Taking a look at Mastodon

I’ve been a Twitter user and fan since 2007. With Twitter’s future looking a bit grim, I started looking around if there’s another place to go.

Twitter can’t really be replaced with anything else, because everyone’s Twitter experience is unique to them and their community. For me, it’s the main way I stay in touch with my Open Source / HTTP / API / Hypermedia bubble and some friends. Losing that would suck! Unfortunately, there’s no way that group would all flock to another platform.

But for the ones that do try something else, the talk of the town seems to be Mastodon.

Mastodon is interesting. On the surface it might just seem like a Twitter clone, but it’s based on a federated protocol called ‘ActivityPub’. What this means in practice is that there’s no central server. There’s many instances. Each of these instances is managed by different people, and many of them focus on specific interests.

With email, it doesn’t matter which provider you go with. Thanks to universal SMTP standards that every server uses, you can exchange messages with everyone else. This is the same with Mastodon. You’re not siloed into a single instance, and you can follow people from any other instance. Unlike email, it appears that with Mastodon you can actually migrate to different instances if you don’t like your current one.

This has some interesting side effects too. I joined the IndieWeb instance, which is a community I already loved. And even though I’m not siloed in, I get access to a local feed of like-minded people from that community. Everything feels new and more intimate.

Also, instead of one central authority that you have to trust to make the right moderation decisions, you can join one of many that aligns with your values, and you can block entire instances that don’t.

So should you join? If you use Twitter to stay on top of news and follow high profile people then probably not. If you’re like me, you might be able to find a community that fits your interest.

Will I stick to this? Who knows… but Twitter, like everything before, will fall out of favor one day and I’m enjoying Mastodon’s ad-free, open source, developer-friendly experience. Reminds me of early Twitter or mid-2000’s blogging culture.

Lastly, one of the interesting results of Mastodon building on open protocols, is that it allows alternative implementations.

The project lets you self-host a single-user instance. Instead of joining some large instance, you deploy an instance on your own domain that’s just for you. Can’t get more control than that, and this might be something I’ll consider in the future.

I don’t see why this blog couldn’t one day also be a ‘microblog’ and part of the fediverse.

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