GNU Social was released in 2013, based upon the earlier StatusNet code, written in PHP.
In contrast to the release announcement, which talked of "professional quality code", the software contained a large amount of cruft.
Initial cruft included a lot of links to Google, including long obsolete Google projects such as Buzz. Initial tasks were to remove any dependencies upon proprietary systems.
The Quitter Era
Between 2013 and 2016 the most popular GNU Social instances ran with the Qvitter user interface, which closely resembled the earlier and more user friendly appearance of Twitter, before a lot of junk was added. It was developed primarily by Hannes Mannerheim from August 2013 onwards.
These instances had domains like quitter.se or quitter.no. They had explicitly anti-capitalist branding, with "quitter" being a reference to "quitting Twitter".
During the Quitter Era most users were either Free Software developers/supporters, or anarchists seeking to socially organize autonomously from the corporate systems. Anarchist slogans intermingled with Stallman and GNU memes were common.
By the end of 2016 the main focus of fediverse activity was shifting away from GNU Social and towards the new Mastodon system.
Development on GNU Social was slow, and mostly confined to international translations.
As a consequence of slow developent, in 2016 a fork of GNU Social was created called postActiv . PostActiv was developed by Maiyannah Bishop, with the aim of tidying the code, adding comments and improving the message queue buffering.
The postActiv fork was not an acrimonious one, and it was recommended by the main GNU Social developer, Mikael Nordfeldth.