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Everyone’s quitting Twitter, but where are they going?

2 smartphones displaying the Mastodon logo (left) and Twitter logo (right)

by David Redmond

Ever since Elon Musk took over Twitter, many people have decided to either quit or temporarily boycott the platform. It’s not just people either, NCBI’s sister company IA Labs actually paused their posting, laying out their reasons in a post on the IA Blog. They’ve joined journalists, media organizations, and individuals in leaving a platform that is changing in ways that some will argue are for the worse.

We’re not going to get into that debate today, but instead, we’re going to look at one of the Twitter alternatives that have grown in popularity in the past few months. That platform is called Mastodon, and it’s been proving quite popular in the blind community.

What is Mastodon?
Mastodon is like Twitter, but it is quite different in a few ways.

Many of the Twitter features still exist. You have Toots which are just like tweets, a reblog is the same as a retweet, and familiar features such as mentions, hashtags, and replies all exist in much the same way.
The platform has one big difference though, and that is that it’s decentralised. What this basically means is that instead of having one big platform like Twitter, Mastodon has lots of smaller servers. Instead of joining

Mastodon, you’re actually just joining a Mastodon server. You might join Mastodon Ireland, Mastodon Social, or Mastodon Meow. The server doesn’t really matter as you can still interact with those on other servers, but it’s good to join the same servers as your friends as it makes them easier to find.

No matter what server you join you’ll still be able to use the Mastodon app, or you can use an app from a third party. It’s basically the same as Twitter by this point, so you’ll be good to go once it’s set up.

How do I set up an account?
For this example, I’m going to set up an account with the Mastodon Ireland server hosted on Mastodon.ie. Some servers may have rules for joining, but for the most part, the process is the same. The Irish server has one especially important rule listed, “Don’t Be a B***ox.” I think I can follow that rule so I’ll move to the next step.

I’m then asked for a display name, username, email address, and password. All standard and accessible. You are also given a section where you’re asked why you want to join. I just typed “for the laugh” and moved on. You then tick the privacy policy box, and then request your account.

Once you confirm your email your account goes to be reviewed by the server bosses. If they think you’ll fit the community they’ll accept your application. It’s a bit different from the norm, but there you go.

Once you have your account
Now you’re good to go. It’s just like Twitter past this point. Obviously, it’s different in some ways but the core experience is the same. Find your friends, Toot away, and enjoy using Mastodon.

Conclusion
Mastodon is an interesting experiment in social media terms. Individually hosted servers with their own rules, funding models, and administrators. The great thing is that it is accessible so if you want to join the club by leaving Twitter, this is one way to do it.