Many people are unhappy with Twitter. Some are looking into a new decentralized “tweeting” platform called Mastodon, which has seen rapid growth this month. People are peeved at Twitter because the company has made some questionable decisions, including altering their interface. It now operates much like Facebook in terms of functionality. This has turned some people off. A Motherboard writer, Sarah Jeong commented, “why does Twitter hate itself?”
Twitter has also been in the spotlight in regards to how its users treat one another. Allegedly, there has been ton of vitriol spewed. Allegations of racism run rampant. Mastodon has been developed by Eugen Rochko in response to the growing frustration with Twitter and its managerial decisions.
Mastodon Basic Features
Mastodon uses open source, programmatic instances (servers) for users to operate from. Mastodon also boasts longer character statuses; users may post 500 characters instead of 140. Users can also select to post privately among their friends if they desire. A Verge article clarified, “Mastodon, a distributed, open-source version of Twitter, is almost identical to the platform it’s based on, but with key differences: posts can run 500 characters rather than 140, and users can make individual posts private.”
But how is it open source?
Mastodon Decentralization and Node Network Solution
Mastodon is fully decentralized. Anyone can start a node and “own” part of the network themselves. Nodes communicate with other nodes on the network. This means that everyone is simultaneously in charge of Mastodon. The fact that it uses peer-2-peer technology also means that users can choose to interact privately with specific users, based on particular node instances.
A opensource.com article said,
“Each node, being independently run and managed, can be used as a private node, or it can be open to other users, it can block users or feeds, or it can accept feeds. Control is truly placed in the hands of the users, and yet the end result is a truly social network.”
To fully enjoy this social network, a user can opt to choose their own instance to register in order to put them in control. The website to gain access to the network is instances.mastodon.xyz. If an individual enjoys working with open source protocols, they can create their own instance on their server, and take advantage of the network this way.
User Guidelines on Original Node
However, the primary instance on mastadon.social has strict guidelines for users that access the platform. The company decided to embrace this heavy handed perspective as a result of Twitter’s negative publicity, and many other instances also have guidelines listed under their node info on the instances page.
Below is a shortlist of the mastadon.social’s posting guidelines. Most of their rules are understandable and make sense, but some may be off-putting to users who dislike censorship.
- The following types of content will be removed from the public timeline, and may result in account suspension and revocation of access to the service:
- Racism or advocation of racism
- Sexism or advocation of sexism
- Discrimination against gender and sexual minorities, or advocation thereof
- Xenophobic and/or violent nationalism
- The following types of content are explicitly disallowed and will result in revocation of access to the service:
- Sexual depictions of children
- Content illegal in Germany and/or France, such as holocaust denial or Nazi symbolism
Mastodon’s Growth and Patreon Funding Campaign
Even though the pilot instance has taken a hard line approach to posting guidelines, new users have flocked to the platform because of its distributed nature. Some nodes have seen new users overwhelm the platform, to the point of having to suspend new signups.
A telegraph.co.uk article summed up their growth;
“Thousands of users have flocked to Mastodon over the past week, prompting Rochko to temporarily bar new sign-ups through the main Mastodon site “until quality of service can be assured for existing users.”
The Verge article suggested the application has grown by 73%, to about 41,000 users during the first week of April. This is an astonishing, exponential increase in the user base.
This is a good thing for the creator of the platform, Eugen Rothko, since he is funding the account using Patreon as a crowdfunding source. He is currently at $2,971 with 607 devout patrons for the project. This funding amount combined with Mastodons growth, could be an indicator of Mastodon’s future as a decentralized and peer-2-peer twitter rival.
Do you think Mastodon can truly rival Twitter?