In the wake of Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter, some users have been seeking alternative platforms. One of the biggest beneficiaries has been Mastodon. But what is it?
The social network says it now has over 655,000 users – with over 230,000 having joined in the last week.
On the surface Mastodon looks like Twitter – account users write posts (called “toots”), which can be replied to, liked and re-posted, and they can follow each other.
Under the bonnet, though, it works in a different way.
That’s one of the reasons it is attracting fresh users, but it has caused some confusion to new people signing up.
The platform is six years old but its current activity is unprecedented and it is struggling under the weight of new joiners.
What are all these servers?
The first thing you must do when you sign up is choose a server. There are loads of them, they are themed – many by country, city or interest – like UK, social, technology, gaming and so on.
It doesn’t hugely matter which one you are on because you will be able to follow users on all the others anyway, but it does give you a starting community who are more likely to post things you are interested in as well.
Some of the popular ones – such as social and UK – are currently running very slowly because of demand.
How do you find people?
The server you choose becomes part of your user name – so for example, I used my current Twitter handle, zsk, and chose the UK server, making my user name @[email protected]. And that’s my address there – what you would look up to find me.
If you are on the same server, you can search just using the person’s name, but if they are on a different server you will need their full address.
Unlike Twitter, Mastodon won’t suggest followers you may be interested in.
You can also search hashtags.
Why are the servers there?
Mastodon is not one platform. It’s not one “thing” and it is not owned by one person or firm. All of these different servers link together, and form a collective network, but they are owned by different people and organisations.
How is Mastodon moderated?
This is a real hot potato. At the moment all the servers have their own moderation rules, and some have none. Some servers are choosing not to link to others that are full of bots or seem to have a high quantity of hateful content – this means they will not be visible to those on the servers where they are blocked. Posts can also be reported to the server owners.
If it’s hate speech or illegal content then those owners can delete it – but that does not necessarily delete it everywhere.
It’s going to be a huge issue if this platform continues to grow.
Are there any ads?
No. There are no ads although there’s also nothing to stop you writing a post promoting your company or product.
Mastodon also doesn’t offer a curated experience like Twitter does in terms of how you view posts – you generally see what your followers are saying, as they say it.
Is it free to use?
It depends which server you are on – some are asking for donations, as they don’t get paid, but it is largely free.
News source: BBC