The acquisition of Twitter by Elon Musk put the spotlight on the social network Mastodon, which was presented as a free alternative to the blue bird platform. Concerned about the reforms prepared by the controversial billionaire or simply wanting to consider new platforms, many users have ventured into this open-source and decentralized micro-blogging site founded in 2016.
According to its creator, German developer Eugen Rochko, nearly 500,000 people have joined the platform since the end of October, bringing the number of active “mastonauts” to more than 1 million this past month. A trifle compared to Twitter’s 240 million active users. But now Mastodon registers thousands of registrations every hour.
Accessible from a mobile application or its website, Mastodon offers in many ways a similar experience to Twitter with the possibility to share “squeaks”, photos and videos within a limit of 500 characters and popular features like hashtags, bookmarking favorites and boosting, a kind of local retweet. The network is guaranteed advertising-free, funded by donations and sponsors, and above all decentralized.
A decentralized social network
Unlike Twitter, where all users go through the same central infrastructure, you have to register at one time, a decentralized server. There are more than 4,000, organized around centers of interest and geographical regions and run by volunteers or independent organizations.
These instances are governed by their own procedural rules and follow their own moderation policy which may vary from one server to another. They communicate with each other, so that it is possible to exchange with users from other servers.
There is no recommendation algorithm
Another big difference with Twitter, Mastodon doesn’t use recommendation algorithms that control the publications that appear on your screen by mainly highlighting content that matches your tastes and opinions and locking you into your certainties without opening yourself up to contradiction.
While Twitter uses this system by default to prioritize tweets in its users’ News Feed, Mastodon only shows posts from accounts the user is subscribed to while they’re live. It is also possible to consult a local thread, which offers the posts of other users of its instance and a global thread, which also shows the posts of nearby instances.
How to choose your instance
The first Mastodon experience quickly confused Twitter followers. Therefore, it is necessary to first choose an opportunity in which to register. Be careful, remember that the administrator of your instance will know your password (like Twitter, it says). So favor a unique combination of characters.
Mastodon offers a variety of servers grouped by their theme or geographical location. The best-known instance is mastodon.social, which has more than 150,000 active members but has stopped accepting new registrations in recent days.
In France, there are several servers, including the association for the defense of digital liberties La Quadrature du Net, Mamot – which however no longer accepts new subscribers -, Framapiaf, hosted by the free software developer Framasoft – also full – or Piaille , launched by a website host where we can see in particular the former minister Cécile Duflot and many journalists. There are also specialized bodies, especially in scientific communities.
Once registered, it is not possible to link your address book to suggested contacts like on Twitter. But you can search for users in the search bar at the top left of the interface. There are also services that offer you to link your Twitter account to find the profiles of your subscribers and Mastodon subscriptions. For example, the Twitodon service, recommended by Framasoft.
Mastodon is not Twitter
Don’t expect Mastodon to be a perfect Twitter alternative. User experience is more tedious than blue bird social network. The lack of recommendation algorithms, despite their harmful effects, is quickly felt and one can quickly tire of seeing publications that are not to their liking.
Twitter is especially for him the network effect: it is the platform where things happen, where you can follow the news through hashtags and publications. At Mastodon, the “global” news feed of opportunities can also quickly become unreadable without a language filter and under the proliferation of messages. The social network does not allow the problems of moderation, particularly every time, or false information. As it stands, Mastodon is therefore a complementary alternative to Twitter, for users who want to exchange with their peers on special themes.