If you haven’t heard of Mastodon, don’t worry. There is no need for FOMO yet. The service quietly launched in 2016 and only started gaining popularity in March 2017. Mastodon had just over 760,000 users in early August 2017. In December, the service reached one million users and has continued to grow almost unabated since then.
As for what Mastodon really is, well – it takes more than a paragraph to explain. Mastodon is a social network that has a lot in common with Twitter, but this is just the beginning.
Mastodon – Free, Decentralized and Federated Open Source
Mastodon is free, open source, decentralized, and federated
The first thing to know about Mastodon is that FOSS is free and open source software. Anyone can download a copy of the source code and modify it in any way.
Someone could even develop a completely different platform than Mastodon based on source code without any legal implications. The idea behind open source software is progress: to develop everything that came before. And to get around draconian copyright laws.
Another basic principle of Mastodon is decentralization. While the world â€œcentralizedâ€ can mean different things in different contexts, on social media it usually refers to a central organization.
Take Facebook, for example. To use Facebook, you need to go to Facebook.com or access it through a third party app that uses the Facebook API. You might have your own page, but it’s not really “yours” – and Facebook might close it or delete anything they don’t like.
Mastodon is a decentralized network, which means there is no central group with all the power. Think back to the early days of blogging, when “blog networks” were popular. You can have your own blog, but it’s easy to switch to someone else’s. This is an example of a decentralized web.
While a decentralized web is good in theory, the point of a social network is to be part of a larger whole, and this is where Mastodon includes federation.
The home page says:
â€œMastodon is not just a website, it’s a federation, think Star Trek. The thousands of independent communities that govern Mastodon form a single network in which, although each planet is unique, being part of one is to be part of a whole. ”
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of small communities that live in the Mastodon system. Each of them is independent and unique, but they can all talk to each other. These communities are called instances. On a technical level, any domain that Mastodon runs on is called an instance.
Each copy is shared and moderated by its own team of admins and volunteers. There is no global admin group.
Mastodon is based on morals
If you believe in a free and open Internet, Mastodon is a great service. Since the source code is open source, if Mastodon ever goes in a direction that users don’t like, someone can easily modify the code and create their own version of Mastodon that like-minded people can join.
In this regard, Mastodon uses standard protocols. This means that the network can continue to exist without Mastodon servers. You are not attached to the service. Even your “teeth” (the mastodon equivalent of tweets, which we’ll talk about later) can be accessed using other technologies.
Finally, Mastodon is not monetized. Creators only make money from donations, not advertising or venture capital. This means that there is no committee running the service to maximize profit or revenue. While the creator of Mastodon, a man named Evgeny Rochko, may be inclined to install certain features to suit user needs, any disgruntled users can grab the source code and head elsewhere.
How to use the mastodon
How to use mastodon
Now we come to the goal for which you are actually here – to figure out how to use this confusing service. If you, like me, have looked and scratched your head at seemingly complex systems, don’t worry. The mastodon is much easier to use than you might think.
First of all, your messages to an instance are called beeps. It’s a tweet game. You also set up your profile just like you do on Twitter, including your display name, bio, title, and profile picture. Mastodon also provides users with options to filter specific words and content.
It even looks like a Tweetdeck. Just watch this screenshot:
A retweet equivalent to a mastodon is called a promotion. Likes are called favorites, and your messages can contain no more than 240 characters, but 500 characters.
The username format is @username, but that changes here. See the top icon on the timeline? This is from @ RadicalEdward @ hackers.town. This is an example of a federated Mastodon network. @RadicalEdward is the user, but @ hackers.town shows that the user is posting from another instance.
The screenshot shows Mastodon.social, one of the largest – if not the largest – specimens. With over 200,000 users, this is not the place to connect with people. You will drown in the noise.
When you join Mastodon, you can browse the listings of instances and sort by category, and there are quite a few categories to choose from. I have seen several examples, including one for French speakers, one for botanical culture, and even one for witches.
When you click Join Mastodon, you are greeted with a login / account creation screen that asks for your username, your email address, password and prompts you to accept the server’s terms and conditions. Fill them in and voila: you’re inside.
Just keep in mind that your profile will be blank until you complete it. Your username can also appear in a different instance, since the only place the server checks for duplicates is in the instance you are joining to.
If you’re interested in the idea of ??a corporate-free social network, try Mastodon. The more people switch to software that supports a free and open Internet, the better the future of the world wide web will be.