With users leaving Twitter in droves, could Mastodon be the social network of the future? No ads, no corporate surveillance, ethical design, verification is free, toots are twice as long as tweets and decentralisation!
- What is Mastodon?
- How does it work?
- Why do I need to choose a server?
- What advantages are there to using it?
A good place to start is by checking out this 2 minute video to learn more…
Mastodon is what’s known as a “federated” network, a collection of thousands of social networks run on servers across the world that are linked by Mastodon technology, on a platform known as the “Fediverse”.
You sign up for a specific server, which is run by whoever set it up, usually volunteers doing it out of their own pocket or taking donations through Patreon. They’ll have their own rules and policies on, for example, who can join and how strictly the conversation will be moderated.
If you want to set the rules, start your own server, otherwise, there’s a list of servers which focus on specific locations or interests. All servers have all signed up to the ‘Mastodon covenant’ which promises ‘active moderation against racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia’.
Whichever Mastodon server or servers you sign up for, you can still follow users on a different server. There are no paid-for ads in your feed as it’s a volunteer-run system.
Once you choose a username and set up your account including an image header and profile picture, you can head into the Fediverse. Unlike Twitter, your username will be @[username]@[the Mastodon instance you signed up to]. So for example, you could be @MuskyElon@aus.social. Think of it like an email address – the first part is your chosen identifier, the second part is the organisation that looks after your inbox. There are apps on iOS and Android which allow you to sign into Mastodon.
Finding your Twitter connections is a pain in the a@$e
If you want to find all the people you follow on Twitter on Mastodon, unfortunately there’s no easy way to do it. You could start searching for those you know, or go back to Twitter and see if they have made and an announcement about moving to Mastodon.
Services like Twitodon allow you to log in with both your Twitter and Mastodon accounts and scan to look for users you follow but it will only be able to find those users who have also used Twitodon. Once you follow a few people you have found from Twitter, you could go through their lists to find others you might know.
Posting toots rather than tweets
It may take a while to get used to your posts being called ‘toots’ rather than ‘tweets’. On the plus side, you’ll have 500 characters to write a post and additional features such as click spoiler warnings for text and images. You will have more control over who can see your post, from being discoverable across the server, down to only those who you mention in the post, which is similar to a Twitter DM.
Hashtags work similar to Twitter for trending topics and you can share someone else’s post with your Mastodon followers by boosting it (the same as retweeting) but there’s no such thing as ‘quote tooting’.
There has been a hullabaloo on Twitter over Musk’s move to charging users for verification, while at the same time not actually verifying they are who they say they are! Mastodon has a verification system that’s available to anyone with their own website. If you link to a website you control on your profile, then it can recognise you as the owner of that website, which will give followers some justification in trusting you are who you claim to be.