Mastodon isn’t a replacement for Twitter—but it has its rewards

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Ever since Elon Musk took over Twitter, the decentralized social media network has grown to hundreds of thousands of users.

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SOPA Images via Getty Images / LightRocket The decentralized social media network has grown significantly since Elon Musk took over Twitter, but it is still a small community with a confusing interface and few resources. But for users tired of the chaos of Twitter, those shortcomings may be features rather than bugs.

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Over the past week and a half, the world’s richest man, Elon Musk, took control of Twitter, after other power users of the platform announced they were out. Comedian Kathy Griffin, TV writer and producer David Slack, filmmaker Jeremy Newberger—all of them—announced they were leaving Twitter in favor of another social media service: Mastodon.

tech journalist Casey Newton, The one who has been an inactive user on Mastodon since 2017 said that he has seen an increase in his followers on the platform. And it’s not just that — since Musk acquired Twitter, Mastodon reports that it’s seen a more than 55% increase in its users. Which sounds great until you realize that it’s still a total user base of about 655,000 people — or less than 0.3% of Twitter’s 238 million users.

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A decentralized software built on open standards, Mastodon is a platform that some experts say holds promise for those who want to avoid Twitter. But it is not yet. Still in its early stages, the platform is fraught with its own challenges. It has far fewer high-profile influencers than other social media sites, not to mention a confusing interface that makes creating a profile a daunting task for some. And even though Twitter is laying off 50% of its roughly 7,500 employees, that would still leave it with about 3,750 employees — 3,749 more than Mastodon, as it continues to run various aspects of the service. Depends mainly on volunteers.

Launched in 2017, the non-profit Mastodon isn’t exactly a single social media hangout. Instead, it provides open source software that can be used to run social networking sites, which can be hosted freely by any user. So in functionality, it is similar to Twitter (except that users ‘broken’ instead of ‘tweet’), in structure it is more reminiscent of Reddit: Mastodon has 3,000 servers, each with its own privacy settings, content moderation team and There are community guidelines. Users on different servers can communicate with each other, but server ownership is spread among nonprofits, individual administrators, and hobbyists so that no single entity has control over the entire network.

When new users want to try out Mastodon, they can choose to join a server based on their interest or region. Servers include (“a climate positive community for people in EU countries primarily (but not limited to)”) and (“anti-fascists, members of the LGBTQ+ community, hackers and such a community-friendly community”) and (“the domain is somewhat good not only for nerds”), among others.

The CEO of the nonprofit, 29-year-old Eugen Rochko, began working on Mastodon (which he named for American heavy metal band) in 2016 while he was studying at Friedrich Schiller University in Germany. As a heavy Twitter user, he started noticing changes that bothered him. “I was growing dissatisfied with Twitter, the company and the platform,” Rochko tells Forbes. “It made me realize that having a way to express myself online was so important to be in the hands of a single corporation that could do with it whatever it wanted without recourse.”

German software engineer-turned-entrepreneur Eugen Rochko, 29, wants Mastodon, part of the “Fedivers” network, to grow as users leave Twitter in search of alternative social media platforms.

Eugene Rochko

Mastodon users’ dissatisfaction with Twitter is heavy as new people inflow come in. The term #twittermigration is currently trending on the platform to discuss their trading old platform for new. One user glanced at Mastodon’s potential $8 Twitter verification fee, “Putting a dumb check mark next to my name to indicate that I donated (over $8) to Mastodon in support of #twittermigration.” Another posted about the Twitter layoffs. “People’s laptops are being remotely wiped and company logins revoked before they’re even officially told they’re being made redundant. Big business is a tough old game, but it’s cold.” Has an inhuman level of #twittermigration #Twitter”

Asked what he thinks about Musk taking over Twitter, he said he has seen the rise of racist slurs and hate speech on the platform hours after Musk’s takeover. “So things are not looking great there. I don’t trust his leadership skills,” he says.

