Elon Musk has a new problem on his hands: Under his leadership, some users are fleeing Twitter for a lesser-known, non-profit social media site called Mastodon, which Musk has insulted in a number of deleted tweets. What you need to know:
- The basics: Mastodon, founded in 2016 by software developer Eugen Rochko, describes itself as a "free open-source decentralized social media platform" that strives to be "a viable alternative to Twitter," per the New York Times. Accessible via app or web browser, it counts 4.5 million users, or more than twice as many as Donald Trump's Truth Social.
- Truth Social connection: Like Wikipedia, Mastodon is an open-source platform, meaning its "source code is publicly available and can be redistributed and changed," per the Times. Per TechCrunch, "Truth Social initially launched with Mastodon code and passed it off as if it were original software."
- Servers: The code is key. Rather than one centralized platform, Mastodon is made up of user-run servers (there are at least 4,000, each with their own rules), which are operated by volunteers or paid for with crowdfunding. Mastodon funds its own servers, Mastodon Social and Mastodon Online, using Patreon, a platform of members who pay for content from creators. It hosts no ads.
- How to join: You sign up for an account on a particular server, some of which require approval or an invitation. Those listed on the sign-up page have agreed to "active moderation against racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia," per the Guardian. Some are specific to location, others to interest.
- Toots: The name of the server will be included in your username—read as @[username]@[the server]—though you can switch servers and/or interact with users on different servers. Users interact via posts known as "toots"—Mastodon's equivalent of a tweet, with a 500-character limit—which aren't sorted using an algorithm but are presented chronologically, per CNN.
- Control who sees what: You can choose whether a toot can be seen across the server or by only those mentioned, like with a direct message, per the Guardian. You can also "boost" other people's toots, like with a retweet on Twitter, though there is no equivalent to quote-tweeting.
- Three timelines: "Your Home timeline shows you posts from people that you follow, similar to Twitter," per TechCrunch. "The Local timeline shows posts from all users in your server, while the Federated timeline shows you all public posts from users that people in your server follow."
- Free verification: Users say finding and following people you know is a bit tricky. But whereas verification on Twitter will soon cost $8 per month, it's free on Mastodon so long as you have your own website.
- A milestone: Rochko posted Monday that Mastodon had amassed 489,003 new users and 1,124 new servers since Oct. 27—the day Musk took control of Twitter. "We've hit 1,028,362 monthly active users across the network," he added, per Yahoo. Mastodon has been using Twitter to recruit users, tweeting that it's "the better social media that does not belong to a single company and cannot be sold."
- Insults from Musk: Twitter’s new owner recently "tweeted at least three derogatory comments about Mastodon" though he soon deleted them, per the Times. In one case, he tweeted a screenshot of a profile page in which the Mastodon name had been changed. "If you don't like Twitter anymore, there is awesome site called Masterbatedone," he wrote.
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