Remember when Game of Thrones was coming to an end and it felt like every network under the sun was trying to lure a generation of fantasy addicts into their own series to fill the void?
As people are looking for, this is how social media feels right now Twitter Alternatives to Elon Musk’s post-acquisition make sense for some alternatives.
The one that gets the most attention is Mastodon, which isn’t actually new, but has soared up the charts on iOS and Android with an influx of users trying to decide whether Dudu is a worthwhile replacement for tweeting.
Wondering if it’s right for you? Let’s see if we can help.
Direct to me – what is Mastodon?
The most direct pitch is that it’s a bit like Twitter, but not all in one place.
This isn’t meant to be simplistic — but there’s reason to believe that newcomers will try it, since it’s designed with a lot of the things people use Twitter in mind.
You create profiles, you have followers and followers, you write posts (these are beeps), you can attach media, you can reply, share or favorite other people’s posts, and there are tags and news tags.
If you want all of them, this is probably the best option for you. But there is more work to be done…
It sounds ominous – what’s the problem?
Mastodon first launched in 2016, and there’s a reason it hasn’t taken off in a big way until now.
Let’s not pretend Twitter has only started showing signs of chaos in the past few weeks — it’s been a platform with a lot of problems.
But while Twitter is relatively simplistic in terms of signing up and understanding its complexities, Mastodon harks back to the early days of the internet with his decentralized approach.
It’s not a single platform, but describes itself as “a network of millions of users in independent communities that all interact with each other”.
So when you create a Mastodon account, it might be helpful not to even think of it as a Mastodon account. Instead, think of it as an account for whatever community you choose to sign up for.
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How do these communities work?
You might notice some people talking about the way to be part of something like “Arsenal Twitter” or “Star Wars Twitter” (that’s me, I’m just describing myself). That’s what the Mastodon community is, but – at least for now – wider.
When you create an account, you must choose a community to join, which is reflected in your username. So anyone visiting my profile will see me as firstname.lastname@example.org.
But you’ll also see other national ones like @mastodon.ie, generic ones like @mastodon.social, and seemingly cat-loving ones like @mastodon.cats.
Perhaps the key difference is that communities (also called servers or instances) are run by individuals, not Mastodon itself, so they can all have their own moderation.
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But isn’t moderation the reason people leave Twitter?
Mastodon’s case is that you can join servers with specific rules you want to enforce, and Twitter enforces any rules Elon Musk want to
When you opt in, the community will show their rules – for example, @glasgow.social includes prohibitions on discrimination, incitement to violence, spam and anything illegal in the UK and Germany.
If you report a post, it will be sent to the owner of the server.
But not only can they decide whether to delete a post, but they can also decide to shut down an entire community — which would require you to sign up for a new one.
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Are there any cool people to follow?
Mastodon seems to be growing fast, but has a very small base. The community shows how many users they have, I have 18,000 in the UK.
You can find a list of suggested people to follow no matter which server they are in, but this doesn’t automatically show up when you sign up.
When you follow someone, their posts will appear in a timeline-like format – no algorithm-driven sorting or ads to clutter your carefully curated feed.
It’s hard to know how many celebrity faces there are. Mastodon’s website says it doesn’t verify people, but can cross-reference posted links to show whether the person who shared them is the real owner. So if I share this article on Mastodon, it can see my byline and tick it off.
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So, is this good…?
It depends – if you want a similar Twitter alternative, it could be such a close but so far frustrating case.
Squint looks like Twitter, more like it than other mainstream apps like Facebook, and its focus on text means it doesn’t step on the toes of TikTok or other up-and-comers like BeReal.
The key question is, if Mastodon continues to grow, is it sticking to its own principles or twisting it to please the masses?
Of course, the most important factor in any social media platform is the people. Mastodon can feel a little lonely and overwhelmed if your Twitter followers aren’t taking action.
Now, you may be like me, with only your own horn.