What is Mastodon? Everything you need to know


Ever since Twitter’s acquisition was completed by Elon Musk in October-end, its journey has been filled with chaos. We have seen Musk do all sorts of things like firing employees and letting anyone have a verified check by subscribing to Twitter Blue. The move led to an increase in the number of trolls and accounts impersonations as predicted by many. Many accounts including the ones of well-known journalists have also been suspended in the meantime.

With uncertainty rising around the future of Twitter, the number of people talking about Twitter alternatives has also increased. Many social media platforms have surfaced in these discussions but one name that has appeared quite commonly is Mastodon. It is a fairly new social media platform which means the majority of users are stranger to it.

What is Mastodon?

Mastodon is an open-source, decentralized social media platform. It was founded in 2016 by Eugen Rochko, a German software developer. It lets you do all the core things you can do on Twitter like sharing posts including media, retweeting posts, following other users and tagging users.

The USP of Mastodon is that it is not owned by an individual person or corporation. It allows anyone to create and operate their own Mastodon server aka instance. Each server can have a different set of rules as chosen by the creator. A server is essentially like a community of like-minded people. When new user joins the social media platform, they have to join a particular server. Users are allowed to communicate with each other despite being part of different servers.

The platform offers the home feed in chronological order which means you will see posts in the same order they were shared. This is opposite to the majority of popular social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter that offer AI-powered feeds. As for the investment, it is crowdfunded through donations received on Patreon.

How to join Mastodon?

Mastodon is accessible through web browsers but also has official Android and iOS apps. The first step to joining Mastodon is to choose the server you want to be a member of. It lets you filter servers based on regions and topics. You can feel a little lost and unsure about what server to join but the good thing is you can change your chosen server anytime you want.

It should be noted that while some servers let you join right away, some have particular requirements to be fulfilled before you can join. Your Mastodon profile username will be based on the server you end up joining.

How to use Mastodon?

You can visit the search section to explore the platform. You can browse posts that are getting viral, trending hashtags, trending news, and more. You can check out the profiles of users and follow the ones sharing posts that intrigue you.

As for sharing posts, Mastodon allows you to share your thoughts with a limit of 500 characters. It supports adding photos, videos, emojis, polls, and content warnings to the post. It also lets you set privacy for the post before sharing it. You can choose whether to share it with the public, only followers, or only with the people you mention.

Mastodon lets you reply to posts shared by others. You can also retweet those posts which it likes to call boosting. You can mark their favorites aka like them and even share them outside the platform. There are also options for muting/blocking/reporting users, blocking a whole server, bookmarking posts, and opening the post in an external browser.

Should you join Mastodon?

The answer to this question depends on what you expect from a social media platform that you would like to use. Mastodon has a number of similarities to Twitter but at the same time, it also has distinctive features. It could be a great place if you are interested in connecting with like-minded people by becoming a part of particular servers without feeling like you are shouting into a void. It is also free of all the Musk-led chaos that is happening on Twitter.

However, it does not have as many users as Twitter which could be a plus point for some and a negative for others. If you have any specific questions or doubts about Mastodon, feel free to ask them in the comments section below.

Ajit Singh
Ajit is a freelance tech reporter who loves everything tech but has a soft corner for Android. He started his stint in tech journalism in 2015 and has previously worked with publications like Digit India and Android Headlines. You can also find his work on MySmartPrice.

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