What is Mastodon? The ‘Twitter Killer’ attracting hundreds of thousands after Musk’s takeover of Twitter.
mas·to·don ˈma-stə-ˌdän -dən
1: any of various extinct mammals (genus Mammut synonym Mastodon) of the elephant family existing from the Miocene through the Pleistocene that are distinguished from the related mammoths chiefly by molar teeth with cone-shaped cusps
2: one that is unusually large
After Tesla (TSLA) boss Elon Musk officially took over Twitter on 27 October, dozens of changes were made to the platform, hundreds of employees were abruptly laid off, and thousands of twitter customers have rebelled and moved elsewhere. Most of the rebels have moved to fringe social media network Mastodon.
Mastodon is a non-profit micro-blogging site that was founded in 2016 by German software developer Eugen Rochko. Rochko’s original concept was to build a “user-friendly microblogging product that would not belong to any central authority.”
Mastodon claims to be a decentralised social media network. This means the code that runs the application is open source, so anyone can set up a Mastodon server and run the application and store user data. This means that there is no one server, company, organisation or individual running Mastodon, making it the opposite of Twitter, which is defacto controlled by Musk.
Once Elon Musk started making changes to Twitter, many free-speech advocates reacted with dismay to the prospect of the world’s “town square” being controlled by one person and started looking for other options.
For the most part, Mastodon looks like Twitter, with hashtags, political back-and-forth and tech banter jostling for space with cat pictures. But while Twitter and Facebook are controlled by one authority – a company – Mastodon is installed on thousands of computer servers, largely run by volunteer administrators who join their systems together in a federation. Everything on Mastodon os available free of charge. While each “instance” is owned by various individuals who control their own server(s), there is no one person or organization in charge of all servers.
Anyone can create their own Mastodon server and have control over it, giving it its own set of rules, not unlike Reddit sub-pages, but without the overall control of a parent company.
The result is a new social media that works in a very different manner from Twitter but yet has much of the same functionality of Twitter.
Mastodon servers are called “instances.” All instances are owned, operated and moderated by the community that creates them, and not some large corporation which tracks your data to sell to advertisers. In most cases, Mastodon instances are crowdfunded, not financed.
Since Elon Musk took over Twitter on October 27, Mastodon has drawn 489,003 new users (as of a few days ago and undoubtedly even more as of today). Total monthly active users on Mastodon are now much more than 1 million,
“It’s a great opportunity for people to finally see that social media can be done differently, that it can be a protocol not under control of any single company,” said Mastodon creator Eugen Rochko.
Eugen Rochko was asked about Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter during an interview. He said Musk “is not entirely comprehensible” and must now “deal with the fallout” of his purchase.
Are you dismayed by all the recent changes to Twitter? Are you thinking of signing up for Mastodon? If so, here are some web sites to read. (Warning: Mastodon is somewhat more difficult to understand and use.)
The first Mastodon web site and the one that still serves as “the hub” for everything: https://mastodon.social.
How to use Mastodon: create your account, join servers, and more. “The best part about Mastodon is that you can follow users in other Mastodon instances, even if you are not a member of that instance. Think of it as being able to talk with a person in a Facebook Group or a WhatsApp group chat without having to join that group. The rest is a familiar affair. You can write posts worth up to 500 characters in length, share photos and videos, repost someone’s else content, and more.” at https://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/mastodon-how-to-sign-up-join-server-twitter-alternative/
An intro to Mastodon from a relative newcomer! at https://skullsinthestars.com/2022/11/07/an-intro-to-mastodon-from-a-relative-newcomer/
Tara Calishain put together a list of information about Mastodon at: Mastodon Tools Part II at https://researchbuzz.me/2022/11/05/a-big-list-of-mastodon-resources/.