If you’re tired of Twitter, Mastodon has you covered. But, is it the real alternative to Twitter? We explain why this confusing social network is far from perfect.
Elon Musk’s landing on Twitter catapulted a social network… but not what the tycoon thought. Or at least not for now. If there’s one clear winner in Elon Musk’s moves so far, it’s Mastodon.
Since October 27, more than 300,000 users have joined Mastodon, giving it more than 1 million active users with more than 70,000 new subscribers per day currently. That’s 700% more than before Elon Musk took over Twitter.
The increase in subscriptions and downloads is a real challenge, it leads to setbacks and many questions about Mastodon’s ability to establish itself as an alternative to Twitter. But, is this really the expected alternative?
What is Mastodon?
This is Mastodon: an open-source, community-driven microblogging website. Mastodon launched as a decentralized, easy-to-use alternative to Twitter.
It allows you to publish toots and you can “boost” posts from other users. It’s almost like Twitter, but instead of living in one place, the social network lives in different parts, called “opportunities”, each with its own rules and administrators. This constitutes a “federation”, and it protects the integrity of the service: no central server exists. So, if an instance stops paying for its server, it will disappear, but other instances will still be there. Opportunities can be funded by crowdfundingtherefore ensuring an ad-free experience and ensuring no one owns it.
Although opportunities can be open to everyone, Mastodon also has the option to let you keep them private. Users from different instances have the power to follow and communicate with each other. If you’re thinking IRC, Reddit, Discord or the good old forums, we’re really not far off here technically.
Basically, as long as admins pay to maintain their instances, Mastodon can grow or shrink naturally without threatening the entire network. Since it’s open-source, you can even make your own if you want. There is a prime example – mastodon.social, which is the default instance for starters. There are dozens and dozens of them, some of them specialize in a specific topic: a video game, a series, a social topic and so on.
Is it an alternative to Twitter?
Technically, Mastodon is an alternative to Twitter. Decentralized software built on open standards, Mastodon is a promising platform for those looking to escape Twitter. But, it is complicated to make it a serious and unique alternative to Twitter.
From its inception, the platform was fraught with its own challenges. First, there are fewer high-profile influencers than other social media sites, so you won’t find the accounts you want to follow. And if the person you want to follow is there, you need to know what time they’re creating content. It’s as if multiple Twitter networks coexist, some will be private, others public, with different operating rules. It is a semi-organized mess that is very confusing for new users. And, this is the case from the profile creation interface.
When new users want to try Mastodon, they can choose to join a server based on their interests, language, or region. You will definitely find other communities. In other words, we are among ourselves, and in general the users of these communities are very similar.
Mastodon is not a major social media platform, some have even compared it to GNU/Linux when talking about PC OS and Windows alternatives. New users are often unaware of its features and frustrated by its complex structurewhich is very different from the one-stop shop offered by Twitter.
You’ll see confused users wondering where their friends went when they switched instances. In addition, you will be disappointed with the opportunities that no longer accept new users, with the functionalities that you will miss… Another challenge for the evolution capacity of Mastodon with very limited resources compared to Twitter. Instead of relying on investors, Mastodon survives on donations, crowdfunding, sponsorships and grants.
In any case, there’s nothing stopping you from trying Mastodon. However, you have been warned now.
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