Mastodon vs. Twitter: Is Mastodon a real alternative to Twitter?

Twitter is many things, but stability is not one of them, at least in December 2022. Therefore, many users are looking for alternative social media platforms. One such platform is Mastodon, an open-source microblogging site that has garnered a lot of attention since its launch in 2016. But is Mastodon a real alternative to Twitter? That is what we will find out.

What is Mastodon?

Mastodon is an open-source microblogging platform similar to Twitter. It was created by Eugen Rochko in 2016 and has since become one of the most popular decentralized social networks on the web.

Unlike Twitter, which is owned and controlled by a single company, Mastodon is maintained by a network of independent servers managed by individual users or groups. This means that each server can set its own content moderation rules, making it easier for users to find communities that match their interests or location.

Mastodon vs. Twitter: Similarity

The Mastodon logo is seen against a faint blue background

If you already have a Mastodon account, you’ll notice some similarities between this site and Twitter. Here are some:

1. Tweets and Tweets

Both Mastodon and Twitter are built around short messages, called “toots” on Mastodon and “tweets” on Twitter. These messages may include text, images, videos and other media. They can be made public or sent privately to other users. One difference to note: while tweets can only contain 140 characters, Mastodon allows users to write longer messages, up to 500 characters.

2. Followers and Tracking

Both Mastodon and Twitter allow users to follow other users, which means content they post will appear in their followers’ feeds. They can also mute or block any users they don’t want appearing in their feed.

3. Hashtags

Both platforms also use hashtags to organize content and make it easier for users to find posts related to a particular topic. In Mastodon, you can find all posts on a specific topic in multiple Instances using a hashtag.

4. Timelines

Both Mastodon and Twitter display user posts in a timeline format, allowing users to easily scroll through recent content.

How is Mastodon different from Twitter?

Although Mastodon is similar to Twitter, there are some key differences that set it apart. Some of these are feature-based, while others are tied to the underlying culture of the platform.

1. Decentralized network

One of the most notable differences between Mastodon and Twitter is that Mastodon is a decentralized network. It is not owned and controlled by a company like Twitter. Instead, Mastodon is maintained by a network of independent servers managed by individual users or groups.

2. Content moderation

Another difference between Mastodon and Twitter is how content is handled. On Twitter, all content is subject to the same moderation rules set by Twitter. Mastodon relies on “Instances” – individual servers run by users or groups who decide what type of content they want to allow on their server.

This allows for the creation of smaller, more targeted communities than those found on large platforms like Twitter or Facebook.

3. Privacy Settings

Mastodon has more robust privacy settings than Twitter. Users can choose whether their posts should be public, only visible to people who follow them, or only visible to mentioned users. This gives them more control over who sees their content and prevents trolls and spammers.

4. User interface

Before Elon’s acquisition of Twitter, Mastodon was reserved for techies. This is mainly due to the user interface of the platform, which is less intuitive and user-friendly than Twitter. The reason for this is not far-fetched: Mastodon is intended to be an open-source alternative to Twitter, and not necessarily a “Twitter killer.”

5. Advertisements and Promotions

Mastodon doesn’t allow advertisements or any form of promotion, which means users don’t have to worry about seeing sponsored content in their feeds.

6. Potential reach of users

Twitter is bigger than Mastodon, so tweets have the potential to reach a wider audience. On Mastodon, content can reach a relatively small number of people, even if it is posted on the most popular servers. This is due to Mastodon’s decentralized structure, which prevents content from reaching users on other servers.

7. Hearing

Twitter tends to attract more mainstream users, while Mastodon is generally dominated by tech-savvy users looking for an alternative to Twitter. This means that Mastodon’s content can be more technical and topic-oriented than what can be found on Twitter.

Is Mastodon a real Twitter alternative?

Given its similarities to Twitter, Mastodon can certainly be considered a viable alternative for users looking for an open-source platform with more control over privacy settings and content moderation. However, Twitter is more than functionality and design – it’s the culture of the platform that sets it apart from its alternatives.

Twitter’s popularity as a bridge between everyday people and celebrities, politicians and influencers makes it an attractive platform for many users. Mastodon may have specs to rival Twitter, but its audience and potential reach make the two platforms unique.

If you’re tech-savvy, Mastodon can be a great alternative to Twitter. But it’s probably not a good enough alternative to Twitter for the general public. Not in its current state, at least.

It should be noted here that Mastodon is still a very young platform – as it grows and evolves, its functionality and user base may become more similar to Twitter. Until then, it will remain an interesting (but not good enough) open-source alternative.

Mastodon: An alternative to Twitter?

In conclusion, Mastodon can be considered a viable alternative to Twitter, but for a very limited audience: advanced users looking for an open-source platform with better control over privacy settings and content moderation.

Meanwhile, Twitter remains the primary platform for those looking to reach a wider audience and engage with celebrities and influencers. Ultimately, the decision to choose one platform over another depends on each user’s goals and preferences. And who says you can’t have accounts on both?

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