What to know about Mastodon, the Twitter alternative

Mastodon allows users to aggregate multiple servers run by various groups and individuals, rather than a central platform controlled by a single company like Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. While all of these social networks are free to use, Mastodon is also ad-free. It is developed by a non-profit led by Eugen Rochko, who founded Mastodon in 2016, and is supported by crowdfunding, as well as by individuals and groups working on the servers.
Users have been fleeing Twitter for the past few days or so looking for second place The much more popular social network for posting their thoughts online faces layoffs, controversial product changes, an expected shift in the approach to content moderation, and a surge in hateful rhetoric.
In a Mastodon post late Sunday, Rochko said the social network gained 489,000 users in less than two weeks, and now has more than a million monthly active users. (For perspective, Twitter reported in July that it had nearly 238 million active daily monetized users.)

“That’s cool,” Rochko said of the milestone.

I’m one of these new Mastodons, trying it out of curiosity and because Twitter has felt increasingly toxic over time. The atmosphere in my little corner of the decentralized social network has been frenetic, almost like a party these days, as more people arrive and long-time users offer advice and answer questions. It’s fun and energizing, and honestly, it’s a lot like the early days of Twitter.

But while finding a new social network can be exciting, it can also be difficult. Mastodon and Twitter have some similarities, but they are quite different, both in how they work and how they operate. If you want to leave Twitter or check out something new, read on to learn how to sign up and get started with Mastodon.

Things are the same, but also very different

Many of Mastodon’s features and designs (especially in the iOS and Android apps) will be familiar to today’s Twitter users, albeit with slightly different expressions. Follow others, create short posts (there’s a 500 character limit and you can upload images and videos), favorite or retweet other users’ posts, and more.

Mastodon is quite different, and the registration process in particular can generate new users. Because it’s not as simple as opening an app or web page and setting up a username and password; You also need to choose a server where your Mastodon account will live.

First of all, don’t panic: signing up doesn’t require any technical knowledge, but you’ll need to follow a few steps to create your account, and you may need to be patient, as the influx of new users has become strained. many servants

Go to this web page, and if you want to get started quickly, click the little dropdown menu that says “signup speed” and set it to “instant” to see the servers you can sign up for right away.
With Twitter in chaos, Mastodon is on fire
Then choose a server. There are general interest servers such as mastodon.world; regional servers such as sfba.social, which targets people in the San Francisco Bay Area; and also targeted to various interests (many servers review new registrations before accepting them—for example, asking potential users why they want to join—so you might have to wait to join one).
You’ll also need to decide how you want to access Mastodon: on a mobile phone, I recommend trying the iOS or Android app, but there are plenty of other free and paid apps that will do the trick as well. Online, I can access Mastodon through the server I’m registered to.

Finding friends

For me, one of the most difficult aspects of joining Mastodon was finding people I knew and discovering people I wanted to follow. Partly because there are no algorithmic suggestions on who to follow, your contacts aren’t looking for people you know, and you may not know if people you follow on other social networks are using Mastodon (or who they manage). if they are already in use).

Similar to Twitter, you can use Mastodon’s hashtags to search for topics and people (“#TwitterMigration” is popular among newcomers today). There are also tools you can use to find Mastodon’s Twitter friends, such as Twitodon. I’ve mostly gone the manual route by searching Twitter for “Mastodon” to pull up people I follow who have added Mastodon usernames to their Twitter profile names.
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Since my real and virtual life friends appear on Mastodon, I’ve been tempted to see who they follow or who follows them, but that can be complicated. You can follow any other Mastodon user, regardless of the server they’re registered with, but in general, you can easily see the people your friends follow or are following if those people use the same server as you. (If you follow someone whose account is hosted on your server, you’ll also be able to see the full list of people they follow and are following.) Rochko told me he’s thinking about how to improve this experience.

Once you’ve settled on a server and a few people to follow, you’ll want to start reading other people’s posts and posting yourself. You’ll quickly notice many subtle differences on Twitter. For example, user updates are sorted chronologically, as they are on Twitter and many other social networks, rather than algorithmically.

There’s also no equivalent of Twitter’s budget tweet feature on Mastodon, where you can retweet another user’s post and add your own thoughts. The closest you can get is to copy and paste a link to the user’s post into a new post and add your own comments, although the person viewing your post will have to click on that link if they want to understand what you’re talking about.

These differences are not bad, and some of them can actually be good; Posting on Mastodon can be a little more reactive than Twitter, which is great for anyone who tends to get thrown off by other people’s social media posts. And many people trying Mastodon seem ready for a change.