Mystified by Mastodon? We’re Here To Help.
For years we’ve been hearing from folks in government that Twitter is a monopoly—in need of government regulation to either cut it down to size or enable alternatives. This has never been true, as there are both established alternatives (Facebook, Reddit, Snapchat, Instagram, etc.) and newcomers (TikTok, Gab, Parler, Truth Social, Clubhouse). In light of the many alternatives already available, the recent rise of Mastodon is not that surprising.
But Mastodon’s peculiar setup and history make it both an unlikely heir apparent to an imploding Twitter and an appealing one.
Founded in 2016, Mastodon has been chugging along quietly for years until Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover spurred sudden mass interest in the decentralized social media service. Monthly active users are now up 576 percent, to 2.5 million, according to the Mastodon website.
Want to get on Mastodon (or at least understand what all the hubbub is about)? Here’s what you need to know.
How Mastodon Works
In many ways, Mastodon works a lot like Twitter. It’s a text-dominant “micro-blogging” platform designed for short posts and real-time interaction. Users create basic profiles, follow other users, and see posts from those they follow in their Mastodon feed.
But there are also a lot of differences—the biggest being that a single, centralized entity doesn’t run Mastodon. Instead of one corporation owning, maintaining, and setting the rules for all of Mastodon, it consists of thousands of independent servers—or “instances”—that share the same open-source code.
These servers are run independently by individuals or groups and come with their own sign-up policies, privacy policies, codes of conduct, and other rules. Some Mastodon servers are open to anyone, some are invite-only, and some you can apply to join. Some are more general, while others are organized around a particular region, interest, profession, or common theme. For instance, Liberdon bills itself as “a Mastodon instance for libertarians, ancaps, anarchists, voluntaryists, agorists, etc.” Federated.press says it’s “a Mastodon instance for all who pursue the journalistic ethic.” Epicure.social is “a Mastodon community with a food and wine focus.” And so on.
When first joining Mastodon, you pick a particular server to join. You can search for servers on the Mastodon app or find a list of many of them here. You might seek a server whose content moderation policies you find most agreeable or one based on your interests. But don’t sweat this decision too much—users can switch servers anytime and take their followers. More importantly, you can still follow and interact with people on other servers no matter which server you join.
Essentially, Mastodon is a federation of independent but interconnected servers. It’s common to see Mastodon users refer to it as the “fedi
Article from Reason.com