With Twitter in chaos, Mastodon is on fire

With Twitter in chaos, Mastodon is on fire
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CNN Business

In the week from Elon Musk took over TwitterThe number of people signing up for a small social network called Mastodon has increased.

You may not have heard of Mastodon, which has been around since 2016, but is now growing rapidly. Some are fleeing Twitter for it or at least looking for a second place to post your thoughts online as the much better-known social network is facing layoffs, controversial product changes, an expected shift in its approach to content moderation, and a leap into hateful rhetoric.

There may not be a clear alternative to Twitter, a uniquely influential platform that is fast-moving, text-heavy, conversational, and news-oriented. But Mastodon scratches a certain itch. The service looks similar to Twitter, with a timeline of short updates arranged chronologically rather than algorithmically. It allows users to join a large number of different servers managed by various groups and individuals, rather than a central platform controlled by a single company like Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.

Unlike the larger social networks, Mastodon is free to use and free of ads. It is developed by a non-profit organization led by Mastodon creator Eugen Rochko and is supported by fundraising.

Mastodon is free, open source software for running self-hosted social networking services.

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

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

Mastodon’s new registrations include some Twitter users with large followings, such as actors and comedians. kathy griffinwho joined at the beginning of November, and the 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 Research, started using Mastodon in earnest on Oct. 30, just after Musk took over Twitter. (She had created another account years ago, she said, but didn’t really get into it until recently because of Twitter’s popularity among people in academia.)

Roberts, who worked at Twitter as a staff researcher earlier this year while taking a leave of absence from UCLA, said she was inspired to start using Mastodon because of concerns about how Twitter’s content moderation may change under the control of Musk. She suspects that some newcomers are simply fed up with social media companies that capture a lot of user data and are driven by advertising.

And he noted that Twitter users may migrate to Mastodon in particular because its user experience is quite similar to Twitter’s. Many of Mastodon’s features and design (particularly in its iOS app) will look and feel familiar to current Twitter users, albeit with slightly different verbiage; you can follow others, create short posts (there is a 500 character limit and you can upload images and videos), bookmark or repost other users’ posts, etc.

“It’s as close as you can get,” he said.

I’ve been a Twitter user since 2007, but as a growing number of people I follow on the social network have started posting their Mastodon usernames in recent weeks, I was curious. This week, I decided to check out Mastodon for myself.

There are some key differences, particularly in how the network is configured. Because Mastodon user accounts are hosted on a large number of different servers, the costs of hosting users are spread across many different people and groups. But that also means users are scattered far and wide, and the people you know can be hard to find. Rochko likened this setup to having different email providers, like Gmail and Hotmail.

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

In Mastodon, for example, you have to join a specific server to sign up, some of which are open to anyone, some of which require an invitation (you can also Run your own server). There is a server operated by the non-profit organization behind Mastodon,, but it is not accepting more users; I’m currently using one called, which is also where I can log in to access Mastodon on the web.

And while you can follow any other Mastodon user, no matter what server you’re logged into, you can only see lists of who your Mastodon friends are following, or who your Mastodon friends are following, if the followers belong to the same server with the one that is registered (I realized this while trying to track down more people I know who have recently registered).

At first, I felt like I was starting over, in a sense, like a newcomer 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 engage 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 sheer size of that network makes any post feel less important. However, I quickly got over it and realized that Mastodon’s smaller scale can be soothing compared to Twitter’s endless stream of stimulation.

However, I’m not quite ready to close my Twitter account; For me, Mastodon is a kind of social media escape hatch in case Twitter becomes unbearable.

Roberts also hasn’t decided yet whether to close his Twitter account, but he was surprised at how quickly his following on Mastodon grew. A week after signing up and alerting his nearly 23,000 Twitter followers, she has amassed over 1,000 Mastodon followers.

“It could be very soon that people don’t want to be caught on Twitter,” he said.

In a way, starting over can be fun too.

“I thought, ‘What will it be like to start over?'” he asked. “It’s kind of interesting: Oh, that person is here! Here’s so-and-so! I’m so glad they’re here so we can be here together.”

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