You might have heard of something called “Mastodon” recently in relation with the current acquisition of Twitter by Elon Musk. Since the purchase and many of the proposed changes to the platform, people have been seeking alternatives to the social media network and Mastodon is at the top of that list.
But what exactly is Mastodon?
Unlike Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, Mastodon isn’t a social network platform. It’s a decentralized network of different platforms hosted by different people than can connect to each other. Decentralized meaning groups aren’t all hosted on a single platform, and they all operate completely independently of each other. For example, if Facebook decided tomorrow to shut down, all the groups created on facebook.com would shut down with it. On a platform like Mastodon, no one group shutting down would affect the others.
Anyone can grab the source code for Mastodon and spin up their own Mastodon server with a little bit of resources and technical know-how and have their very own social media group. They can then choose how their server interacts with others. They can try to join different networks or groups of other Mastodon servers, or they can block other servers from connecting with them as well.
Each different server that is created can make its own rules and policies which are only enforced by the people in that server. Meaning that there is no one single entity than can dictate what is allowed on all Mastodon servers.
You can join different servers and new posts on each server will collect on your own home page creating a similar experience to twitter. Posts across servers will appear in the order that they are uploaded so you will see the newest posts first then see the older post as you scroll down, an extremely similar experience to Twitter and with the post from the people you follow.
As a user you can start using Mastodon a few different ways by using the official Mastodon app or website or using one of the many third-party apps that can connect to Mastodon servers.
All in all, Mastodon is an extremely enticing option for people who care about the decentralized operation and independence of the platforms they choose to connect with people on and the longevity of said platform.