In the wake of Elon Musk’s official takeover of Twitter, rival social media platform Mastodon has emerged as the new platform of choice for the legions of people looking to escape Musk’s version of Twitter for greener pastures.
About 70,000 new users joined Mastodon the day immediately after Musk took over Twitter. No doubt the Mastodon being designed specifically to prevent primary control of its platform by eccentric billionaires like Elon Musk is an element of the attraction. But aside from the numbers and PR talking points, what is Mastodon – and is it really the best Twitter alternative out there?
On paper, Mastodon is an open-source, decentralized social media platform that works very similarly to Twitter. You’ll find comparable microblogging features and be able to make posts of up to 500 characters – called ‘toots’ rather than ‘tweets’, which is objectively fun. There are, however, some clear ways Mastodon differs from Twitter, which helps it stand out. The most prominent of these is how the platform’s servers operate.
Choose your entry point
When signing up for Mastodon for the first time, you will be asked to select a server. You can choose from broad country based servers like ‘Australia’ (aus.social), or more local regional servers like ‘San Francisco’ (sfba.social), or more specific interest/community based servers like the mastodon LGBTQ+ friendly. lol From a user’s point of view, there’s no concrete difference between which server you choose, so opting for something in your geographic neighborhood makes the most sense.
Mastodon himself describes this server process as being similar to email; for example, even though your email domain could be Gmail, Hotmail, Outlook or whatever, you can still email anyone, anywhere.
Where Mastodon’s decentralized design has an effect is in network redundancy and resiliency. While Twitter offers a central private domain – twitter.com – for users to access its service, Mastodon’s independent and disparate servers work together to keep the network alive.
The founders and developers behind Mastodon consider this one of the platform’s main selling points. Without centralized control, they argue, the platform is protected against the unique interests of specific people or companies. Mastodon also argues that this makes the platform more cost-effective – meaning it doesn’t have to worry about monetization or profitability.
Far from critical mass
Still, if you’re hoping to follow your favorite celebrity or influencer on Mastodon, you might find it difficult… for now. Unsurprisingly, popular Twitter users with sizable followings are apparently in no hurry to ditch the platform just yet, although a small thread that includes Grey’s Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes, actress Tea Leoni and singer Sara Bareilles recently announced their exits from the bird site.
However, if Elon Musk continues to make controversial changes to Twitter, it may only be a matter of time before your favorites make the switch and start cheering to their heart’s content.