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What is Mastodon? Inside social app that rivals Twitter – with Stephen Fry as latest celeb member

HEARING about Mastodon and feeling a bit clueless? The Twitter rival is the talk of the town.

British acting icon Stephen Fry has already joined Mastodon – but should you?


Mastodon is an increasingly popular social network to rival TwitterCredit: Mastodon

What is Mastodon?

Mastodon is a social network. Or rather, it’s lots of social networks.

It’s made up of lots of servers, which are mini social networks in their own rights.

You might join a server that’s just about gaming, or maybe a local server for somewhere like the UK.

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In some ways then, it’s a little bit like Reddit – or perhaps even closer to Discord (a fun rival to work app Slack).

But it’s not quite the same because Mastodon is totally decentralised.

All of the servers are run on Mastodon technology, but each one is owned and operated by…anyone.

You could set up your own server, although you’d have to pay for it yourself – or collect donations to run it.

And you can have your own rules and moderation strategies. Again, this is very similar to Reddit or Discord.

Unlike Twitter, moderation isn’t global. You could join a server that has no rules and zero moderation.

That means you could wind up on a server that isn’t very safe.

It’s technically ad-free, although you could potentially use it to advertise a business or product.

The decentralisation has the advantage that no one person controls Mastodon servers, or its rules.

Your mini social network – or server – can’t just be bought up by someone else.

On the other hand, a server operator could simply just shut down their server – and potentially even without notice.

You can make posts – called “toots” – up to 500 characters.

And these posts can live across servers, or only visible to people tagged (like Direct Messages).

Is Mastodon free?

Yes, mostly.

If you’re a regular user, you won’t have to pay.

But you might want to donate to a server if you think it’s valuable.

And if you’re running your own server, you’ll have to pay server fees to keep it afloat.

To join, you’ll need to download an app on iOS or Android and then create an account.

Your username will be an email address-style phrase created specifically for Mastodon.

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You can use this to sign up for servers.

And the usernames are how you’ll follow other users – even if they’re on different servers to you.

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