With Elon Musk’s ascension to ‘Chief Twit’ on Friday, some have joined the exodus from the platform in search of less racist greener platforms. Over the past few days you may have heard talk of ‘Mastodon’ which seems to be where many ex-tweeters have been landing. But what is Mastodon and how does it work?
What is Mastodon?
In short, Mastodon is free and open source software for self-service social networking services. On the surface, Mastodon looks a lot like Twitter, offering similar microblogging features with a 500-character limit on posts (called toots instead of tweets) that appear in a real-time feed. Mastodon says on its website that the timeline displays posts chronologically with “no algorithms or ads to waste your time,” which feels like a shot at Twitter’s much-maligned algorithmic feed.
Also read – What Is Mastodon, The Twitter Alternative?
However, Mastodon is not just an open Twitter-like social network. When you dig into it a little more, there are quite a few differences. The most notable (and probably the most confusing for newcomers) are the servers. Mastodon is not a centralized social network like Twitter where everyone goes to the same place. Instead, it is a “federated network” consisting of different servers (also called instances) that represent different communities.
Mastodon likens servers to email address domains like Gmail, Outlook, etc. Users choose a server to host their account, but they can still communicate with people on other servers if they know their address. There are lots of different servers to choose from – some are focused on shared interests like games or locations.
The server approach also means that moderation on Mastodon is very different from Twitter and other social networks. Each server handles its own moderation, allowing for a more local, community-driven approach to content moderation. Mastodon suggests people join servers with rules they agree with or host their own server.
Another interesting note about Mastodon is that it is interoperable with other social platforms based on ActivityPub, an open and decentralized social networking protocol. Mastodon says that one account provides access to the “fediverse,” a group of independently hosted social networking apps that can communicate with each other (imagine one account allowing you to seamlessly post to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and more).
How to get started with Mastodon
If you’re interested in making the jump from Twitter to Mastodon, here’s how. To get started, you need to choose a server – you can find a list of options here. Since servers have different focuses and rules, Mastodon recommends choosing a server that matches what you will be posting about the most. For example, someone passionate about climate justice might want to join the “climatejustice.social” server. If you want to post on a variety of topics, a general server (such as the Mastodon-operated ‘mastodon.social’ server) may be more appropriate.
You can check the server rules by clicking on the server, then clicking the “More Info” button on the left and reading the “About” and “Server Rules” sections.
In the end, which server you choose isn’t a big deal because you’ll still be able to chat with people on other servers. If you find another server you like, you can always create a second account for that server or migrate your profile to that server without losing followers.
Once you’ve selected a server, you can create an account (you’ll need to create a display name and username, password, and add an email address). You will receive an email with a confirmation link to activate your account. Once you’ve done that, it’s a good idea to start following other Mastodon users and posting.
If you want to learn more about how to get started with Mastodon, check out the full Mastodon guide here. If you want to get Mastodon apps for your phone or other devices, check out the apps page here.