is yoked to profit and the worldview of a few large companies, there will be fewer and fewer voices. Those voices we do hear, will be the ones we have always heard from; wealthy, white and male. Smaller, more specialized sites that value ideas over eyeballs are the best way to foster individual expression on the web.

An intelligent, multi-voiced public discourse is critical for a functioning democracy. That discourse will not be limited to the written word. It will be expressed in video, with music -- and it will be remixable. The federated sharing model MediaGoblin is building will give us both a place to host important, non-commercial content and a way to share those ideas with people beyond our own immediate circles.

Ferran Quer

March 25, 2014, 21:08PM
I love the idea of mediagoblin and i'm running an instance of it in a raspberry pi at my home LAN. It's just awesome if you get static ip. I'm waiting for the most important features: privacy (restrictions by users) and federation ((interconnection servers) keep going!!! :D

Chris Webber

March 27, 2014, 12:20PM
Thanks for the encouraging words, Ferran! And glad to hear you're running an instance and are happy with it!

Federation and privacy are two major things on our roadmap! Glad to see our plans aligning with our users' wants and needs!

Marco Solieri

March 25, 2014, 15:36PM
Most of outstanding web services are offered for free, but such gratuity is only apparent. Indeed, users' data (emails, photos, videos...), when having a sufficiently large volume , constitute an incredibly precious resource for data analyses, so big web companies can simply monetize them, instead of asking their users to pay for the services. This makes the web getting more and more centralized and the web companies bigger and bigger.

If one can accept to have his/her data somehow sold to web companies, and to the advertisement companies which buy analyses from them, the danger of having centralized data is unacceptable. A commercial or governmental entity may easily access or manipulate private information, when they are owned by a few web companies, so they could easily menace people's civil and democratic freedoms with acts of censorship or mass media control. This scenario is already happening, to different extents, in various places of the world, including the United States.

Some of the technologies building our Internet services from the very beginning, such as the email or the web itself, were explicitly designed and standardized with decentralization in mind. The most recent ones, such as social network or media publishing platforms, have been designed and implemented by centralizing companies, and we still miss a complete and federated implementation for most of them.

MediaGoblin is an outstanding project having this precise direction -- creating a federated media publishing platform built with, the emerging federated social networking protocol. Its freedom attention is twofold, because it is released with a free and open source software license, so that anyone can use it, study it, expand it and distribute it. Thus, it is a completely market-neutral solution allowing to implement media publishing in a safe way.

Development started about 3 years ago, and thanks to many volunteers lot of progress have been made since the first releases. But the platform lacks some crucial features, therefore a support to the project would boost the development.

Our freedom of media publishing can't wait the completion of MediaGoblin!

Stefano Maffulli

March 25, 2014, 14:26PM
This is one of the most important projects I've seen in a long time. Taking the internet back to its nature of a distributed set of individual items all integrated and interconnected, freely. Good luck to Chris and the FSF.

Chris Webber

March 27, 2014, 14:11PM
Thanks Stefano! It's much appreciated!

Mathieu Duponchelle

March 25, 2014, 14:03PM
OpenSource? check.
Decentralized? check.
Content sharing? check.

Giving my applause :)

Mats Sjöberg

March 21, 2014, 13:20PM
I definitely think MediaGoblin is a great match for the Knight News Challenge. I've been running it on my own server for more than a year now, giving me control over how I share my media!

Kyle Davis

March 20, 2014, 18:45PM
Hmmm... So, what makes MediaGoblin any different from the plethora of other content platforms such as YouTube, Flickr, SoundCloud. Vimeo, Thingiverse etc...?

At the end of the day, MediaGoblin still has to maintain storage of content., which at that point... is not Decentralized!

Fateh Slavitskaya

March 20, 2014, 18:57PM
*Federation* -- MediaGoblin is making tools for a federated media system, building on and PyPump to create stronger tools for federated software. This is what makes internet communications more resilient, and it happens by using free software and open standards.

Fateh Slavitskaya

March 20, 2014, 19:02PM
Federation = Decentralized + Social

Chris Webber

March 20, 2014, 22:16PM
Heya! So it's a good question. Aside from the federation side of things, I answered about the storage side of things here recently:

I hope that's helpful!

Mike Macgirvin

March 20, 2014, 23:13PM
Hey Chris - how are you doing cross-site access control? OAuth(?) One of our guys has been working on a python zot implementation so I think with a bit of glue we could almost remote-auth to MG today. We'll be doing pump as well at some point so you may end up with messaging/activitystreams to/from redmatrix for free.

Making nomadic identity work across federation projects (or at least not fail in spectacular ways) will be "interesting". I'll make some specific proposals when we get to that point - we might need a location mapper inside MG (and, etc.) to resolve the fact that Bob Jones could be or or come from somewhere else completely.

