With Elon Musk as the new sole owner of Twitter, some users are jumping ship and taking refuge on a new platform: Mastodon. Well, it’s been around since 2016, but it’s seeing a wave of incoming users in light of the uncertainty of Twitter’s future. Before Musk’s deal closed, Mastodon had fewer than 400,000 users, but early in the week of November 7, the platform surpassed a million users. Such a big jump begs the questions: what’s so great about Mastodon, and is it becoming the new Twitter?
What is Mastodon?
Mastodon was created back in 2016 by German software developer Eugen Rochko. The platform brands itself as “free, open-source decentralized social media.” This means it’s not just a single website, but a decentralized network of thousands of servers that reach across the world. It’s also open-source software, so anyone can create their own server to host users. This unique feature means that no one person controls the whole network.
When you first create an account, you choose a server to join. This creates your profile address, but it doesn’t stop you from also communicating with users on other servers.
The thousands of servers to choose from include groups for music lovers, technology students, animators, climate justice activists, and so much more. If you’re interested in it, there’s probably a server for it. The servers can be run by individuals, groups or organizations, and each one creates its own set of rules for joining and moderation policies.
Create an account and check out the servers for yourself here.
How does it compare to Twitter?
Disillusioned Twitter users are flocking to Mastodon, but how does it really hold up against Twitter? Let’s look at some of the similarities and differences between the two platforms.
Similarities to Twitter
Like Twitter, Mastodon is a platform where you can share your thoughts with your followers, primarily in the form of short text posts. Mastodon’s equivalent of tweets were originally referred to as “toots,” but many users are now just calling them “posts.”
Also like Twitter, you can reply, like, bookmark, and use hashtags. The equivalent of a retweet is called a “boost.”
Mastodon doesn’t support the concept of quote tweeting, because the creator says it encourages users to talk at their audience, rather than with the original poster.
In addition, you can’t directly message someone in a private inbox.
There are no verified check marks on Mastodon, although some servers have their own methods for proving legitimacy. A server for scientists, for example, may restrict its users to those who can prove they have published their own research.
When it comes to age and gender, the distribution is uncannily symmetrical between Twitter and Mastodon. The 25-34 age range is the most prominent on both platforms, and both platforms skew male. Check out the charts below, courtesy of our awesome analyst. (Thanks, Brandon!)
As far as browsing habits go, News & Media holds the top spot on Mastodon, just above Computer Electronics and Video Games. The top industry on Twitter is Adult, followed again by Video Games and Computer Electronics.
Is Mastodon a viable replacement for Twitter?
An important note is that it isn’t built nearly as well as Twitter. With such a decentralized network, it’s hard to ensure that quality is consistent across servers and locations.
On the other hand, Mastodon is much more customizable by nature, and you can join communities based on your interests and personal preferences on moderation policies.
Lastly, even after hitting one million users, Mastodon’s audience is still a tiny fraction of that on Twitter. This could be great for you, though, if you’re looking for a social platform that allows for more constructive conversations and personal connection.
Is Mastodon good for brands?
So…what now? With the uncertainty of what lies in Twitter’s future under its new ownership, should brands start following users to Mastodon?
Firstly, Mastodon doesn’t allow for paid advertising. With only a million users spread across thousands of servers, there’s no way – as of right now – for brands to reach as wide of an audience as they’re used to on other social platforms.
And in such niche communities on Mastodon, it would be difficult for brands to join in on conversations organically. We’re not sure Mastodon is the right place for brands to insert themselves just yet. But if its exponential growth continues, there could soon be room for brands to dip their toes in the water. We’ll be keeping an eye out!
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