What Is the Social Media App Mastodon?

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There’s been a lot of talk of social media networks in the weeks following Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter, and one of the names that keeps coming up is Mastodon. What is this new platform, and is it just a Twitter clone with no additional features? Read on below to find out.

Is Mastodon just a Twitter clone?

Mastodon has gotten attention in the media recently due to some users of the social media platform Twitter saying they’re changing platforms. The platform is structured similarly to Twitter, allowing users to have their own microblog with posts of up to 500 words. Mastodon also includes familiar features such as likes, replies, hashtags, bookmarks, and “boosting,” which is similar to retweeting on Twitter.

At first glance, Mastodon seems to just be a Twitter clone for users who are unhappy with Twitter due to its new ownership, but when you take a closer look, it’s much more dynamic than that.

A decentralized platform

First of all, Mastodon is a decentralized platform. The site is broken up into servers, where individual users are able to host their own spaces for communication with others within a community. This means that the platform will function almost like Discord or Reddit, with individual communities that each have their own policies and moderators. An individual user is able to join as many communities as they’d like.

Communities decide what content is appropriate for them

The decentralized nature of Mastodon means that each server will be able to decide which content they want to allow, unlike the top-down moderation style of platforms like Twitter and Facebook. This means that users who are uncomfortable with a particular type of content can simply choose to only be part of servers that disallow it. The disadvantage of this is that there’ll be no sitewide resource to stop users from communicating in undesirable ways.

Open source code

Another interesting feature of Mastodon is that the platform is open-source, meaning that anyone can read and study the code that makes up the site. Open-source code means that the site isn’t able to integrate tricky algorithms that are designed to make the platform more profitable by keeping you scrolling forever. If you’re interested in the development of the site, you can browse all of Mastodon’s code on GitHub.

How popular is Mastodon?

While Mastodon has been a common name in the media and on social media recently, the platform doesn’t yet have enough users to compete with social media giants like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. As of the beginning of this month, Mastodon had just over a million active users, although this number seems to be growing relatively quickly.

As of last week, Twitter has 259.4 million daily active users, and their numbers seem to only be increasing following Elon Musk’s purchase of the company. Even this pales against Instagram’s over 500 million daily active users and Facebook’s nearly 2 billion daily active users. It’s clear that Meta’s Facebook is still the dominant force in social media, but it’s interesting to see new and innovative platforms taking the spotlight.

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