The small net isn't a social network, yet it's deeply social at its core. Meaningful connections happen naturally. I think it works thanks to three components: a homepage (Web, Gemini, Gopher, other?), a feed and an email address. Those three components enable most of the features a traditional social network offers.
A homepage is a lot like a profile. It introduces who we are, what we like and anything we'd like to share. While on social media there's often a "friends" section, on a homepage there are links or blogrolls. Sometimes even old-school 88x31 buttons. There's little limit to how creative we can be on a homepage.
While on social media you can subscribe (or follow) someone, with a homepage, you can subscribe to a feed. Atom/RSS are widely supported by readers. A homepage doesn't need to limit itself to a single feed. Maybe there's one for small updates, one for pictures and one for posts. As the author, you control what you want to share, and as a user, you decide what you're interested in.
Emails are the perfect DM system. Everyone has an email address. It doesn't need to be there only to receive email confirmations or notifications.
So there we have it. A fully decentralized social network based on widely available tools. Here's a summary:
Written with Smol Pub
From Dusk's End, Nightfall City