Mastodon: The Decentralized, Open Source Alternative to Twitter [to Resist Big Tech Monopoly]

I don’t know about you, but I have long yearned for a social network that I can truly call home. Facebook is no good as it’s full of pictures of people’s cats and their dinner (probably not for me). Twitter is full of trolls and rude people, in my experience at least.

So what is an intrepid lover of all things FOSS supposed to do with their spare time? Well, the answer is now simple – use Mastodon, of course!

mastodon alternative to twitter

What is Mastodon?

Mastodon is the worldโ€™s largest free, open-source, decentralized micro-blogging network. Quite a mouthful, right? Basically, Mastodon is an open source alternative to Twitter.

It has many of the advantages of Twitter, but open source.

Editor’s Note:

Mastodon started as an alternative to Twitter. It is gradually evolving to present itself as a better social media platform.

You will find trolls/rude people on every platform. However, the interaction quality on Mastodon may prove better compared to Twitter for some users.

mastodon mobile 2022

To use Mastodon on your mobile, you can use the official mobile app or find other options like Tusky.

The official Mastodon client is available on the Google Play Store and the Apple app store.

There can be other options as well, you can explore as per your requirements.

Advantages of Mastodon

This is where things get interesting! I’ll start with the simple stuff – you’re not restricted to 140 characters like on Twitter. On Mastodon, you have 500 characters to play with. This has been more than enough for me personally, without having to mess around trying to shorten what I want to say.

So, you do not need to make threads unnecessarily.

Right, on to the really good stuff…

Possibly the most significant advantage of Mastodon over any social network is that you can self-host it.

That’s right; you can spin up your Mastodon instance, keep it public, or make it private for your own use. Now, you might be thinking “what’s the point in self-hosting? You’re just going to end up with a load of insular servers sprawled all over the Internet.”

If that’s what you’re thinking, you’re wrong. You see, each Mastodon instance is part of a federated network. This means that all instances can talk to one another. So if my account is on instance A, and Bill has an account on instance B, we can still follow one another and see each other’s updates.

Think of it like email – you and I don’t need to have our emails hosted with the same provider because they all use open standards. This means that even though our email servers are entirely separate, they can still email one another.

That’s basically how Mastodon works; even your handle looks like an email address. For example, mine is @[email protected].

However, if you want a completely private Mastodon instance, you can also turn the federation off. So, you can choose to build a closed community.

Feda-what?!

So what does all this mean? Well, if Twitter goes down, that’s it. Bye-bye Twitter and all your tweets. It’s the same story for Facebook,ย and pretty much any other social network.

Under the hood, Mastodon is powered by a decentralized ActivityPub protocol. So, anything that uses it, you can interact with them through the same user account.

For example, you can interact with a user/channel from PeerTube/PixelFed within Mastodon. You can read Mastodon’s official blog post that explains this better.

On Mastodon, that isn’t the case. For example, if my instance goes down, the rest of the network continues and all my users can quickly and easily sign up for another instance and be back up and running in no time. Plus, there isn’t a single entity controlling Mastodon – like all good things, it’s managed by a community.

Sure, it is important to request a back of your data on any platform to be on the safe side.

When you’re browsing your Mastodon instance, you get a variety of ways to consume content. You get a home feed (to see posts from people you follow), a public feed for the entire Fediverse network, and a local feed (only posts from your instance).

How Do I Get Started?

It’s quite simple really, there are many Mastodon instances online, so there is likely to be at least one in the niche you’re interested in.

Recommended Read: Best Mastodon Instances That You Can Join

However, judging by the fact you’re reading a FOSS website, I’m willing to bet that you’re interested in FOSS. If that is the case, you can join my instance, Fosstodon, where you will be made very welcome. Or you can check out some other great Linux/FOSS-centric instances, like LinuxRocks.Online.

You can also deploy your instance of Mastodon and create a community based on your interest.

Are you already a Mastodon user? If so, why not tell us what you think about it in the comments below.

I look forward to seeing you guys on Mastodon soon!

Kev Quirk

Kev is a cyber security professional, FOSS lover, advanced motorcyclist and tattoo enthusiast from the UK. You can find him writing on his personal website or on Fosstodon (his Mastodon instance).

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