Your Guide to Mastodon: What Is It, and How Is It Different From Twitter?

Twitter has been in a lot of trouble since Elon Musk took over as CEO — about half of the staff was laid off at the end of October, and new features like gray checkmarks for trusted sources have been released just to be pulled off the site later the same day. Musk has too sparred with founder Jack Dorsey and the company threatened to pull ads from Twitter with “thermonuclear name and shame.”

because official purchase of our musk of Twitter closed on October 28 for $ 44 billion, many users have decided to leave the site. Sentinel botsan organization that tracks the behavior of Twitter accounts, estimates that nearly 900,000 Twitter accounts were deactivated between October 27 and November 1. MIT Technology Review.

Some who left Twitter are moving to Mastodon, a decentralized social network built on open-source software. Mastodon’s “federated network” has seen a notable uptick – on November 6, Eugen Rochko, Mastodon’s creator, said the service has had 489,003 new users since October 27 and now has over a million active users. That’s still only a small fraction of Twitter’s 238 million.

Read on to see how Mastodon works, how to sign up, and how it compares to Twitter. For more details, see how to delete your twitter accountand get the latest Twitter verification badge plan.

What is Mastodon and how is it different from Twitter?

Mastodon is a free social media service that functions like Twitter. You can post “toots” (instead of tweets), follow other people and organizations, and favorite (like) and boost (retweet) posts from other people.

Mastodon was created and first released in October 2016 by Eugen Rochko, CEO and sole employee of the non-profit organization Mastodon gGmbH. In May, Rochko explained the service’s strange replacement for “tweets”. He said the original button was called “spread,” but a committed supporter promised lifetime support of the Mastodon Patreon account if he would change it to “toot.” (In the iOS and Android app it says “spread.”)

In one interview with Time MagazineRochko said he started developing Mastodon when he realized that “being able to express myself online to my friends through short messages is really very important to me, important to the world, and that maybe it shouldn’t be in the hands of a single person. A company that can only do anything desired.”

Read more: Mastodon Doesn’t Replace Twitter

Instead of one town square for everyone, however, Mastodon is made up of thousands of social networks, all running on different servers, or “instances,” that can communicate with each other through a system called February. The Fediverse also contains other social networks like PeerTube for video, Funk whale for music, PixelFed for photos and NextCloud for files.

Mastodon servers are not required to connect to Fediverse, In fact, the most famous example of Mastodon is Social Truthformer US president Donald Trump’s social network.

How do I join Mastodon?

The hardest part of Mastodon is getting started. Since there is no one public Mastodon area for everyone — as with Twitter — you will have to register on a special Mastodon server.

Servers can be based on geographic location, subject interest, professional background or literally anything an administrator can think of. For example, folks in dolphin. city Is only allowed to post the letter “E,” while literary buffs in oulipo.social Is forbidden than ever using the letter “E” (in honor of OuLiPo writer Georges Perec’s lipogram “The loss“).

Two of the biggest Mastodon servers, aka instances, are mastodon. social — the official server of the Mastodon project — and mstdn. social, although both have been temporarily paused registrations. Another big public server that I recently joined is mas.ka. Other popular Mastodon examples include masthead. social for journalists and fosstodon.org for open-source software.

Don’t worry too much about which server you choose — you can join as many as you want and leave or switch servers at any time. And you can follow people on the server, so choosing one does not prevent you from communicating with people on other instances.

A good place to find a server to join is the official Mastodon website joinmastodon.org. The site currently lists 106 servers that have been committed to Mastodon Server covenantan agreement to implement moderation, make backup site and give at least three months warning before shutting down an example.

Each server’s “about” page will tell you a little about the Mastodon instance and a list of server rules. If you can’t find the server you want on joinmastodon.org, you can try other Mastodon directories, such as social institutionswhich offers a wizard for picking servers as well as a sortable list from 3,910 agencies.

A screenshot of the Mastodon registration form

Joining the Mastodon server requires only a few personal details.

