About Mastodon, the social network going up against Twitter

Since Elon Musk officially bought Twitter, chaos reigns. Almost half of the staff was fired just days after the billionaire took office. The latter then set about changing the account certification system to include it in the paid subscription to Twitter Blue. But it was quickly hijacked by trolls and fake accounts, forcing Elon Musk to change his plans. Faced with this situation, Twitter users decided to look elsewhere by trying other social networks. According to the MIT Technology Review, 900,000 Twitter accounts were disabled between October 27 and November 1.

Some of those leaving Twitter moved to Mastodon, a decentralized social network based on free software which is experiencing significant growth. On November 12, Eugen Rochko, the creator of Mastodon, announced that his platform had won. one million new userssince Elon Musk took over Twitter on October 27. Mastodon now counts 1.6 million active users. This, however, represents only a small part of 238 million Twitter users.

We explain how Mastodon works, how to register and how it differs from Twitter.

What is Mastodon and how is it different from Twitter?

Mastodon is a free social network that works like Twitter. Can post “toots” (instead of tweets), follow other people and organizations, favor (like) and boost (retweet) other followers’ posts.

Mastodon was launched in October 2016 by Eugen Rochko, CEO and sole employee of the non-profit organization Mastodon gGmbH. The word “toot” was adopted under the influence of a project backer who promised to support Mastodon’s Patreon account for life if its creator agreed to rename the “publish” button to “toot”. (In iOS and Android apps, it always says “publish”).

In an interview with
Time MagazineEugen Rochko says he started developing Mastodon when he realized that ”
the ability to express myself online to my friends through short messages is really very important to me, also important to the world, and maybe it shouldn’t be in the hands of just one company that can do with it what he wants.

Mastodon’s organization differs greatly from Twitter. Instead of a single public square for all, it is composed thousands of social networksall run on different servers that can communicate with each other through a so-called system the fediverse. Fediverse also contains other social networks such as PeerTube for videos, Funkwhale for music, PixelFed for photos and NextCloud for files.

Mastodon servers are not necessarily connected to Fediverse. In fact, the most famous instance of Mastodon is Truth Social, the social network of former US President Donald Trump.

How to sign up for Mastodon

The most complicated part of Mastodon is registration. Since there is no common Mastodon area for everyone (like Twitter), you have to register on a specific Mastodon server.

Servers can be based on geographic location, area of ​​interest, professional context, or literally anything an administrator can think of.

Two of Mastodon’s largest servers are mastodon.social (the official Mastodon project server) and mstdn.social. Both have their registrations temporarily suspended. Another good general server is more.to. Other popular instances include Mastodon
masthead.social for journalists and fosstodon.org for free software.

Don’t worry too much about the server you choose: you can subscribe to as many servers as you want and leave or switch at any time. And you can follow people on multiple servers, so choosing one doesn’t prevent you from contacting them at other times.

A good way to find a server to join is the official Mastodon website at joinmastodon.org. The site currently lists 106 servers committed to the Mastodon Server Covenant, an agreement that requires moderation to be enforced, site backups to be performed, and at least three months’ notice before shutting down an instance.

Each server’s “about” page provides some information about the Mastodon instance and lists the rules for the server. If you can’t find a server you like on joinmastodon.org, you can try other Mastodon directories, such as instances.social, which has a server selection wizard and a list of 3,910 instances.

Most Mastodon servers will just ask you just your email address and password to get started. Once you respond to a verification email, you can start using Mastodon. Other, more private Mastodon servers may require a membership application and then wait for an invite.

How to use Mastodon?

Like Twitter, Mastodon allows you to post short message, so toots, to the whole world or to the elite. Many of Mastodon’s other features are similar to Twitter, with some differences. Each message is limited to 500 characters (instead of 280), and we can include links, images(JPG, GIF or PNG, up to 8 MB), audio files (MP3, OGG, WAV, FLAC, OPUS, AAC, M4A and 3GP up to 40 MB) and videos (MP4, M4V, MOV, WebM up to 40MB).

In Mastodon, posts can be set to be public, limited to subscribers only, or completely excluded from all timelines. You can create polls and use all the standard emojis but also custom emojis made for specific servers.

Each message may be preceded by an explanatory “content warning” that requires a click before viewing.

In Mastodon, messages are editable. Each version remains available for verification, and the people delivering the message are notified after it is changed.

Like Twitter, Mastodon uses hashtags which starts with the “#” symbol. Since there is no algorithm to suggest your posts to people who don’t follow you, using hashtags to categorize posts for people who might be interested is more important than Twitter.

One can follow any Mastodon account, whether they are on their own server instance or not. Posts are added to the News Feed in chronological order. Some accounts require a permission request to follow them. Free web apps like Debirdify, Fedifinder and Twitodon help find accounts you follow on Twitter that have switched to Mastodon.

Like the blue bird, it is it is possible to block an account and even an entire server.

Mastodon has a feature called “direct messages”, but the name is a bit misleading. In fact, it makes it possible that a message can only be seen by the people mentioned in it. In other words, it is messages that only certain people can see, rather than actual direct messages.

How does Mastodon’s timeline work?

While Twitter is just a timeline (sequential or by “top stories”), Mastodon has them. three : a Home timeline that shows all posts and reposts from everyone you follow, a Local timeline that contains everything from your own server instance, and a Federated timeline that shows all posts from all Mastodon servers where you follow someone.

Using a web browser, you can configure Mastodon to look like Twitter, showing one feed at a time, or you can show multiple feeds and notifications at once (similar to Tweetdeck) by choosing to “advanced view” in your preferences .

Are there mobile apps for Mastodon?

Yes, and there are many options for Android and iOS apps.

The first and simplest option is the official app of Mastodon gGmbH (for iOS or Android), but there are other third-party apps. The two most popular alternative Mastodon apps today are Metatext for iPhone and Tusky for Android.

Mastodon apps for iPhone

Mastodon Apps for Android

CNET.com article adapted by CNETFrance

Photo: James Martin/CNET

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