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Mastodon: The New Twitter?

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Over the weekend, there has been a lot of buzz about Mastodon, a free, open source, and decentralized social network. While there has been numerous attempts (app.net, ello, to name two) at unseating Twitter, so far, not a single one has been successful. Will Mastodon be the one?

Mastodon’s Advantages

First of all, it is free (distributed with A-GPL 3.0 license) and open source (available at  <https://github.com/tootsuite/mastodon>). Mastodon is software that is compatible with the GNU Social (<https://gnu.io/social/>, a continuation of the StatusNet project.

Mastodon, by virtue of its roots, is decentralized, meaning, no single company controls its content. You can deploy your own instance (for local content/timeline) and connect it to the network (for global timeline)! No single point of failure (think fail whale), too.

Another advantages are (1) 500 character limit, which is more than enough for most people; (2) granular, per post privacy settings, and (3) block and muting tools built-in.

Mastodon’s Disadvantages

Mastodon’s decentralized architecture comes with an issue as well. With multiple instances connecting to each other, it is quite difficult to select which server to register with. How do you make sure that the server won’t go belly-up and leave you hanging? If there is no advertisement, and no tracking, are there other ways to get advertising money to help fund the server’s upkeep? And how can you be sure that the server will scale up with the sign-ups? As far as I remember, the other attempts to dethrone Twitter had the same issue of funding.

With the decentralized architecture, when you register on one server to secure your username, another person can use the same on another server, and with multiple server instances, there can be different persons with the same userA handle, but on different servers! Discovering your friends is complicated process, specially if they don’t have a photo associated with their profile.

Lastly, there are only a handful of third-party apps available on both Apple App Store and Google Play Store. Whilst the API is open, Mastodon needs more third-party support to give it a chance against Twitter.

Mastodon

Mastodon.network, an instance of Mastodon

My Impression

I have registered on Mastodon.network (as @rom), and on another Mastodon instance somewhere in France. I also registered on quipper.no, a GNU Social instance.

So far, it felt like it was 1996 again, when the experience of communicating with people online was pleasant. No trolls, no advertisements, no bashers, no haters. However, as this new social network gains traction, I am sure it will not take long before it becomes as ugly as Twitterverse.

As I have mentioned earlier, more third party apps on iOS and Android could help fast track this to mainstream. Until then, I don’t think that it poses any threat to Twitter.

Currently, I am exploring setting up an instance as an alternative to Facebook groups. What do you think? Is it worth it? Let me know — ping me at @rom@mastodon.network. 😉

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