Social media platform Mastodon has seen immense user growth since Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter, with the network saying it gained around 230,000 users in the last week, BBC News reports.
The jump brought its subscriber count to 655,000 users, and while many Twitter users concerned with the platform’s future moved across to Mastodon, it works quite differently.
When users sign up for Mastodon, they are required to choose a server. However, the server choice isn’t too critical, as you can follow users on other servers.
Mastodon isn’t owned by any one person or firm but is a decentralised collective network of these servers linked together, called a federation.
The servers are often themed by country, city, or interest, including music, gaming, and technology.
Interest groups servers organise around can be specific, such as metal music, PHP programmers, and animation professionals.
Administrators can be selective about the other servers they federate with.
One infamous example is Donald Trump’s “Truth Social”, which acknowledged in 2021 that its code is derived from Mastodon. It doesn’t appear to federate with any other servers.
After Mastodon threatened to sue Truth Social for allegedly violating its open-source licence, it added a section labelled “open source” containing a Zip archive with its modified version of the Mastodon source code.
Before being exposed, Truth Social claimed its code was proprietary.
Server owners can also specify that moderators must manually approve new accounts, or require that new users receive an invitation from someone already on the server before they can sign up.
Mastodon is also ad-free, although nothing prevents users from promoting themselves or their businesses through their own posts.
The platform has a feature that lets users report messages and content to the server owner.
This raises a point of concern for potential Mastodon users — moderation rules differ from server to server, and some might not have any established rules whatsoever.
The individual management of servers does leave users at the mercy of the person or organisation running the server. Mastodon has asked owners to provide three months’ notice before shutting down their server.
Popular servers are currently suffering somewhat in terms of speed.
Ryan Wild — the person running the MastodonApp.UK server — had to pause registrations after an influx of around 6,000 users in 24 hours.