Screenshot by Peter Butler/CNET

Most Mastodon servers with open registration will only ask for your email address and password to get started. Once you respond to the verification email, you’re ready to use Mastodon. Alternatively, Mastodon’s more private servers may ask you to request to join and then wait for an invite.

How do I use Mastodon?

Like Twitter, Mastodon lets you send short messages to the world or select people, but instead of tweets, Mastodon posts are called toots. And many of Mastodon’s other features are just like Twitter too, with a few differences. Each post is limited to 500 characters (instead of 280), and you can include links, images (JPG, GIF or PNG, up to 8MB), audio files (MP3, OGG, WAV, FLAC, OPUS, AAC, M4A and 3GP. up to 40MB) and video (MP4, M4V, MOV, WebM up to 40MB).

A screenshot of Mastodon's posting interface with options for visibility shown

Mastodon offers four levels of visibility for all your toots.

Screenshot by Peter Butler/CNET

Your posts on Mastodon can be set to be public, only for your followers or completely unlisted from all timelines. You can create polls for your followers and use all your favorite regular emojis, plus custom emojis created for specific servers.

Any post can be flagged with a “content warning” that explains what needs to be clicked before being viewed, and Mastodon users often take advantage of that feature.

You can even edit posts in Mastodon. Each version of your toot remains available for review, and people who reblog your post are notified after it’s edited.

Like Twitter, Mastodon uses hashtags starting with the “#” symbol, such as #Gaming, #Anthropology or #Veganism. Since there is no algorithm to recommend your posts to nonfollowers, using hashtags to categorize your posts for people who might be interested is even more important than on Twitter.

You can follow any account on Mastodon, whether it’s on your server instance or not, and the account’s posts will be added to your Home feed in chronological order. Be aware that for some accounts, you need to ask permission to follow them.

Free web apps like Debirdify, Find wages and Twitter can help you find accounts you follow on Twitter that have migrated to Mastodon.

If you don’t want specific accounts to follow you, you can block them like on Twitter, or you can choose to block all servers.

Mastodon lets you “favorite” posts, but the number of favorites doesn’t appear in the timeline — if you want to promote someone else’s posts, you have to “boost” or reblog them. Unlike Twitter, there are no “quote toots” on Mastodon, a deliberate choice to avoid “dunking” on other people’s posts. A separate “bookmark” feature allows you to save toots in Mastodon without informing the installed account.

Mastodon has a feature called Direct Messages, but the name is a bit misleading. Rather than giving people-to-people messages, Mastodon’s feature sets the post’s visibility to only the people mentioned in it. In other words, they are toots that only people can see, rather than actual direct messages.

How is the Mastodon line going?

Whereas Twitter only has one timeline (sorted chronologically or by “top stories”), Mastodon has three: your Home timeline shows all posts and reblogs from everyone you follow, your Local timeline shows everything from your server instance alone, and your Federation timeline. shows all posts from all Mastodon servers where you follow others.

Using a web browser, you can set Mastodon to behave like Twitter, showing one feed at a time, or you can view multiple feeds and notifications at once (such as Tweetdeck) by selecting “Advanced View” from your Preferences.

Screenshot of Mastodon's advanced display interface

Mastodon’s advanced display allows you to view notifications and multiple timelines simultaneously.

Screenshot by Peter Butler/CNET

Is there a mobile app for Mastodon?

You bet. Due to the open-source nature of Mastodon, you have many options for apps on iPhone and Android.

Your first and easiest option is the official application from Mastodon gGmbH (for stall or Android), but there are solid third-party apps. The two most popular alternative Mastodon apps today are Metatext for iPhone and Tusky for Android.

Mastodon app for iPhone:

Mastodon App for Android:

If you start using Mastodon, be sure to follow me @[email protected]. (And hello!)

For more on social media and Twitter, follow a timeline of the purchase of Elon musk and read about big changes that may be in store for Twitter.

Correction, November 7: A previous version of this story incorrectly described Mastodon’s features. Mastodon added the ability to edit posts in March 2022.

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