What Is Mastodon, The New Twitter Alternative?

Feb 10, 2023 9 min read

In the wake of Elon Musk sealing the deal to buy Twitter on October 27, 2022, and soon after firing the management staff of Twitter, users on the platform have been reconsidering the platform.

Hashtags such as #TwitterMigration and #TwitterExodus are gaining popularity. But the most common name in this conjunction with Twitter is Mastodon: the new home for fleeing tweeters.

More than 70,000 users joined Mastodon the day after Elon Musk's Twitter deal was announced. With almost half a million new users since October 27, Mastodon has reached more than a million active users now.

Meanwhile, Twitter has been losing its most active users even before Musk acquired the platform because of Twitter's inability to keep its users engaged on the platform.

But what exactly is Mastodon? Is it worth switching over and leaving Twitter? Let's discuss that in this blog today.

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What Exactly Is The Mastodon Social Network?

Mastodon is a free and open-source platform founded in October 2016 by a German developer, Eugen Rochko. It runs self-hosted social networking services. Mastodon also has microblogging features like Twitter, offered by many Mastodon nodes known as "Instances" that run independently.

So it is safe to say that Mastodon is not that new. Eugen Rochko was spurred on by his dissatisfaction with Twitter as well as his concerns over the platform's centralized control, which led him to create Mastodon.

An individual who joins Mastodon also joins a specific Instance capable of interoperating with other Instances, thus allowing users on different nodes to interact with each other.

Instances (communities or nodes) are like the various Subreddits on Reddit, with each dedicated to a specific topic. But Reddit owns all the Subreddits and can moderate them whenever required. Whereas in Mastodon, all the Instances are independent and dedicated to a specific topic or community like art, music, region, etc., and a single entity can't control them.


Mastodon Features & Functionalities

  • Mastodon allows users to post "Toots," like tweets on Twitter. Toots are messages including up to 500 text-based characters.
  • Users can share messages publicly, privately within an Instance or a group of Instances, or privately with individual users.
  • Users can boost posts and send Direct Messages (DM) to other users.
  • Each server or Instance has a theme.
  • Instances can administrate their own rules and whether it needs to share messages to and from other servers.
  • Public messages are displayed on a global feed called Timeline. Private messages are shared on the timelines of the user's followers only.
  • Users can mark their accounts as completely private.
  • Users can add a content warning to hide spoilers, NSFW (not safe for work), and trigger warnings content. Mastodon will then blur content falling in this category automatically.
  • Mastodon features local and federated timelines in real time. The local timelines show only the messages from your Instance, while the federated timelines show messages across all the participating servers.
  • The username is similar in format to full email addresses and looks like "@[Username]@[MastodonInstance.Domain] "

Differences Between Mastodon And Twitter

  • Mastodon currently has over 2.5 million monthly users, while Twitter has more than 544 million monthly active users.
  • Twitter has a character limit of 280, whereas Mastodon has a character limit of 500 per post.
  • Posts on Twitter are called tweets, whereas on Mastodon, they are called toots.
  • Liking a post on Mastodon is known as favoriting it
  • Instead of retweeting a tweet, you "boost a toot."
  • Each Instance on Mastodon has its own moderation policy.
  • Mastodon does not allow the scheduling of toots as of now.

How To Set Up An Account On Mastodon?

The process of creating a Mastodon account is simple and similar on both Android and iOS devices.

Step 1: Download Mastodon on Play Store or App Store.

Step 2: Open the app and click Get started to create your new account.

How To Set Up An Account On Mastodon Step 2

Step 3: Select the servers you want to join from the available servers shown and tap on Next.

How To Set Up An Account On Mastodon Step 3

Step 4: Read and accept the ground rules of the platform. Click I Agree.

How To Set Up An Account On Mastodon Step 4

Step 5: Add your profile details, such as display name, username, email, and password, and click Next.

How To Set Up An Account On Mastodon Step 5

Step 6: Mastodon will send a verification link to your email id. Go to your email and click on that.

How To Set Up An Account On Mastodon Step 6

Step 7: After your email is verified, you will land on the home page of Mastodon after logging in.

You can now start browsing the posts from people on your selected servers.

Is Mastodon Worth Switching Over From Twitter?

Mastodon presents you with a network of communities with varying interests capable of communicating with each other. It lets you consume content without interruptions, as an algorithm doesn't decide what you will see on your feed.

You will see the full content from the people you follow and the Instance you are a part of. Unlike Facebook and Twitter, it doesn't register your clicks, inputs, or activity. Mastodon is completely ad-free and doesn't want to sell you things.

No centralized authority decides what the users do on the platform. You are free to express yourself. Some Instances are generalized, such as Mastodon.social, Mastodon.xyz, etc.

It offers a friendlier social environment, thus eliminating hateful, ugly, or influential content. This serves as the major advantage of the network.

