What is Mastodon?

You may have heard of Mastodon as an alternative to Twitter, but what is it and what makes it so special?

Mastodon 101

The biggest difference between Mastodon and Twitter is that Mastodon is decentralized, meaning there is no single central company holding the data of everyone on Mastodon. Anyone with a little technical knowledge and a server can host their own Mastodon instance, or server.

The biggest benefit of this is that you can join an instance of Mastodon that fits your needs and interests that will put you alongside people who are more likely to care about what you're posting.

Mastodon being split up into instances also means that whatever instance you join is likely to be much smaller than Twitter, meaning you can realistically read a large percentage of posts on it and have a better understanding of what's going on. On my instance, Fosstodon, I read most posts that come while I'm online and reply to many of them.

Don't worry too much about if people you want to follow are on your instance, though; you can follow people on other instances no matter what instance you choose! (The moderators of your instance may disable following users from specific instances that violate their rules.)

Choosing a Mastodon Instance

Choosing an instance is tricky, but I'd recommend you put a good amount of thought into it. There are instances hosted by the Mastodon developers, but these usually have so many users that many of the benefits of decentralization are lost. Here are some things to consider:

  • Moderation — How strict do you want the rules to be about what can and can't be posted?
  • Topic — Is there a server for a specific interest you have? This could put you with a bunch of other people who share that interest with you.
  • Size - I recommend finding an instance with a fair amount of people, but not too many. My instance had 19k people when I joined it, 3k of which had posted in the last month, which I think is a pretty good sweet spot.
  • Invite Needed - Some Mastodon instances are invite-only, while others allow anyone to sign up. My instance, Fosstodon, requires you to ask for an invite and explain why you want to join, but my application was approved very quickly, and users who are already accepted can send others invitations. This works well for me, since it helps filter out obvious spammers without limiting people who will actually use an account.

Do a little searching around and find an instance you like. You can always delete your account and get one on a different instance, so don't worry too much if your first choice doesn't work out.

Me on Mastodon

I have an account on Mastodon, specifically on an instance for Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) called Fosstodon.

If you have an account on Fosstodon or another instance, you can follow me at @[email protected]. There I will post articles from this blog, my general thoughts about things, and cool things I've done or found.

Even if you don't have a Mastodon account, you can still get my posts via RSS, which is pretty cool! (What is RSS?)

Further Reading

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