The Mastodon social media platform has attracted nearly half a million new users since Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter (TWTR).
The app is described as a decentralised, advertisement-free, open-source alternative social media network. But why the sudden migration from Twitter, and how does it actually work?
What is Mastodon?
Mastodon is a non-profit micro-blogging site that was founded in 2016 by German software developer Eugen Rochko.
Rochko's original concept was to build a “user-friendly microblogging product that would not belong to any central authority”.
Mastodon claims to be a decentralised social media network. This means the code that runs the application is open source, so anyone can set up a Mastodon server and run the application and store user data.
This means that there is no one server, company, organisation or individual running Mastodon, making it the opposite of Twitter, which is defacto controlled by Musk.
Anyone can create their own Mastodon server and have control over it, giving it its own set of rules, not unlike Reddit sub-pages, but without the overall control of a parent company. These Mastodon servers are called "instances".
Mastodon said: “All instances are owned, operated and moderated by the community that creates them, and not some large corporation which tracks your data to sell to advertisers.
“In most cases, Mastodon instances are crowdfunded, not financed.”
If you don’t like Twitter anymore, there is awesome site called Masterbatedone pic.twitter.com/Jl7lpC5oEu
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 7, 2022
Similar to Twitter, Mastodon users can create profiles, post messages and follow other users and posts have a 500-character limit.
On Mastodon users don't tweet, they "toot" and each Mastodon server is moderated by vigorous privacy and anti-abuse tools.
On Monday, Rochko posted on Mastodon: "Hey, so, we've hit 1,028,362 monthly active users across the network today.
"1,124 new Mastodon servers since Oct 27, and 489,003 new users.
"That's pretty cool."
Why are people migrating from Twitter to Mastodon?
The recent success of the social media platform has been linked to the outpouring of protest after Elon Musk's acquisition of Twitter.
Some politicians and campaigners have warned that hate speech and disinformation will multiply under Musk's leadership.
However, Musk argues his newly acquired social media platform will be impartial to political affiliations and become the most accurate source of information about the world.
Last week Musk tweeted: "Twitter needs to become by far the most accurate source of information about the world. That's our mission."
He added that it would become the most accurate news source "without regard to political affiliation."
Twitter needs to become by far the most accurate source of information about the world. That’s our mission.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 7, 2022
But, many Twitter users are not happy and feel Musk will create a social media site that could become a bastion of the "alt-right".
Transgender advocate and computer scientist Kris Nóva said on Medium: "I haven’t made the official jump yet, my Twitter account is still active, however, I suspect it is only a matter of time before I stop contributing my content to a place that is actively harming my family, while legitimising the christo-fascist state of the US and just abandon the platform all together."
In recent days Mastodon has been ironically trending on the social media platform it is in direct competition with.
The official Mastodon Twitter account said: "Looks like Mastodon is trending on Twitter as more and more people are announcing their new profiles.
"Welcome to the better social media that does not belong to a single company and cannot be sold, welcome to the fediverse!"
Looks like #Mastodon is trending on Twitter as more and more people are announcing their new profiles. Welcome to the better social media that does not belong to a single company and cannot be sold, welcome to the fediverse! pic.twitter.com/75pugCA0si
— Mastodon (@joinmastodon) October 27, 2022
The Mastodon social media site has been derided by many Twitter users, with people highlighting the fact that most of the complaints about Twitter and corresponding praising of Mastodon is happening on Twitter.
mastodon is the social network that no one cares about unless someone tweets about it
— Shibetoshi Nakamoto (@BillyM2k) November 7, 2022
Signing up to Mastodon
To get an account started on Mastodon navigate to the main webpage then click, "Get Started".
Mastodon will then ask new users to pick servers that they'd like to join, these servers can be regional, hobby-based, or work-related.
When you have clicked the servers you wish to join then you create a username.
Usernames function like email addresses, specific to whichever server, or 'instance' you have joined.
Usernames are formatted as such: @[Username]@[MastodonInstance.Domain]
After verifying your email address and log-in details you can then create your first post.