Nice to see you here.

Kyle Davis

March 21, 2014, 00:07AM
Ok... So the frontend is not an issue. MediaGoblin's intent seems to be one of a backend Content Delivery Network that's not dissimilar to the likes of Akamai and Limelight, but more robust and independent?

Chris Webber

March 27, 2014, 14:46PM
@macgirvin: Hey, thanks for commenting here. Good to see you here too! :)

Yeah, so we're using OAuth... OAuth 1.0 specifically, pretty much as described by the Pump API doc. Stoked to hear you'll be supporting pump in redmatrix... that's great! There's an old thread I never got back to you on I think about the embedding media stuff, but I was still figuring out how we were going to be able to support arbitrary media types in MediaGoblin via federation... I talked with Evan Prodromou, and I think there are two ways we can do it either a very minimalist way (just using the "file" type and relying on the metadata to do the presentation), or maybe using json-ld. I think we need to work that out... I'd be interested in talking to you more about it if you have thoughts. Looks like we have options, at least.

Anyway, thanks for the kind reply!

Chris Webber

March 27, 2014, 14:48PM
@Kyle No, MediaGoblin can use backend CDNs, but it's less on the storage side of the equation (it *uses* storage systems of course, and is flexible there, see the reddit link I had posted above) but it's more on the presentation/publishing side of things.

Andrés Muñiz Piniella

March 20, 2014, 18:28PM
It is my first choice for our comunity interest company. decentrized internet for new content such as 3D models, pdfs and other are certinly the way to do!


March 20, 2014, 10:58AM
Excellent choice for a free internet!!!


March 19, 2014, 18:35PM
As someone that has worked on many projects supported in part by the Knight Foundation (Oakland Local, California Watch, Renaissance Journalism, to name a few), I know the common design patterns that news sites of all sizes use, and I also know their pain points. While existing CMS projects have developed decent image manipulation, it is still difficult for many editors/contributors to handle other types of media, such as audio, video and embedded PDFs.

Their only resort is to to use corporate web services which are susceptible to targeted compromise, censorship, surveillance and conflicts of interest in hosting with the companies that are being reported. MediaGoblin is a missing piece in pairing scalable cloud services (such as online storage served over a dedicated content delivery network) with an easy to use interface for users that allows results without additional training.

As a free and open source project, it will become a keystone tool for smaller news orgs, as well as those not based in the US (and therefore unable to use many cloud services based here). With the new federation tools being built in, it will allow for collaboration between orgs that is more seamless in their workflows, having a further reach built-in.

I intend to leverage MediaGoblin in the projects I am maintain and am starting, in particular one that will serve streaming media for a network local ethnic media orgs. Providing funding to MediaGoblin will have wide, lasting effect on how news orgs share media, how they are able to collaborate in new ways, and will kick start a new wave of federated social media, in journalism and other domains.

Mike Linksvayer

March 27, 2014, 14:49PM
I just wanted to say this is pretty much the most compelling comment left on a Knight News Challenge proposal (and I've skimmed a bunch of them). Well done maiki. ^_^

Laura Arjona

March 19, 2014, 15:56PM
MediaGoblin is a nice project to be deployed by many individuals, communities and organizations. I'm thinking about family videos, for example (they can not be exposed to the public, or shared privately), a small University multimedia archive, the archive of a video-recorded conference, a music group's discography.... the natural place for all that content is not the servers owned by a particular company which imposes their conditions (content license, etc) and even it cannot be available in certain regions, but the local organization's own servers. For a myriad of cases, we just need something that it's easy to deploy, lightweight, comfortable to the user, capable to interact with similar places and to be able to be found by search engines and so. That's the aim of MediaGoblin, I think.


March 19, 2014, 14:20PM
I'd like to see what could happen with a federated and very usable MediaGoblin. I see people just posting their important photos and videos as Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube uploads because that's quick/easy and reaches their audiences, but that's so fragile; the sites are easily blocked, and the accounts are easily suspended. I'd like to see something more resilient that is practical for ordinary people to use, and I can imagine MediaGoblin as a way to get there.

Shauna Gordon-McKeon

March 25, 2014, 14:18PM
Agreed. MediaGoblin is already quite valuable, but I'd love to see them get the financial support they need to create an easy user experience for ordinary people. Companies like Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, etc, have hundreds of paid developers, designers, testers, etc to make their sites attractive to users. It's hard even for dedicated and talented volunteers to compete.

The Civic Beat

March 18, 2014, 04:35AM
Just wanted to say I've tested and installed MediaGoblin and it's fantastic. Definitely worth applause :)

Dave Crossland

March 25, 2014, 13:20PM
This is an important project, showing how Free software can work today
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