Have you heard about Mastodon? It’s the hot new Twitter-clone social media network that has critics thinking it’s here to stay! It’s a little like Twitter and Reddit rolled into one – but don’t be quick to say it’s just a copycat.
After creating an account, users follow people and post updates on a timeline, called “toots” (yes, it sounds very similar to “tweets”). However, updates can be up to 500 characters long, as opposed to Twitter’s 140. Each toot can also be marked as private or public, a move that is helping to set Mastodon apart from Twitter. Users can hide part of a toot, where the information can only be revealed by clicking “see more.”
The platform consists of various user-created networks, called instances, each of which determines its own laws. There are instances that focus on animal rights, the LGBT community, and more. A new user can join one of these more specific instances that fits them best, or the general Mastodon.social. The system aims to preserve free speech and keep out trolls.
Think of instances like email accounts. People with a Gmail account can email those with a Yahoo email address. They are two different services, but they both talk over the shared platform of email. In the same way, users on different Mastodon servers can still talk to each other. You can check out every person’s update in your instance on the Local Timeline. And you can still see everyone’s toots on the network-wide Federated Timeline.
Started by 24-year-old Eugen Rochko, Mastodon is a type of free and open source software (FOSS) known as “GNU social.” There’s no focus on money at all for Mastodon – no investors or ads, apart from a Patreon account, which allows users to make micro-payments to creators. Rochko was hoping to make $800/a month, but its already surpassed $2800.
Rochko created Mastodon after growing disenchanted with Twitter. Like many others, Rochko sees problems in Twitter’s advertising policies and its ongoing failure to root out harassment.
The whole goal of Mastodon is to make it more user-focused, and to help solve the troll problem of Twitter. It makes it easy to communicate with like-minded people in a safe environment that’s also easy to use. For these reasons, Mastodon is growing rapidly – with just 24,000 users a few weeks ago, there are now over 290,000. Is the new social media platform here to stay? It’s hard to tell. There’s been a history of flash-in-the-pan new social networks that were big and buzzy, but quickly failed.
“Suggesting that Mastodon will replace Twitter is like asking if Facebook will replace email,” said writer Ingrid Burrington. “They do fundamentally different things.”
There is something about Mastodon, however that is causing critics to pause and reconsider just writing it off. It seems to bring Twitter back to its roots, before it got taken over by trolls and hateful tweets. A place to chat on social media, without the risk of harassment? It’s worth checking out. Try out Mastodon for yourself, and you might be ready to say “Goodbye, Twitter!”
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