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What Is Mastodon and Why Are People Moving On It?

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Following Elon Musk’s contentious purchase of the service, Mastodon, an open-source social network developed by a German developer, has been viewed as a rival to Twitter.

Like cryptocurrencies, Mastodon is a decentralized platform, meaning it is not owned or controlled by a single entity.

The open-source environment that billionaire Mr. Musk recently paid $44 billion to acquire Twitter is exactly what he has in mind for it.

Tens of thousands of new users have joined the site recently due to Mr. Musk’s management of his ownership of Twitter, which all users haven’t accepted well.

Twitter does not provide a venue for free speech, according to the founder and CEO of Tesla and the rocket business SpaceX.

“I hope that even my fiercest critics remain on Twitter because that is what free expression entails,” he previously tweeted.

Additionally, Mastodon supports free expression and goes a step further by putting platform administration in the hands of its users.

Mastodon

Mastodon, a 2016-founded software that resembles Twitter, is one of the most well-liked alternatives. While it refers to tweets as “toots” and retweets as “boosts,” it largely shares Twitter’s functionality. Mastodon shot to the top of Twitter’s trending topics list on Monday, Nov. 7, maybe not unexpectedly, as users rushed to find an alternative to the social media platform now run by Musk, the company’s new owner, CEO, and “Chief Twit.”

Mastodon, active for more than six years, has risen in the app store ranks since Musk finished his takeover on October 27. According to the app analytics company Sensor Tower, between October 28 and November 6, 750,000 people downloaded the main mobile app for Mastodon globally. It got 14,000 downloads during the preceding 11 days, which is 53 times greater than now.

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Three-quarters of Mastodon’s registered users have signed up since Musk’s acquisition, based on the 1 million cumulative downloads throughout its six-year existence. A different concern is whether the network can offer a workable substitute.

What distinguishes Mastodon from Twitter?

People exclusively register for and share material on Twitter because it is a single social network. Mastodon is a federated platform, which refers to several social networks or servers that connect to one another but are controlled by various individuals or organizations.

A Fediverse, also known as the federated universe, is a collection of federated platforms that share communication protocols, and Mastodon is one of them.

Mastodon presents posts chronologically rather than according to an algorithm, unlike Twitter. Mastodon is also free of advertisements because donations mostly support it. Their users support the majority of servers. Through Patreon, a platform for membership and subscription services that content creators frequently utilize, Mastodon receives funding for the servers that it manages, Mastodon Social, and Mastodon Online.

Although Mastodon looks like Twitter, its user interface is more like Discord, a messaging and talking software where users may join servers with their own customs and guidelines.

Unlike Twitter and Discord, Mastodon cannot compel its users or those who own servers to take any action. This is part of establishing content moderation policies or guidelines for what posts to leave up and what to remove.

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But in a shared stream of posts, servers can control how they communicate with one another or even whether they do so. For instance, when Gab used Mastodon’s code, Mastodon Social and other independent servers banned Gab’s server, preventing posts from appearing on their users’ feeds.

How to Access Mastodon

In many ways, Mastodon mimics Twitter. The key differentiation is that a single firm does not manage it. Anyone can launch a server to run the open-source, free software. People can build numerous versions of Mastadon with specific content policies because of the various “instances”—basically different servers running the same software. These occurrences are all related to one another. New users can select their server and still view all of the material from various Mastodon instances by doing so.

Twitter serves as an example since users can design their own version of the social media platform, each of which has its own guidelines for content management. However, tweets themselves are accessible from any version of Twitter. Those are Mastodon.

The concept is not exclusive to Mastodon. Jack Dorsey established a decentralized social media project named Bluesky when he was still the CEO of Twitter. It has not yet launched, but it has made similar promises and received financing from Twitter.

Many feel that Musk has now forced the matter. On October 27, Musk tweeted that the platform he had just acquired must not turn into “a free-for-all hellscape,” even though he had cut half of Twitter’s personnel and made significant changes to the service (although content moderation guidelines, he said, are still under review). However, for some of Twitter’s current users, the service has already sunk to those levels.

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To combat my own Twitter addiction, I recently joined Mastodon. What if Twitter disappears, or I become tired of it? I have questioned. While I discovered that using Mastodon is far less technical than it may seem, I also discovered that it is quite low-grade, sluggish, and unable to handle the significant flood of Twitter defectors.

Mastodon did, however, demonstrate to me that Twitter’s core features are quite portable and reproducible. The core functionality of Twitter isn’t complicated, and who uses the site is more important than how well it works. However, I’ve noticed that most of Twitter’s most active users are migrating to Mastodon. Perhaps, like myself, they are looking for a hedge, somewhere to go if the platform they depend on disappears or undergoes irreversible change.

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