What is Mastodon? Inside social app that rivals Twitter – with Stephen Fry as the newest celebrity member

HEARING about Mastodon and feeling a little clueless? The Twitter rival is on everyone’s lips.

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

Mastodon is an increasingly popular social network that rivals Twitter

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Mastodon is an increasingly popular social network that rivals TwitterCredit: Mastodon

What is Mastodon?

Mastodon is a social network. Or rather, there are many social networks.

It consists of many servers that are small social networks themselves.

You can join a server that’s all about games, or maybe a local server for somewhere like the UK.

In a way it’s a bit like Reddit then – or maybe even closer to Discord (a fun rival of work app Slack).

But it’s not quite the same because Mastodon is completely decentralized.

All servers run on Mastodon technology, but each is owned and operated by… someone.

You could set up your own server, but you would 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 is not global. You could join a server that has no rules and no moderation.

This means you could end up on a server that is not very secure.

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

The advantage of decentralization is that no one person controls Mastodon servers or their rules.

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

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

You can create posts – so-called “toots” – with up to 500 characters.

And these posts can be cross-server or visible only to tagged people (like direct messages).

Is Mastodon free?

Yes, mostly.

If you are a regular user, you don’t have to pay anything.

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

And if you run your own server, you have to pay server fees to keep it afloat.

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

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

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You can use this to sign up for servers.

And usernames let you follow other users – even if they’re on different servers than you.

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