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Mastodon Social is becoming an alternative to Twitter, but reviews are mixed


Shortly after Elon Musk took over Twitter last week, Allison Oosterman saw some of his friends announcing they were leaving the site. They flocked to another place she vaguely knew: Mastodon Social.

The six-year-old site marketed itself as a “not for sale” social media network – a place where people could build a community on their own terms with people they chose. Oosterman, a 74-year-old retired journalism teacher in New Zealand, was intrigued and, given the uproar surrounding Musk’s takeover, decided to give it a shot, although she kept her Twitter account .

After signing up on Mastodon, she became confused. Apart from a few friends, many people she wanted to follow weren’t there. Replicating Twitter’s own newsfeed was tricky, requiring it to reach out to communities for each of his interests. The language of the site — “boosts” instead of retweets and “toots” instead of tweets – confused her.

His first impression: “What’s going on?” she says.

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Musk, the Tesla billionaire and CEO of SpaceX, bought Twitter for $44 billion last week. Since then, there have been a series of controversies and questions about his future.

Musk posted and deleted a tweet amplifying a baseless report about the attack on Nancy Pelosi’s husband. Racist tweets on the site exploded. Mass layoffs began.

Meanwhile, Musk said Twitter would change the way it verifies users, charging $8 a month for those who want a check mark. There is talk of a potential reboot of Vine, TikTok’s predecessor, and the Washington Post first reported on the development of a paid video function. Musk also said he would allow former President Donald Trump to return to the site, although he tweeted this week that it would be weeks before any banned accounts were allowed to return.

Amidst this, Twitter users searched for a new home, and Social juggernaut seems to have some momentum. More than 70,000 users joined the site the day after Musk completed his purchase of Twitter, depending on the website. Around 655,000 users are on the site, compared to Twitter’s around 237 million daily active users.

Some have already moved into their new home. “For those wondering, most #IrishTwitter seems to have migrated to [Mastodon]“, posted a Twitter user on Friday. “It’s the same vibe as having moved to a smaller, cozier pub with better music and a lawn fire and no one has thrown around yet.”

But according to interviews with people trying out the site, it leaves a lot to be desired. Some tech-savvy people find Mastodon’s madness part of its appeal and have found a community to interact with without the toxicity of Twitter. But many find it clumsy, lacking a large user base and too technical, raising fears that if Twitter folds, there won’t be a site to truly replace it.

“If Twitter dies, does the whole idea of ​​microblogging die with it?” said J. Emory Parker, a data project manager with Stat news who is on Twitter and Mastodon Social.

Representatives for Mastodon Social and Twitter did not return a request for comment.

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After Mastodon Social was established in 2016, it became popular among a group of niche users. The site promises to “never serve ads” or sell user data. The code is open-source. Users have more control over how to moderate content.

It has parallels with Twitter but differs in some ways. Unlike Twitter, which is a single website with a central news feed, Mastodon is a network of thousands of sites, called instances or servers. When connected to a specific server’s site, however, the layout looks similar to Twitter. Posts appear in a news feed, and people can use hashtags, boost posts, and like them.

When signing up, people choose the server they want to join. Topics vary, from progressive politics to hairy communitybut many have flocked to,, and as replacements for Twitter, each of which is a separate instance that can function as individual Twitter-like sites.

You can be part of a community and send messages to people in your instance and in other spaces, such as by email.

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Mastodon has been taxed by the crush of new users. Eugen Rochko, the site’s creator, said he was working in overdrive to keep up with the increased traffic.

“These last few days have taken a heavy toll on me,” he said. job Sunday on Mastodon. “While it’s nice to see your work finally taken seriously in the mainstream, the 12-14 hour workdays I’ve had to put in to manage it all are anything but.”

Mastodon isn’t the only option for people exploring online options beyond Twitter. Other smaller social networks, like CounterSocial, hope to attract defectors. Twitter users can also revert to older technologies to fill the void, such as LinkedIn, Reddit or RSS readers for news.

Prolific creators, happy to be asked to pay to be verified, might turn to revenue-generating places like TikTok, YouTube, newsletters, podcasts, and Patreon accounts. But Mastodon had the most vocal initial support as an alternative, despite its more technical nature.

Parker, of Stat, who is 34 and lives in Boston, said he’s had a Mastodon account since the site’s inception but barely uses it. When Musk bought Twitter, he thought Mastodon might be the best place to find a Twitter replacement that wasn’t a “right-wing Twitter clone.”

Parker maintains his Twitter presence but isn’t sure how long he’ll stay if Musk makes any significant changes, particularly to how people are verified. He fears Twitter could go the way of Digg, a popular social media site that failed shortly after a site redesign in 2010, and wants alternatives if that happens.

“Fundamental changes [Twitter] really run the risk of alienating the community,” he said. “You could see a very rapid exodus – a Digg-like site collapse overnight.”

But the influx of new users to Mastodon has caused some tension, he added. “Twitter migrants seek to recreate an individual Twitter experience,” he said. “It’s a bit boring for people who were there and like the ideology of…Mastodon.”

Many social media sites have become a shadow of their former selves after a change in ownership. For example, Tumblr was bought by Yahoo in 2013, which was then bought by Verizon in 2017 and sold to Automatic in 2019, hemorrhaging users along the way.

Twitter will charge $8 per month for verification. What do you want to know.

Kelly Therese Pollock, a 44-year-old podcaster from Chicago, said she joined Mastodon over the weekend because many historians she interacted with on Twitter did.

She hasn’t deleted her Twitter account, but says she finds Mastodon appealing because it’s open-source, against corporate ownership, and allows people to create shared rules about how to moderate content within of their community, making it a pleasant experience.

If Twitter charges for use of the site or sees a steady increase in hate speech, she said she would quit. Even though Mastodon is a little hard to learn for some, she says, she’s ready to embrace it.

“At this point, it feels like the pros of Twitter don’t outweigh the cons,” she said. “So I don’t see the point in sticking around…in a very serious way.”

Heather Kelly contributed to this report.