You can definitely hop on the Mastodon ship and try it. But you should only leave Twitter and switch entirely to Mastodon once you get a complete hold of it. Mastodon is not for everyone. It's like the early days of the Internet. There is decentralization, no stalking, and people can freely express themselves.

However, it can be hard to understand for casual users who don't wish to dive deep into the technology. Before competing with traditional social networks like Twitter and Facebook, Mastodon still has a long way to go. They know how to retain their users on the platform and make them addicted to their content, while Mastodon has never tried it.

However, Mastodon is not a direct substitute for Twitter with its current version. Instead, it's a brand-new social platform with a few comparable features. It is better suited for enthusiasts and users trying to have conversations around diverse topics freely because of its open-source and decentralized nature.

Is Mastodon Safe? What About Moderation?

Decentralization ensures greater freedom of speech, one of the users' main concerns about Twitter's future.

Twitter provides content through its AL-based algorithms that choose what you see on your feed based on your interest. Mastodon shows posts in chronological order without curation.

People might be worried that there will be complete chaos if there is no central authority on Mastodon, with people posting dangerous and offensive content.

However, most servers hold users to a high standard thanks to community moderation. They can easily ban or filter hate speech and illegal content. In 2017, Vice journalist Sarah Jeong even called Mastodon "Twitter without Nazis."

Community moderation has shown its force in practice. When Gab moved to Mastodon in 2019, many servers across the network banned it without any central direction.

Mastodon released a statement in protest, denouncing Gab as monetizing and putting racist content while hiding behind the banner of free speech.

Moderation has become essential for any online community today, especially in open-source and decentralized platforms like Mastodon. Mastodon is known for having strong moderation capabilities, but the community drives moderation efforts on Mastodon. Each server has its own moderation policies and rules, meaning the moderation level varies from server to server.

Mastodon also has several built-in features helping ensure that the platform remains a safe space for all users.

Should Your Brand Jump On The Mastodon Bandwagon?

Mastodon is an interesting emerging platform. However, it's not an exact alternative to Twitter as of now. And this is especially true for brands. So far, Mastodon has not proven its potential as an alternative to Twitter for brands. Experts don't recommend marketers spend their time testing the app as its setup could limit the number of consumers they can reach on the platform.

Discoverability is limited on Mastodon, unlike Twitter. As users are siloed into a single server, their posts will be seen only by the members of that server. Of course, users can follow other accounts outside of their server and join two larger public servers: Mastodon.online and Mastodon.social, which Mastodon itself runs. But the potential is still limited as compared to Twitter.

This way, brands will have a harder time reaching their target audience who aren't in or close to their direct line of sight. Mastodon's setup limits the ceiling for virality which is often the holy grail for brands existing on socials, especially Twitter.

Mastodon's feed is another impediment for brands and marketers, which is determined by the chronology of posts, as opposed to an intelligent algorithm remembering what users have seen and altering their scroll of posts accordingly. Additionally, this factor may prevent the potential for going viral.

Nonetheless, if a brand wants to build a close-knit community of like-minded people, then Mastodon will be the go-to platform for them compared to Twitter.

Building a community on Mastodon is an excellent way for businesses to connect with their target audience and establish themselves as thought leaders in their industry.

Before starting to build a community, ensure you have a clear brand identity in place. Engage with other Mastodon users by commenting on their toots. Share exciting and valuable content in your server that is relevant to your brand and target audience.

And lastly, encourage your followers to interact with each other on your server by starting conversations and creating opportunities for discussion.

What's Next?

Mastodon is still far from competing with Twitter or other traditional social platforms. It is also not suitable for everyone, especially for casual users.

We are not stating that Mastodon is not good enough. In fact, it's amazing. There are zero ads, and everyone is treated equally. There is no harmful content or hate speech on the platform. There is complete decentralization, so the community members control the Instances.

But, casual users may find it hard to understand and navigate initially. They might have difficulty understanding the core concept behind decentralization. If you can figure it out, you should definitely switch and explore Mastodon for your purposes.

What do you think about it? Do you find Mastodon worth switching over from Twitter?

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FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Here are some commonly asked questions about what is Mastodon:

What's so great about Mastodon?

Mastodon is a decentralized social network of individual servers, where every server revolves around a particular topic or interest. Each server is also moderated differently and independently.

What is Mastodon used for?

Mastodon can be used to create a community of like-minded people, for community outreach, and for easy and detailed market research.

What are the drawbacks of Mastodon?

The user base of Mastodon is minuscule compared to Twitter. The interface may not appear friendly to some users. Mastodon supports images, audio, videos, and polls but doesn't have the provision of features like Twitter Spaces.

Rushali Das

Rushali is a content writer at Statusbrew. She is fond of writing content that compels people to slow down and look more closely to discover the unknown stories.

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