Everything To Know About Mastodon, a Twitter Alternative

Find out how this trending social site compares to Twitter and how to sign up.

There has been a lot of talk about Twitter these days. If you're not sure what's going on, we'll fill you in. But many users are signing off, and quite a few are trying a different platform called Mastodon—which begs the question, what is Mastodon, exactly?

The main social media websites and apps we're used to hearing about regularly are definitely TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat. So when users of one platform begin jumping ship to a new one, curious minds understandably want all the details!

We'll cover everything you need to know about Mastodon, including how it works, why new users find it appealing and how you can sign up if you'd like to experience it for yourself.

<p>Davide Bonaldo/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images</p>

Davide Bonaldo/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

What is Mastodon?

Mastodon is a social network that launched in 2016. According to Mastodon's website, it is "social networking that's not for sale," explaining that "your home feed should be filled with what matters to you most, not what a corporation thinks you should see. Radically different social media, back in the hands of the people."

And while some apps are known for focusing mainly on text updates, photo dumps, viral video trends and more, Mastodon supports all audio, video and picture posts through "microblogging."

One of the key descriptors of Mastodon is that it is an "open source" social networking site.

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What does "open source" mean?

According to Merriam-Webster, open source means "having the source code freely available for possible modification and redistribution." So, instead of a centralized platform, Mastodon has separate, customizable servers.

Still a little confusing, right? On Mastodon's website, they further explain, "A Mastodon website can operate alone. Just like a traditional website, people sign up on it, post messages, upload pictures and talk to each other. Unlike a traditional website, Mastodon websites can interoperate, letting their users communicate with each other; just like you can send an email from your Gmail account to someone from Outlook, Fastmail, Protonmail, or any other email provider, as long as you know their email address, you can mention or message anyone on any website using their address."

What is a microblog?

Mastodon shares, "Similar to how blogging is the act of publishing updates to a website, microblogging is the act of publishing small updates to a stream of updates on your profile."

Why are so many users leaving Twitter?

After Elon Musk officially took over Twitter on Oct. 27, many users have been unhappy with the changes he has made or has in store for the app, such as a pay-to-play option that would involve charging users $7.99 a month for the previously-coveted "blue checkmark" that has been used to verify accounts of public figures.

Other users, like many vocal celebrities, have left Twitter in the wake of Musk's ownership because they feel there has been an uptick in hateful language on the platform and do not feel comfortable being active on the site with so much up in the air about how Twitter will continue to evolve under its new ownership.

Related: Elon Musk Suspends Twitter Accounts Parodying Him, Says 'Impersonation' Will Not Be Tolerated

How does Mastodon compare to Twitter?

Mastodon's setup is similar to Twitter in the sense that there is a character limit on users' posts. However, while Twitter has a 280-character limit, Mastodon features a 500-character limit.

Twitter features ads while Mastodon is ad-free and supported by sponsors. Twitter uses an algorithm to show you content it thinks you will like based on your activity on the platform. In contrast, Mastodon feeds appear chronologically.

Both Twitter and Mastodon allow you to tag other users in your posts, as well as utilize hashtags and include links.

How many users does Mastodon have?

According to Chief Executive Eugen Rochko, as of Nov. 7, 2022, Mastodon has 1,028,362 monthly active users. In comparison, Twitter has approximately 450 million monthly active users.

Related: Thinking About Taking a Social Media Break? Here Are 10 Things That Happen When You Quit Social Media

How do I join Mastodon?

There is a sign-up option on Mastodon's website, where you'll need to accept some rules and then you're able to choose your display name and username, input your email and choose a password for your new account.

You can also find Mastodon in your app store.

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