The Alternative Social Platform: Mastodon

This decentralized social media platform has lately garnered attention and many new users looking for an alternative.
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Hritika Singh
November 9, 2022

A lot of people on the internet have found their “new Twitter” ever since Elon Musk took over. And while there are many platforms lately making the buzz on social, one stands out - Mastodon. This decentralized social media platform has lately garnered attention and many new users looking for an alternative.

But what’s the deal with decentralized social media? Is it just another buzzword? Can it really change the way we look at social media?

Let’s find out.

But first some context.

Mastodon’s origin story

If you heard about Mastodon very recently, you’ll find people comparing it with Twitter. But Mastodon was first released in October 2016. It is reported that the community at that time wasn’t big enough to influence people to switch platforms.

Interestingly, in the years since inception, the spikes in new users have been on several occasions. The timelines coincide with the #deletefacebook era when user privacy issues were raised followed by another spike in December 2018 when Tumblr decided to ban all sensitive content from their platform. Another spike was around late 2019 due to Twitter moderation policies. As I write this, Mastodon has more and more users flocking toward it.

Till now, Mastodon has always been perceived as the ideal “alternative” social media platform.

But what is it exactly?

Mastodon is a microblogging platform, similar to Twitter except the character limitation is up to 500 words. Think of it as a collection of thousands of social networks run on servers across the world forming a collective network. But it is not owned by one person or firm.

“You sign up for a specific server, which is run by whoever set it up, usually volunteers doing it out of their own pocket or taking donations through Patreon. They’ll have their own rules and policies on, for example, who can join and how strictly the conversation will be moderated.” writes The Guardian

You guessed it right. This is what they mean by a decentralized social platform. It can’t be bought, sold, or owned by a single entity.

However, the person running your server has the power to decide if they want to close your account. To make it fairer, Mastodon asks the server owners to give three-month notice to accounts that they have decided to shut.

It is entirely run by volunteers and you are free from the paid-for ads on your feed.

So is it better than Twitter?

We’ll leave that up to you to decide. But here’s how it is similar but different from Twitter.

  • On Mastodon you don't tweet, you toot. The character limitations of your toot are double that of Twitter - 500 words.
  • Hashtags work similar to any social media platform. On Mastodon, you have more control over who sees or interacts with your post.
  • You can be verified for free. The verification feature on Mastodon is available for everyone. All you need to do is to link to any website that you own.
  • The usernames look different on Mastodon. It is a combination of the name you have chosen and the organization/person that owns your server.
  • There are no paid ads but you can always make a post promoting your project/product.

While it looks like a dream platform, there have been concerns raised around moderation especially when the members grow drastically on the platform. So, can it replace Twitter? Only time will tell.

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