What you need to know about Twitter alternative Mastodon

CNN Business

If you’ve heard the word “mastodon” a lot since Elon Musk took over Twitter in late October, here’s why: The extinct mammal is also the name of a relatively small, previously little-known social network that’s rapidly growing in popularity. many Twitter users try it as an alternative to connecting with others online.

Mastodon allows users to connect to many different servers run by different groups and individuals, rather than a central platform controlled by one company like Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. While all of these social networks are free to use, Mastodon is also ad-free. It was developed in 2016 by a non-profit organization run by Eugen Rochko, who created Mastodon, and is supported by crowdfunding, as well as individuals and groups who run the servers.

Users have been avoiding Twitter for the last few days, or at least for this one looking for a second place Airing their opinions online as the better-known social network faces layoffs, controversial product changes, an expected shift in its approach to content moderation, and a spike in hateful rhetoric.

In a Mastodon post late Sunday, Rochko said the social network gained 489,000 users in less than two weeks and now has more than a million active monthly users. (For perspective, Twitter reported about 238 million daily active monetized users in July.)

“It’s pretty cool,” Rochko said of the milestone.

I’m one of these Mastodon newbies, trying it out for curiosity, and Twitter feels more and more toxic over time. In my little corner of the decentralized social network, more and more people have been arriving for days, with long-time users offering advice and answering questions. It’s fun and energizing, and to be honest, it’s a lot like the early days of Twitter.

But while searching for a new social network can be exciting, it can also be challenging. Mastodon and Twitter have some similarities, but they are completely different – both in how they work and how they are operated. Whether you’re interested in quitting Twitter or want to check out something new, read on to learn how to sign up and grow with Mastodon.

Many of Mastodon’s features and layout (especially in its iOS and Android apps) will look familiar to current Twitter users, albeit with slightly different wording. You can follow others, create short posts (there’s a 500 character limit and you can upload photos and videos), like or repost other users’ posts, and more.

Although Mastodon is quite different, the registration process can be especially irritating for new users. This is because it’s not as simple as opening an app or web page and creating a username and password – you also need to choose a server where your Mastodon account will live.

First, don’t panic: No technical knowledge is required to register, but you will have to follow a few steps to create your account and be patient because the influx of new users has put a lot of pressure on it. many servers.

Go to this web page and if you want to get started quickly, click on the little drop down menu that says “signup speed” and set it to “instant” to see the servers you can sign up to right away.

Then select a server. There are general interest servers like mastodon.world; regional servers such as sfba.social aimed at people in the San Francisco Bay Area; and those aimed at different interests (many servers review new signups before approving them – for example by asking potential users why they want to join – you may have to wait if you want to join one in particular).

You’ll also need to decide how you want to access Mastodon — I suggest trying the iOS or Android app on a smartphone, but there are plenty of other free and paid apps that will do the job. On the Internet, I can access Mastodon through the server I’m registered with.

One of the hardest parts of joining Mastodon for me was finding people I knew and people I wanted to follow. Partly because there are no algorithmically generated suggestions on who to follow, you’re not scanning your contacts for people you know, and you don’t know if people you follow on other social media networks are already using Mastodon (or what controls they’re using). if they are already there, they use them again).

Like Twitter, you can use hashtags on Mastodon to search for topics and people (“#TwitterMigration” is currently popular with newcomers). Like Twitodon, Mastodon also has some tools you can use to find Twitter friends. To get people I follow to add Mastodon usernames to their Twitter profile names, I took a more manual route by searching for “Mastodon” on Twitter.

As my real-life and virtual friends show up on Mastodon, I’m tempted to see who they’re following or who they’re following, but it can be difficult. You can follow any other Mastodon user, regardless of what server they’re registered with, but in general, you can easily see who your friends are following or are following only if they’re using the same server as you. (If you follow someone whose account is hosted on your server, you’ll also be able to see a full list of people they follow and are following.) Rochko told me how he thinks he can improve the experience.

Once you’ve settled on a server and a few people to follow, you’ll want to start reading other people’s posts and posting your own. You will quickly notice many subtle differences from Twitter. For example, users’ updates are sorted chronologically rather than algorithmically, as in Twitter and many other social networks.

There’s also no Mastodon equivalent of Twitter’s quote-tweet feature, where you can repost another user’s post and add your own thoughts to it. Your closest approach is to copy and paste the link to the user’s post into a new post and add your own comments – although anyone who sees your post will have to click on that link if they want to understand what you’re talking about.

These differences are not bad, and some may actually be good; this can make posting on Mastodon feel a bit less reactive than Twitter, which is great for anyone who gets annoyed by other people’s social media posts. Many who try Mastodon seem ready for a change.

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