What Is Mastodon?
The elephant of social connection platforms
Wed 21 December 2022
A lot of people are moving to a federated social media platform called Mastodon. While it has been around for over six years, it is seeing a resurgence in popularity, and we hope Mastodon will usher in a new wave of social connection between people all over the world.
October 26, 2022. Elon Musk enters Twitter’s headquarters carrying a sink.
Surely this is not the most important part of this new Twitter chapter, but it is among the most iconic moments until now, one that many will remember as the beginning of the end of Twitter. Or at least, the Twitter we have known for the last 15 years.
But this moment is also the beginning of something else. Very shortly after this episode, people began looking around for alternatives.
At this point, you know that we at Fortressa like alternatives. So we are really happy that more and more people are looking for new ways of doing things.
Let’s see why people are looking for Twitter alternatives. (Spoiler: It’s not just because of the $8 monthly subscription.)
Why Are People Fleeing Twitter?
How we live our social life on the Internet seems to change on a daily basis. People have started to realize that what they do on the Internet has a lot of impact on what we call “real life”.
They have discovered that how social networks are managed can play a big role in important events. Exhibit A: USA elections in 2016.
With that that in mind, many folks have understandably begun to pay more attention to how moderation decisions are made. For example, relying on a small group of people to decide what content is allowed and disallowed can be oppressive.
It’s not great to put the fate of your personal and business connections in the hands of this small group of people. Frankly, the situation wasn’t optimal even before these latest developments.
We, the users, deserve better than this.
Meanwhile, as more and more advertisers drop their Twitter advertising campaigns, Twitter’s attempt to increase the proportion of revenue derived from monthly subscriptions (i.e., “Twitter Blue”) could have had positive effects, but it was bungled terribly, resulting in severely decreased user confidence in Twitter and its management, further spurring mass defections from the platform.
As more and more people leave Twitter for greener pastures, Twitter’s new management has become ever more desperate and unstable: banning people who rightly take management to task for its poor decisions, blocking links to competing social networks, and other shenanigans too numerous to name. That causes even more people (and advertisers) to leave Twitter, creating a vicious cycle from which Twitter may never fully escape.
A social network without people is not worth anything.
Something similar happened to Medium, which implemented bad pricing decisions and made regressive changes to article discoverability, causing a similarly severe migration of people other platforms. Whereas it had been one of the main writing and publishing platforms, it quickly devolved into a desolated field of paywalls and a meager group of remaining writers.
Okay, that’s probably an adequate summary of the current Twitter snafu. Let’s talk about where people are going once they leave Twitter.
That is, the elephant in the room (yes, this must have been used by a thousand other articles covering this story): Mastodon
Mastodon Is Here!
Well, Mastodon was already here, actually. Mastodon is a project started in 2016, with a goal of allowing users to make social connections between federated servers, without conversations having to first funnel through centralized servers controlled by a giant corporation.
Mastodon is open source, so everyone can use and see the code, as well as monitor the status of the software’s development. This is a huge advantage over the corporate social networks that we are accustomed to using.
For example, one of the biggest problems with Twitter is that the underlying logic used for the default algorithmic feed is not public. Twitter can change that algorithm however they want, behind closed doors, without consulting platform users or providing transparency regarding the impact and rationale for those changes. They decide what you will see and consume. This can be particularly concerning to people who make their living via social media. Even after building a solid audience, one change to that algorithm can cause your content to stop showing up in feeds, resulting in a massive loss of engagement with a carefully curated audience.
This does not, and likely can not, happen with Mastodon.
How Does Mastodon Work?
Understanding how Mastodon works can be a little tricky. At its core, Mastodon is a different way to create connections between people.
First, Mastodon does not exist as a single entity. There are many Mastodon “servers”, which are servers that you can join as your home on the broader Mastodon federated network sometimes called “the fediverse”.
You get to choose which server you want to use. There are many, and every server has its own theme, community, and rules. But you can follow people all over the fediverse, regardless of which other servers they have joined.
Mastodon is not a single website. To use it, you need to make an account with a provider—we call them servers—that lets you connect with other people across Mastodon.
What is a server? It is a computer where some software is running and is available for people to sign up and use.
You can think of these servers as islands. Every island is managed in different ways, with different norms, rules, and cultures.
So you may wonder: “But I want to connect with a friend that is on another server. How can I do that if she is on another server?”
Imagine that those islands (the servers) have bridges that automatically build themselves between the various other islands. As soon as you follow your friend, your server will begin communicating with their server, and you will see your friend’s posts in your federated timeline. Just like you are accustomed to seeing with Twitter and other social networks.
- No creepy ad-tracking that follows everything you do on the Internet.
- No corporate surveillance middlemen.
- Every server can govern itself. You can find the best one for you or even create your own.
- More personalization, such as the ability to choose which Mastodon client apps suit you best.
- Servers can decide which servers they will connect to. An server with too many bad actors? Just disconnect from that server.
- It’s open-source.
- Supports audio, video, and photo post types, accessibility descriptions, polls, content warnings, animated avatars, custom emojis, thumbnail crop control, and more features than you’ve probably ever seen on a social network.
- Discoverability can be more difficult, but it depends on the server.
- Mastodon is just beginning to gain traction. There are many less people there than on Twitter, at least for now.
- Creating an account at this moment can be challenging, since the flood of new would-be users have overwhelmed existing Mastodon servers, some of which have temporarily suspended new sign-ups until they can accommodate the increased flow of new migrants. And here to alleviate that problem, of course, is Fortressa.
What Can We Do For You?
With a Fortressa account, in addition to the many other open-source services we provide, you can now create your very own Mastodon server. This could be on your own custom domain or one of ours. It could be just for you, or for a group of friends and family members. You could create a Mastodon server for your company, your open source project, your community… the possibilities are endless.
Don’t get left behind in this transformational sea change. Create your very own Mastodon server right now.