All of those social networks do have their own focus:
Friendica: basically can connect to all other social networks, which is quite nice because there exists historically two different worlds: the Federation (Diaspora, Socialhome) and the Fediverse (GnuSocial, Mastodon, postActiv, Pleroma). Only Friendica and Hubzilla can federate with both: Federation and Fediverse.
Friendicas look&feel appears sometimes a little bit outdated and old, but it works very well and reliable.
Hubzilla: is the second player in the field of connecting both federations, but has a different focus. It is more of one-size-fits-all approach. If you need a microblogging site, a wiki, a cloud service, a website, etc. then Hubzilla is the way to go. The look&feel is a little bit more modern, but there are some quirks that appears a little odd to me. A unique feature for Hubzilla seems to be the concept of "nomadic accounts": you can move to a different hub and take all your data with you. Read more about that in the Hubzilla documentation.
Mastodon: this aims to be a replacement for Twitter as a microblogging service. It looks nice and shiny, has a bunch of nice clients for smartphones and has the largest userbase by far (which is not that important because of federation).
But the web GUI is rather limited and weird, as far as I can tell after just some days.
Technically spoken these are the main differences:
- Friendica: MySQL/MariaDB, PHP on the server, Clients: some Android clients, no iOS client
- Hubzilla: MySQL/MariaDB or PostgreSQL, PHP on the server, Clients: don't know, didn't care so far.
- Mastodon: PostgreSQL, Ruby on the server, Clients: many iOS and Android clients available
I'm not that big Ruby fan and if I remember correctly the Ruby stuff turned me away from Diaspora years ago and made me switch to Friendica, because back then it was a pain to maintain Diaspora. Mastodon addresses this by offering Docker container for the ease of installation and maintenance. But as I'm no Docker fan either, I followed the guide to install Mastodon without Docker, which works so far as well (for the last 3 days ).
So after all my Friendica node is still my favorit, because is just works and is reliable. Hubzilla has a different approach and offers a full set of webfeatures and nomadic accounts. The best I can say about Mastodon at this moment is: it runs on PostgreSQL and has nice clients on mobile devices.
Here are my instances:
- Friendica: https://nerdica.net/
- Hubzilla: https://silverhaze.eu/
- Mastodon: https://nerdculture.de/
PS: "A quick guide to The Free Network" by Sean Tilley on https://medium.com/we-distribute/a-quick-guide-to-the-free-network-c069309f334