Mastodon – a brand new, free social media platform

Mastodon describes itself as a “free, open-source decentralized social media” platform. The idea behind it is users are able to connect and meet new people virtually, without the restrictions that come from other social platforms algorithms.

Mastodon imagery of one elephant with a sack on a stick heading towards other elephants with a welcome sign. This is shown on a laptop with a blue keyboard.

After Elon Musk purchased Twitter and started upon his plans for a complete mix-up, many Twitter users have decided to jump ship. It’s said the platform is about to undergo changes making Twitter 2.0. With plans to make verifications a paid product, and allowing controversial free speech, Twitter doesn’t seem the same safe space it once was. On the same day Elon Musk made his announcements that Twitter was now his, more than 70,000 people signed up to Mastodon.

What is Mastodon?

It seems Mastodon is really popular with tech-savvy individuals. However, the platform itself isn’t new. It’s actually been around for six-years. Originally it was most popular with a devoted left-leaning community. Those particularly into specific niches were enjoying having a platform where they could express themselves freely and without judgement. Mastodon is named after the elephant-like tusked animal which is now extinct.

As it’s decentralized, it can’t be controlled by a single corporation or billionaire (cough Elon Musk). So, it’s likely those using the platform feel safer than they did on Twitter. The platform looks similar to that of Twitter. It’s almost a mixture of Twitter and Reddit. Like the two have had some weird love child, and Mastodon is the result of that. Rather than adding tweets, you instead have toots. But, it’s not a single platform or website like Twitter is.

Mastodon explore page

Instead, it’s a network of multiple websites. These websites are called instances, or servers. All servers are run by different people, but they’re still able to communicate with each other without having to centralise their servers. They all exist within a space called the fediverse, which users call the Fedi. As a new user, when signing up you have to choose a server. The difference from Mastodon and Twitter is, the server you choose becomes essentially part of your personality.

Choose a server

There are generic servers you can choose like Or, you can choose specific ones based upon your interests like Your server name gets added to your username. So, if you were to choose your name could appear as [email protected]. All toots that then appear on your feed are from others within your server. The problem is however, if your server gets removed, so does all of your information.

You essentially choose a server at your own risk. If it shuts down, you would lose everything in the same way as if your email provider was to close. The main control comes down to the server admins. Those who created the server you join. So, if your server admin doesn’t like that you’ve posted or boosted something from another server, they could either delete it, or, they could defederate the server. It would then ban anyone from other servers being involved.

Is Mastodon free?

Yes! Mastodon is a free platform. They get money from sponsors and Patreon donations. The creators of the platform crowd-funded to be able to start the business up. Now, as it continues to grow, it’s likely they’ll receive more and more donations. Especially from those who are out to see the fall of Elon Musk. It’s highly likely people will donate just to see another similar platform rise.

Perhaps even those who were so against the thought of paying for verification will pay to help Mastodon grow. Since it’s a non profit platform, you can guarantee all money donated to the site will be put towards the growth of the site. This might sway a lot of individuals to switch across from Twitter. Businesses could create their own servers, as could individuals. Perhaps it will be a place for creatives to grow and expand.

How can you sign up to Mastodon?

GIF showing how to sign up to Mastodon

Signing up to Mastodon is more complicated than a normal social media platform. As the site is based upon multiple servers rather than just one website, you need to pick a server before you can create an account. Head over to Mastodon and click on the option to create an account. You’ll be informed you must choose a server to get started.

Then, you can browse through the various servers available. You can break them down by location or niche. Once you’ve found a server that suits you, you can’t just sign up to it. You have to request an account with the server admins. You’ll need to input your email address, and personal information. However, it doesn’t stop there. You will also be required to fill in a box with why you want to be part of their server.

Wait for your application to be reviewed

This step is needed so they admins can review your information and decide if you get a place on their server or not. It seems it’s a way of ensuring no one is accessing the servers for the wrong reasons or just for the sake of it. Instead, you’ll be signing up to that server because you want to be a part of that community. However, what’s stopping you from pretending it seems?

Perhaps it’s just an extra step, and hopefully those who aren’t interested in the community won’t want to extra hassle of providing a reason to join? Once you’ve submitted this information though, you’ll have to wait for it to be reviewed. You should receive an email with their decision. It’s quite an odd experience because real life people are judging your worth essentially. Do you make the cut or not? If you get accepted you’ll be able to log in and start exploring.

What platform or server would you want to join? Will you be looking into creating a place for yourself on Mastodon? It seems with it being such an upcoming site, there’s still so much potential with it. Room to expand, and plenty of room for other servers to be set up. Although how you go about creating a server is another quest. Someone will have to continue to oversee what gets added, or they’ll need the technology behind them to review each server. Otherwise, it could end up being a dark place to be online.

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