People are fleeing Twitter to Mastodon. What is it?

By Rachel Metz | CNN

In the week since Elon Musk took over Twitter, the number of people subscribing to a small social network called Mastodon has skyrocketed.

You may not have heard of Mastodon which has been around since 2016 but is now growing rapidly. Some flee from Twitter for this, or at least looking for a second place to post her thoughts online as the much-known social network faces layoffs, controversial product changes, an expected change in its approach to content moderation, and a surge in hateful rhetoric.

There may not be a clear alternative to Twitter, a uniquely influential platform that is fast-paced, text-heavy, conversational, and news-centric. But Mastodon scratches a certain itch. The service has a similar look and feel to Twitter, with a timeline of brief updates sorted chronologically rather than algorithmically. It allows users to join a number of different servers run by different groups and individuals, rather than a central platform controlled by a single company like Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.

Unlike larger social networks, Mastodon is both free to use and ad-free. It was developed by a non-profit organization led by Mastodon creator Eugen Rochko and is supported via crowdfunding.

Rochko said in an interview on Thursday that Mastodon has gained 230,000 users since Oct. 27, when Musk took control of Twitter. It now has 655,000 monthly active users, he said. Twitter reported in July that it had nearly 238 million daily active, monetizable users.

“It’s obviously not as big as Twitter, but it’s the biggest this network has ever been,” said Rochko, who originally conceived of Mastodon as a project rather than a consumer product (and yes, his name was inspired by it). the heavy metal band Mastodon).

Who joins Mastodon?

Mastodon’s new signings include some well-followed Twitter users, such as: B. Actors and comedians Kathy Griffinwho joined at the beginning of November, and journalist Molly Jong Fastwhich was added at the end of October.

Sarah T. Roberts, an associate professor at UCLA and faculty director of the UCLA Center for Critical Internet Inquiry, started Mastodon in earnest on Oct. 30, shortly after Musk took over Twitter. (She had created another account years ago, she said, but didn’t really go into it until recently because Twitter was so popular among people in science.)

Roberts, who worked as a research associate at Twitter earlier this year while she is retiring from UCLA, said she was inspired to start using Mastodon because of concerns about how Twitter’s content moderation is changing under Musk’s control could. She suspects that some newcomers are simply fed up with social media companies that collect a lot of user data and are driven by advertising.

And she pointed out that Twitter users might migrate to Mastodon, especially because the user experience is quite similar to Twitter. Many of Mastodon’s features and layout (especially on its iOS app) will look and feel familiar to current Twitter users, albeit in slightly different words; You can follow others, create short posts (there is a 500 character limit and you can upload images and videos), favorite or repost other users’ posts, and so on.

“It’s as close as it gets,” she said.

Feeling like a social media newbie

I’ve been a Twitter user since 2007, but as more and more people I follow on the social network started posting their Mastodon usernames over the past few weeks, I got curious. This week I decided to review Mastodon myself.

There are some key differences, especially when setting up the network. Because Mastodon users’ accounts are hosted on a number of different servers, the cost of hosting users is spread across many different people and groups. But that also means users are scattered all over the place and people you know are hard to find — Rochko compared this setup to various email providers like Gmail and Hotmail.

This means the entire network is not under the control of one person or company, but it also introduces some new complications for those of us who are used to Twitter – a product that has also been criticized over the years for Being less intuitive than more popular services like Facebook and Instagram.

For example, on Mastodon you need to join a specific server to sign up, some of which are open to anyone, others require an invite (you can run your own server too). There is a server run by the non-profit organization behind Mastodon,, but it no longer accepts users; I am currently using one called which I can also use to login to access Mastodon on the web.

And while you can follow any other Mastodon user no matter what server they logged into, you can only see the lists of who is following your Mastodon friends or who your Mastodon friends are following if the followers happen to be the same ones Server you signed up to (I noticed this while trying to track down more people I know who have signed up recently).

In the beginning it felt like I was starting over in a way as a total newbie to social media. As Roberts said, it’s pretty similar to Twitter in terms of looks and functionality, and the iOS app is easy to use.

But unlike Twitter, where I can easily interact with a large audience, my Mastodon network has fewer than 100 followers. Suddenly I had no idea what to post – a feeling that never bothers me on Twitter, perhaps because the size of this network makes each post feel less momentous. However, I quickly got over it and realized that Mastodon’s smaller size compared to Twitter’s endless stream of stimulation can be comforting.

A social media escape hatch

However, I’m not ready to shut down my Twitter account just yet; For me, Mastodon is a sort of social media exit hatch in case Twitter becomes unbearable.

Roberts hasn’t decided whether to shut down her Twitter account either, but she was surprised at how quickly her fan base grew on Mastodon. Within a week of signing up and notifying her nearly 23,000 Twitter followers, she has amassed over 1,000 Mastodon followers.

“It could be pretty soon that people don’t want to get caught on Twitter anymore,” she said.

In a way, a fresh start can also be fun.

“I thought, ‘What will it be like to start all over again?'” she asked. “It’s kind of interesting: oh, this person is here! Here is so and so! I’m so glad they’re here so we can be here together.” People are fleeing Twitter to Mastodon. What is it?

Grace Reader

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