In the past few weeks, a creature has been raising its head. At first, there was the elusive blip on the social media radar and nothing for a month or so and then you would see it mentioned again. Then about a month ago the floodgates opened and you might be hearing about what many are calling a Twitter killer. This semi-new service is called Mastodon.
The stampede to Mastodon is increasing. This Week in Google Talked about Mastodon and there are more and more people who are asking about it. So, I thought it would be a good deal to strike up a post and explain what Mastodon is and whether I think it is a Twitter killer or not.
Mastodon is a decentralized microblogging social network. You see Microblogging and instantly you think they are competing with Twitter! The answer is not really. If there was anyone that was directly competing with twitter it would be Gab.ai or the GNUSocial site like Quitter.no.
Mastodon takes some of the better elements of Twitter and incorporates them into its own form. The biggest difference between Twitter and Mastodon is the that Mastodon is its decentralized nature that allows for federated groups of instances to communicate with each other.
Another feature for Mastodon is that you actually have three different feeds to look through. You have your Home feed. This is all the people who you personally follow.You have the Local Feed and these are all of the posts that are on your instance. Then there is the Federated Feed and these are all of the posts from all of the other instances your instance is connected to.
Mastodon “servers” are called Instances. Anybody can create a Mastodon instance. But from what I have seen it gets a little techie so unless you are really dedicated to running a server you might not want to try creating one. If you are truly interested you can venture and read this post about setting up a Mastodon Server. Lots of information there.
These Instances can become very unwieldy when they become popular. Just look at mastodon.social. They are not taking any more new signups because of the server load. This is where the federation part comes into effect. I will talk more about that in the next section.
These Mastodon instances are going to be a hassle for many Internet Marketeers. This is because if you want to “Claim” your name for branding reasons you will not be able to do so. Unless you want to register your name on each of the hundreds of Instances there are online now.Then you would have to keep registering with each new instance that comes online. So the possibility to keep people from using your name is next to impossible.
What is Federated?
A federated network can seem a little confusing at first. Yet, there is a federated network you use almost every day. That network is email. The federation of instances works pretty much the same. You can communicate with an Instance or if you don’t want to be connected to a particular instance then you can choose not to be.
You can see and talk to any other instance your Home instance is connected to. This is an ingenious setup. For this very example, Say there is a hate group that creates an instance say the Aryan Nation or the New Black Pather Party. If you don’t want to be connected to this instance you don’t have to be. Neither does anybody else. So you can keep your conversations going without having to see any offensive or hateful rhetoric someone is spouting.
These hate groups can be their own little lonely island of misinformation and not have to bother anybody else.
Yet this does prove to also be a problem because if there is a very insightful conversation going in one instance your home Mastodon server isn’t connected to then you will miss out unless you sign up on that particular server.
Is Mastodon a Twitter Killer?
So is Mastodon going to be a Twitter killer? No. Mastodon is a cool conglomeration of technologies, but it is not where near being a twitter killer. This is because of the decentralized nature of Mastodon. News organizations won’t be able to keep track of all the instances so Twitter will still be the central hub for news and information.
The difference most people are touting is the 500 character limit. Yeah, that can be a big deal. Yet, Twitter’s character limit is pretty fluid these days. With Twitter handles and media links not counting towards the 140 character limit, it is kind of a moot point. Twitter is here and for better or worse established. The vast majority of people know how to get the news they need and how to track events as they are happening.
But if Gab.ai can’t dent twitters then Mastodon won’t either. It will be a good small community and where you will be able to have relatively nice conversations with people and that is about as far as it will go.
If you would like to try out Mastodon you can try you had at this list of Mastodon instances. There is also a Mastodon client for iPhones called Amaroq. You will want to choose your instance and sign up first though.
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