Mastodon, a Twitter alternative that wants to stay that way

Twitter competitor Mastodon has turned down more than five venture capital investment offers from Silicon Valley in recent months after its founder vowed to maintain the booming social network’s nonprofit status. .

The microblogging site, created in 2016 by German developer Eugen Rochko, saw its user numbers explode after Elon Musk acquired Twitter for $44 billion in October 2022, amid growing concern. as in the management of the American billionaire’s social network.

Eugen Rochko announced at Financial Times received proposals from at least five investors in the United States who wanted to invest “hundred thousand dollars” to support the rapid growth of its platform.

But its non-profit status is “non-negotiable”, Eugen Rochko pointed out, before adding that its platform’s independence and moderation modes are important assets. Eugen Rochko summarizes:

“Mastodon is not going to be whatever you hate on Twitter. The fact that it can be bought by a controversial billionaire, the fact that it can be shut down or go bankrupt, etc. It’s all the difference of paradigms [entre les plateformes].”

In December, Twitter temporarily suspended the accounts of Mastodon and several journalists who published information about Elon Musk’s private jet flights. Twitter also raised the possibility of banning links to competing social media platforms, including Mastodon, before backtracking.

2.5 million active users

Eugen Rochko then replied on his blog that it was the “a sickening reminder that centralized platforms can arbitrarily impose unfair limits on what can or cannot be said.” Before adding that the number of monthly active users on Mastodon dropped from 300,000 to 2.5 million between October and November [2022].

Mastodon’s daily downloads jumped from 6,000 on Oct. 27, the day Elon Musk took over Twitter, to a peak of 243,000 on Nov. 18, according to data from analytics firm Sensor Tower. Other smaller rival platforms [que Twitter]like Tumblr, has also seen a resurgence in popularity.

Federation of decentralized servers

If Mastodon shows similarities to Twitter, it differs from it by its many decentralized servers [ou instances], operates under independent moderation rules. Users join a server, but can interact with communities registered in other instances thanks to this so-called “federated” network [appelé en français le “fédiverse”].

Eugen Rochko is Mastodon’s sole shareholder and paid himself a monthly fee of 2,400 euros last year, according to his 2021 annual report – a figure he said has since increased by 500 euros.

The platform must be continuously funded by donations. He has more than [9 400] donors on the crowdfunding site Patreon, thanks to which he receives more than [31 300 euros] every month. For comparison, between June and December 2021, the network recorded just over 55,000 euros in revenue.

Waves of registration

According to Sensor Tower, the first wave of signups slowed to around 6,000 daily downloads on December 9, but fell to 64,000 daily downloads after December 18, when restricted by Elon Musk’s Twitter links point to other social networks.

new user [de Mastodon] face some difficulties: the differences in moderation between servers are sometimes confusing and some servers struggle to cope with the influx of traffic. According to Josh Cowls, researcher at the Oxford Internet Institute [de l’université d’Oxford]Mastodon can be a network “satellites” from Twitter,”seeing its activity increase every time Twitter doesn’t disappear or a post from Elon Musk causes a stir”.

The ambition shown by Eugen Rochko is that in the long run Mastodon replaces Twitter and other commercial social networks. “It’s been a long road, but we’ve never been in such a good position.”

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