It was in August of 2020, as I was recovering from a year of personal struggles, that I decided to create a map of the Fediverse, intended for a web shop that me and the owner of an instance I was a moderator on had set up. Being a fan of mediaeval and early modern maps, I decided that my map would be a homage to those.
A map is always a work in progress, and can never be complete. Including every instance on the network would be a monumental task, and would’ve resulted in something more akin to an atlas than a map. I had to draw a line somewhere, and decided on mapping the top 100 instances, ranked by total status count. Some of these had since gone offline and were taken off the list. A select number of instances were excluded because people objected to their inclusion. To the resulting list, instances proposed by other users were added.
Fediverse instances don’t have meaningful physical locations. An instance for German speakers could be hosted in France, for example. In many cases, there is no geographical theme at all. The Fediverse is a virtual world and has no topology, so I opted to make an elevation map. Coastlines and water bodies were derived from this map by intersecting it with a sea level plane.
I grouped the instances into thematic provinces, and the provinces into thematic regions, which were in turn assigned locations by free association. Instances with geographical themes were assigned locations roughly corresponding to their associated real-world locations on a world map. To suggest latitude and give the map a more organic feel, the place names were arched in concentric circles.
A research trip was made to a library, where I found books containing old maps. Sea monster designs were selected from them, together with a design for the compass. These were then cleaned up by manually tracing and recolouring them.
I shared previews of the map as I was working on it, and the feedback was positive. At this point, however, it became evident that the web shop wouldn’t succeed, and the map project was shelved.
In November of 2020, I decided that I would try my luck as a freelancer, so I began to brainstorm and write down ideas. In December of the same year, I remembered the map I had made, and decided that I would give it some final touches and actually publish it.