Released in 2016, and yet still relatively little known, the Mastodon decentralized social network is experiencing a resurgence of interest that is surprising, to say the least. Since the announcement of Elon Musk's acquisition of Twitter, some of the platform's users have shifted to this open-source social network.
Just hours after Elon Musk's acquisition of Twitter was announced, there were already over 40,000 new users on the site. According to the "Mastodon Users" profile, the site has no less than five million accounts.
Entirely decentralized, Mastodon is a social network made up of thousands of interconnected communities, all unique, and each with different interests and their own rules. Unlike Twitter, which controls its entire network, Mastodon is potentially hosted on as many servers as there are communities. Nevertheless, it has anti-harassment tools with moderators available if problems arise.
The news of Elon Musk buying Twitter has put Mastodon into the public spotlight as an alternative social network. Now in blog form: https://t.co/i6H9clNrBI
— Mastodon (@joinmastodon) April 26, 2022
This open-source software is accessible from any browser or via a dedicated mobile application (on Android and iOS). Mastodon is essentially a collection of many sites or communities, federated to make one larger network. To join Mastodon, you first have to join one such community -- an individual server known as an "instance" -- which in turn serves as a gateway to a more global network called the "Fediverse." Everyone can create their own thematic instance, bearing in mind that it is possible to communicate with any other Mastodon user, as soon as they too are connected to the Fediverse.
In terms of interface, the look and feel are reminiscent of TweetDeck, the well-known Twitter account management application. On the homepage feature a general timeline, notifications, a search field and even a local feed, corresponding to the activity of the instance to which the user is registered.
Here, posts are called "toots" and can be up to 500 characters. As on Twitter, it is obviously possible to include emojis or photos/videos. Each of these messages can be configured both in terms of confidentiality (public, private or direct message) and in terms of possible warnings about their content (the text is then hidden).
Axel Barre et David Bénard