Mastodon: how the decentralized social network that (possibly) replaces Twitter works

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    After the purchase of Twitter by Elon Musk, many users began to look for a new social network where they could “migrate”. Some major investors have suspended their Twitter ads due to growing concerns about content moderation. All this leads to a significant drop in income, as Musk himself stated.

    Around 877,000 Twitter users deactivated their accounts and 497,000 had their accounts suspended between October 27 and November 1, according to Bot Sentinel, more than double the usual figure. And, according to an interview with Time by Mastodon founder and chief developer Yevgeny Rochko, four days after Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter, 120,000 new users landed on the open source decentralized social network.

    According to data released by the social network itself, as of November 7, there are more than 4 thousand active servers and 1 million users with +157%. These include Twitter-style microblogging, as well as Reddit, with a 500-character limit, which is described as “the world’s largest free, open-source, decentralized microblogging network.” This is because it does not rely on a single central server, but on a network of connected “nodes”, so much so that it is also defined as a “federated social network”.


    Mastodon, what is it and how does it work

    Mastodon is not a new social network, in fact it has been around since 2006, but has not yet been highly acclaimed by users frequenting other social networks such as Twitter. In particular, due to its structure and functioning, the social network is very far from Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and perhaps closer to Reddit. For those unfamiliar with forums or less tech savvy, Mastodon may seem counter-intuitive.

    The peculiarity of Mastodon is that it is not run by one company that controls its servers, but by anyone who wants to participate in the initiative. Thus, with widespread and “free” ownership, it is impossible that there could be a case (like the case with Twitter, Facebook or Instagram) where one person, in this case Elon Musk, controls the entire system.

    Mastodon is divided into several worlds or regions, each server representing one of them. In fact, if you want to be a part of this new world, it is important to choose a server to register on, there are many of them, divided by geographic areas.

    The advantage of such a structured system is obviously that no one can control the whole Mastodon, you can have direct control from companies or people on one or more servers in the “world” but not all of them because anyone can add new regions . In truth, it’s like going back to the origins of the Internet, when there were no platforms and anyone could be online through an independent site, blog, or forum.

    As always, there are downsides, and in particular, they are related to content moderation – an issue that affects many social networks – and there are no “general and official” rules in Mastodon, so content moderation policies may vary from region to region.

    Mastodon puts decision making back in your hands. Each server creates its own rules that are applied locally rather than top-down as in corporate social networks, making it more flexible to meet the needs of different groups of people. Join a rules server you agree with or host your own.

    Can Mastodon really replace Twitter?

    Is Mastodon really an alternative to Twitter? According to many, yes, social networks are not bad and have their advantages. But, of course, history teaches that it is not easy to replace a widespread and used social network such as Twitter, which, we must not forget, has revolutionized the world of information and political communications.

    On the other hand, “independent” social networks have to deal with their powerful rivals who do not accept the presence of competitors. Since the emergence of platforms, we have been returning to talk about the origins, about a network that is hostless and respects privacy. Perhaps this is the right opportunity for Mastodon.

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