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From tweeting to ‘tooting’: the transition from Twitter to Mastodon

origin 1Twitter is not in a good place right now. Many users, concerned about the platform’s free speech policy, the company’s loss of key personnel, and the rise of fake accounts, are switching to the next best thing, Mastodon. Should you join them? Zacharie Scheurer/dpa

Twitter is about to implode. Or maybe not? It is far from clear what fate awaits Twitter in the coming weeks and months. Either way, the company is in a tough spot after losing several critical employees in a mass cull.

Meanwhile, Twitter’s sales revenue appears to be at risk after Elon Musk’s blue-checkmark policy backfired and resulted in a hail of “verified” fake accounts, such as a genuine-looking Pepsi account that he tweeted that Coca-Cola is better.

Many users, fearing that Twitter will soon become a safe haven for far-right trolls and disinformation under Musk’s free speech policy, have since found their way onto Mastodon.

Chewything? Mastodon, once a lesser-known social media platform used primarily by tech nerds, was thrust into the spotlight during Musk’s chaotic takeover of Twitter.

Imagine the exact same type of platform as Twitter, just fewer ads, fewer algorithms, and alas, far fewer users.

Once you get past some jargon at the start, it’s not hard to get going. Here’s how it works and what it can do.

What does the name have to do with it?

Mastodons were primitive elephant-like animals that went extinct around 10,000 years ago at the end of the Ice Age. That’s why you won’t see phrases like “tweet” from the so-called “bird app”. On Mastodon, do “toot”.

The idea for the name came from Eugen Rochko, who founded Mastodon in 2016 and has been developing it ever since, ad-free and tracking-free. All software development is funded by donations.

What can Mastodon do?

Mastodon shares the same basic functionality as Twitter. You can follow others and see their posts, which are called toots, not tweets.

Just like on Twitter, you post short texts with attached images, videos, audios or polls. You can also limit who can see your tweets: ahem, toots.

The same goes for direct messages, hashtags, and trending topics. You can also retweet other toots, only this is called “boosting” here. Like on Twitter, you can protect your account by adding two-factor authentication to your login, which means you have to confirm logins on new devices.

Is it better than Twitter?

You’ll have to decide for yourself, of course, but proponents say there are two main advantages over Twitter: a timeline that isn’t reordered by algorithms like on Twitter, and a decentralized network that isn’t controlled by a corporation.

First off, your homepage is where you can find posts from all the people or organizations you follow in chronological order. Mastodon strictly adheres to chronology.

This means that there are real timelines, unlike Twitter’s reordering of tweets brought about by algorithms designed to increase your interaction.

“Your home feed should be filled with what matters most to you, not what a company thinks you should be seeing,” reads the mission statement on Mastodon’s page.

Secondly, Mastodon is also a decentralized social network, connected and powered by free and open source software. Whether an organization or a private user, anyone who wants to can run a standalone Mastodon server. These are called “instances” and each exists independently of the other instances.

This means that control is not in the hands of a corporation – or a billionaire oligarch “free speech absolutist” – but in the hands of those who want to participate in the management of the server.

It’s good to know this before you sign up, as you’ll need to choose an instance for your account. Many, but not all, cases focus on a topic of interest, whether it’s LGBTQ+ issues, cloud computing, or just a particular country or city.

Once you’ve signed up for an instance, you’ll be able to see a feed of what everyone on that instance is playing in the “local” view.

The “federation” view, on the other hand, broadens your perspective to all toots from all servers. Like the home page, the local and federation views are organized as timelines.

Those leaving Twitter, meanwhile, might argue that its biggest asset is that it’s not Twitter, a company recently decimated by tech mogul Elon Musk in a bid to ensure profitability, measures some fear have undermined long-term stability. of the company.

Meanwhile, Musk’s push for free speech and amnesty for banned users, combined with a chaotic rollout of blue checks for cash, followed by fake accounts spoofing companies and celebrities, has many long-time users worried. date for a wave of far-right content. and fake posts.

And is there anything worse than on Twitter?

There’s no denying that Mastodon is nowhere near the size of Twitter, and the vast majority of major celebrities and media organizations on Twitter have yet to make the leap.

While Mastodon has many of the same characteristics, the transition feels a bit like moving from a bustling city like New York to a small town in another country.

While the absence of an algorithm-based toots feed has its benefits, it can make scrolling pretty tedious depending on which accounts you follow.

A media account that posts a dozen stories can quickly clog up your feed and drown out other potentially interesting toots you may have missed earlier in the day.

At the same time, social media nerds and news junkies may find themselves missing out on Tweetdeck, the advanced version of Twitter.

Okay I’m interested. Which server/instance do i have to sign up?

First of all, it is important to know that no matter which one you choose, you will always be able to see the content on all other servers and interact with all other users. This is the purpose of the “federation” vision.

However, each server operator can block other servers. And it can set up rules that then apply to users of its own server. So it makes sense to look for a community with which perhaps you can not only identify thematically, but whose moderation suits you overall.

Are there server directories?

Yes, you can find a server directory at Mastodon official page. It only contains servers that are constantly striving to moderate against racism, sexism and transphobia (https://joinmastodon.org/de/covenant).

Another possible starting point for your Mastodon account is the “Instances.social” page, which currently lists more than 3,700 servers worldwide. If you answer a few questions, you’ll be shown a list of servers that might be right for you.

While you can register directly with many servers, there are also cases where you need to request an invitation first, that they are no longer accepting new members, or that they are basically closed.

Wait, what if I later find a community I like better?

No problem. You can have different accounts on different Mastodon servers at the same time. You can also move an existing account with your followers to a new account on another server at any time. Instructions can be found directly in your account settings or in the Mastodon documentation.

In the settings under “Import and export” you can also download the other data categories (except media) in CSV format, such as lists or bookmarks. And not just to import them into the new account when you plan to move.

Regular backups are also a good idea in case the instance you are logged into goes down unexpectedly. All categories of data, including media storage, can be downloaded once a week as an archive.

So I found the right instance – now what?

Selecting the server was already half the battle. Now you need to press “Create Account” on your preferred instance page, accept the respective server rules, enter an email address and specify both a display name and a profile name (preceded by @).

The username is extended with the community domain name so that communication and searches are possible across server boundaries (example: @[email protected]).

What are my first steps as a new user?

After registering, you will need to complete your profile (picture, background, interests) and adjust your notifications and privacy settings in settings. For example, you can set it so that followers can only follow you after approval.

You can also specify that your posts not go to the public timeline by default. However, when writing a post, you always have the option of making a different setting for this post individually using the padlock symbol.

How can I find my Twitter contacts on Mastodon?

There are services like Fat finder or Debirdify which can analyze your Twitter profile to see which contacts are also on Mastodon. This information is available as a list which can also be saved in CSV format and then imported into Mastodon.

If you plan to stay on Twitter for now, then it’s not a bad idea to change your username to your Mastodon profile name. That way, every time you tweet, your followers see you’re on Mastodon and know how to find you.

For this to work, you need to enter your profile name and community domain, e.g. “@[email protected]”, not just “@profilename”.

Are there apps too?

Yes. In addition to the web app and the official apps for Android and iOS, which have been available since April 2022, there are various third-party apps available for different platforms and operating systems.