Mastodon is an open-source, non-profit social network founded in 2016 by developer Eugen Rochko in Germany. It attracted much attention following Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter and has become a prominent alternative.
Unlike Twitter, Mastodon is a decentralized network — no single owner controls the entire system. Instead, Mastodon operates through 9,000 individuals running the Mastodon software on their own servers.
The platform’s functionality is similar to Twitter. Each Mastodon account has a profile with a user name, bio, and image. Instead of 280-character tweets, there are 500-character toots. Users can follow others, build their own followers, and engage through replies, favorites, bookmarks, and boosts (reposts).
Additional features include the Content Warning (CW) button, enabling a customized message for, say, abusive language and obscuring the content until a reader clicks on it. Similarly, the Not Safe For Work (NSFW) button appears when users add a link or image to a toot, flagging the content in the feed.
Mastodon is funded through Patreon donations and has no advertising options. In a recent interview, founder Rochko stated that monthly donations increased from $7,000 to $30,000 following Musk’s Twitter acquisition.
- Mastodon’s purely chronological feed can help users increase reach and engagement.
- As with BeReal, Mastodon provides opportunities to work with influencers and affiliates.
- Movetodon, a migration tool, can check which Twitter followers are already on the platform.
- Users unhappy with their server admin can move to another Mastodon instance or set up their own while retaining their followers and activity.
- Mastodon retains a small-community feel. It’s easy to interact with prominent names.
- Less competition from other merchants.
- Mastodon’s user base is small compared to Twitter’s. Business of Apps reports Twitter’s monthly active users (as of April 4, 2023) at 368 million versus 1.2 million for Mastodon.
- Choosing servers is a pain, even for digital-savvy users, and may prevent the platform from entering the mainstream.
- The platform has limited tools to discover new accounts to follow.
- The decentralized setup could discourage interaction across opposing views and opinions.
- The ability of each server admin to set moderation rules could spur unsafe content.
Despite its drawbacks, Mastodon’s features and capabilities are compelling. It’s worth investing the time to understand and join the platform. Tools such as Buffer can help by cross-posting your Twitter content. Ivory, from the makers of Tweetbot, is a helpful Mastodon management app.