That said, things don’t look exactly sunny in Mastodon either. Being the only employee of the company means additional pressure on Rochco and the servers it runs, especially the most popular server, “It creates a lot of load on our end and a lot of slowdown that we have to deal with and upgrade hardware to deal with,” he says. “Ideally people should be spread out among these different servers.”

“I think the structure lends itself to more discussion and discourse than a knee-jerk retweet.”

York University social media researcher Robert Gehl

Mastodon is far from being a mainstream social media platform, says Gergeli Oros, who writes about software engineering. They have seen a section of the tech community migrate to Mastodon over the past few years and have seen a sharp influx following this week’s Twitter test. But new Mastodon users are often unaware of its functionality and frustrated by its complex structure, which is quite different from the one-stop shop that Twitter offers. Having multiple places to interact on stage was part of Rochko’s vision to make Mastodon more accessible to the wider public. Even so, users often get lost in the myriad of servers.

Dave Hoffman says, “The whole thing is built on a vaguely utopian notion of freedom, but in practice you see confused users wondering where their friends have gone when they switch servers and they are trying to trick impersonators into other servers.” But how can I stop it from popping up? For those reasons the use of mastodons was discontinued.

There’s also friction for users who only want to sign up on a specific server to find that the server is no longer accepting new users because it wants to remain a smaller community. There are also complaints about features popular on Twitter but missing on Mastodon, such as creating lists, searching followers, and searching users’ totes.

The volunteer-driven nature of server-based communities has other drawbacks as well. Longtime user Heather Flowers, who considers Mastodon as one of her homes online, says that the decentralized nature of “Fedivers” (a group of social media apps that use the same decentralized principles as Mastodon) This makes it vulnerable to breakage and crumbling at any time. Time. “The mere act of having an account puts you in subjection to the administrators of your server,” she says. “If your admin gets into a fight with another server’s admin, all of a sudden you’re in a flame war between your server and their server.”

The second challenge to Mastodon’s ability to scale up is that it has far fewer resources than Twitter. Instead of relying on investors, Mastodon survives on donations, crowdfunding, sponsorships, and grants. The platform is free of advertisements and thus does not collect any of its user data. But, its frugality means it has no real way to generate revenue the way other platforms do now. (Though the technology could be monetized in the future by charging people or businesses a fee to host accounts on their servers.)

“The solution is not a copy of Twitter without Elon Musk. The solution is a different paradigm of social media.”

Eugene Rochko

With all these challenges, it is unlikely that Mastodon will replace Twitter anytime soon. However, for longtime Twitter users who are tired of its loud, chaotic discourse, Mastodon may provide something better than a replacement: a much-needed respite.

Mastodon and other apps in “Fedivers” were designed to spread control over the servers, making each of them small and manageable, says Robert Gehl, research chair of digital governance at York University, leading to strict content moderation. More transparency was allowed. Social media for a decade and a Mastodon user for over five years. “I think the structure lends itself to more discussion and discourse than a knee-jerk retweet.”

“Twitter is a central place. A walled garden,” says Tinker Sekor, a security researcher who signed up for Mastodon in 2017. He says people are drawn to mastodons because “anger algorithms” are not driving conversations. “Conversations are more nuanced, calm, and honest,” he says.

Musk’s take on Twitter provided the impetus that Mastodon needed to gain traction. But Rochko wants to see “Federal” grow. And, he’s optimistic that Musk’s changes to Twitter could encourage people to take the leap and join Mastodon so they can enjoy a different kind of social media experience.

“People who have been joining us there for years have always referred to Twitter as a ‘hell site,’” says Rochko. “The solution is not a copy of Twitter without Elon Musk. The solution is a different paradigm of social media.”

More on Forbes, Musk fires several Twitter employees accused of protecting midterm elections More from Forbes by Katharine Schwab Rupert Murdoch 2.0: How Twitter Gives Elon Musk the Power to Shape Public Opinion From Forbes by Alan Ohsman More Musk has Twitter bills to pay, a blue checkmark by Rashi Srivastava won’t be enoughMore from Forbes ‘Nothing worked’: Musk laments loss of Twitter advertisers and admits tried to back away from deal going by jonathan ponciano

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