Mastodon is a free and open-source, decentralized social network that was created as an alternative to popular social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Unlike these platforms, Mastodon is not owned by a single corporation, but is instead maintained by a network of independent servers, known as instances, each of which operates as a standalone community.
I have been using Mastodon on and off for years, but due to Elon Musk’s aggressive actions with Twitter that seem to be slowly killing the platform, I decided to dive full in and make my own instance at https://social.chiefgyk3d.com. The API access is free, which Twitter has announced they will stop doing, and I love that I can do the tinkering I had planned on Twitter. The real magic of Mastodon is its use of ActivityPub, a decentralized protocol for exchanging messages between users on different instances. This means that you can follow someone on a different instance, just like you can follow someone on a different platform, without having to worry about any walls between instances. I personally tell people, “Mastodon is like Twitter and Discord had a baby, and raised it and treated it like Email.”
Recently, Tumblr announced that they will be integrating ActivityPub (https://tcrn.ch/3V9a1es), bringing the Fediverse (the federation of all instances running on the Mastodon software) even closer to becoming a truly decentralized social network. I love that I have an edit button on Mastodon, which I don’t have on Twitter, as well as much better moderation controls. I even opened the server up to a few friends who didn’t know where to be homed. After a few days of setting up my server and federating properly, I noticed that I was having way more genuine interactions daily on Mastodon than I ever did on Twitter. People were actively discovering my Twitch channel and other content through Mastodon, which almost never happened on Twitter despite having half as many followers as I do on Twitter.
The Fediverse is not just Mastodon, there are other amazing projects such as Pixelfed, an open-source photo blogging platform also using ActivityPub, which I recently started using at https://pics.chiefgyk3d.com/ChiefGyk3D. You can follow me right from your own Mastodon or other ActivityPub account. There’s also PeerTube, a federated competitor to YouTube, and more. I even have this WordPress blog sharing to Mastodon on its own and working on its own ActivityPub integration to follow this site for when there are new posts using a plugin (https://wordpress.org/plugins/activitypub/).
While I did enjoy using Twitter in the past, it’s clear that the platform is slowly dying a death by a thousand cuts. Mastodon, on the other hand, reminds me of the old Twitter with no algorithms and without making me feel like I am a product to be constantly used or sold to. The Fediverse as a whole feels like the internet as I grew up with it, before it became a tool for constant marketing.
Mastodon, and subsequently the Fediverse as a whole is a truly decentralized social network, where users have control over their data and the community is free from the influence of corporations and other entities with conflicting interests. This makes Mastodon and the Fediverse a great alternative for those who are tired of the current state of social media and are looking for a more user-friendly and community-driven experience.
The Fediverse truly represents what decentralization looks like, as opposed to the false promises of decentralization made by some cryptocurrency projects. While projects like Internet Computer (ICP) have their place in the Fediverse, true decentralization requires not only decentralized software but also decentralized infrastructure to run it. This is in stark contrast to some other projects that claim to be decentralized, but in reality, they are primarily located in a single AWS region like Ethereum.
The Fediverse is built on a decentralized infrastructure, where users have control over their data and the community is free from the influence of corporations and other entities with conflicting interests. This makes Mastodon and the Fediverse as a whole a great alternative for those who are looking for a true decentralized experience, free from the centralized control of corporations and other entities. In this sense, the Fediverse truly represents what a truly decentralized web looks like, and is a great example of how the internet can be used to empower users and communities.
Now the question is, how do you join Mastodon/Fediverse, as well as answer a few questions you may also have:
How to join the Mastodon/Fediverse?
Joining the Fediverse is simple. One option is to use https://fediverse.observer/ to find a suitable home server to get started. Alternatively, https://mastodon.social can be used, but keep in mind that this is the largest server and may experience performance issues due to high user traffic, particularly from new users. This detracts from the decentralized nature of the Fediverse. There are also many excellent third-party apps available such as Toot! or SocialHub, or many other ones listed here on Mastodon’s own site. Like email, there are many options for using the Fediverse, and both Mastodon and these third-party apps offer a list of servers that are known for their technical reliability and responsible moderation. For those new to the Fediverse, Mastodon is the easiest and safest way to get started.
Do I need multiple accounts or to join multiple servers?
No, you only need one account on one server to interact with people from across the Fediverse. Similar to a phone, you only need one phone number to call anyone in the world, you don’t need an account on every Fediverse server.
Who sets the rules in the Fediverse?
The server owner sets the rules for a server. Some servers may have joint ownership or consult members, but usually, there is a single owner who decides the rules. To find the rules of a server, visit the server’s website and click the “Learn more” link, which will take you to the server’s info page. It’s important to check the rules before joining or transferring an account.
Can anyone start their own server?
Yes, anyone can start their own server. You don’t need technical skills or much money. Using a managed hosting service, the cost starts from around $8 per month and the service will handle the technical aspects. Running your own server allows you to follow people from other servers and be followed by them. For more information, visit GrowYourOwn.Services.
Why are the Fediverse servers separate?
The Fediverse is decentralized for several reasons:
- Protects from hostile takeover – There is no single network, making it impossible for anyone to purchase it.
- Empowers users – If a server owner does something bad, users can move to a different server without losing their followers, discouraging server owners from doing anything bad.
- Lets anyone start their own server – Even non-technical people can start their own server for about $8 per month from a managed hosting company.
- Allows each server to have its own rules – If there are disagreements, users can move to a different server with different rules or start their own server with rules they write.
- Resilience – If one server goes down, other servers keep working, and problems on one server don’t affect the whole network.
What happens if a server misbehaves?
If a server allows spam, abuse or other bad behavior, other servers can block it. The worse the behavior, the more servers will block it, resulting in complete isolation for the worst-behaved servers.
Does the Fediverse use ads, trackers, or other annoying features?
No, there are no ads, trackers, or algorithms. The timeline displays posts from everyone you follow in chronological order and there is no blockchain or cryptocurrency. Fediverse servers connect to each other using traditional methods used by email and websites for decades.
In conclusion, Mastodon reminds me of the old Twitter with no algorithms and without making me feel like I am a product to be constantly used or sold to. The Fediverse as a whole reminds me of the internet as I grew up with it, before it felt like a constant tool for marketing. I would encourage anyone who is looking for a more decentralized and user-friendly social network to check out Mastodon and the Fediverse.
For those who are interested in learning more about the Fediverse, I will be writing more in-depth articles on my own blog. However, you can also visit the site https://fedi.tips for more information.