A Federated social network using ActivityPub, competing directly with Twitter and gaining great interest in 2022-11 with Elon Musk's acquisition of Twitter.
My Mastodon profile is here, on mstdn.social, one of the larger instances. In the weeks I've been here I've had a few thoughts about Mastodon and federation in general:
Advantages over Twitter
No ads or promoted content. Twitter's ads are always repulsive low value content, even when tailored to me. They are either links to blog posts saturated with even more ads, or products I never buy.
No intentional misinformation (yet). Around 2022-Nov-09, Twitter announced an $8/month subscription it called verification. This is a change from Twitter's previous verification method which required government identification. Around 2022-Nov-11, a Twitter account impersonating Eli Lilly tweeted that all insulin would be free. Eli Lilly's stock price tanked afterward.
No algorithm or viral content. Mastodon has a purely chronological timeline with no algorithm. This means users are left with the thought exercise of finding things of interest.
No addiction mechanisms or dark patterns. Since Mastodon has no reason to addict you to it, it can do without Twitter's addictive features, which include:
- Visible likes - On Twitter I found myself skimming over things with few likes and gravitating towards things with many likes. On Mastodon, likes are hidden at first, so you're instead left with just the content to judge on its own merit.
- Quote retweets - Quoting a tweet is a form of performance, speaking to your own audience rather than the person you are quoting. Twitter's history shows that this feature results only in tribal separation rather than discussion.
- Ratios - Twitter penalised tweets that had too many comments relative to likes, but this meant discussions were discouraged.
- Notifications of people liking replies to you - Twitter looked for any excuse to notify you, and this kind of notification was particularly noisy.
Scott Feeney also has a whole blog post on them
Much nicer people - on Twitter I frequently encountered people who seemed to be there only to argue and accuse.
Disadvantages to Twitter
No one is on there. None of my friends are there, so I've been forced to have passing interactions with strangers. Fun, but nothing lasting.
Confusing UX. Federation is a strange concept to most people. For many, Mastodon is the first federated service they've ever used, myself included. Notably, replying to or following a person on another Mastodon Instance is not straightforward, and requires entering your own username and instance name each time.
https://social.seattle.wa.us/explore for Seattle residents
pkm.social for PKM enthusiasts.
Helpful tools for getting more out of Mastodon
https://moa.party/ allows automatic posting to twitter from mastodon
If you have your own home page, add this to it to advertise your mastodon
<a rel="me" href="https://your.server/@your_username">Mastodon</a>
If you choose to host Mastodon yourself, be aware that the default settings have scaling problems, such as with a surge of traffic from Twitter exodus:
Musk’s Twitter chaos tosses outrageous insulin pricing into the spotlight ↩︎