What Is Mastodon? Why Is It Trending After The Twitter Sale?

Fed-up Twitter users seem to be giving Mastodon a shot.

mastodon logo with rising arrow in background
Image: Illustration by author

A lot has changed in the past 24 hours in the world of social media. A certain power shift has taken place in the tech industry as billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk finally bought Twitter.

Since the acquisition became official, there have been various speculations flooding the internet. Amidst all the hullabaloo surrounding Musk’s takeover, Mastodon, a popular Twitter alternative, is also getting much attention.

While many users see Twitter’s sale as promising, many others aren’t confident that the outspoken Tesla CEO will do the platform any good. Those skeptical of the move have already started migrating to other social media platforms. Among them, Mastodon seems to be the one that is receiving an enormous amount of traffic as of now.

What is Mastodon? How does it work?

mastodon ui
Image: Mastodon

Mastodon is software that powers a social network of distinct self-hosted servers. As a social media platform, it has many microblogging features in common with Twitter. However, unlike the Elon Musk-owned website, it is a free and open-source software project. This means that anyone can freely view, copy, or modify the code behind Mastodon.

It is a network of mini social networks or Mastodon nodes called “instances.” These instances can have different policies and guidelines compared to each other. However, users on a particular server can conveniently follow or communicate with those on other servers in the network. This gives users the option to join an instance whose policies they see eye-to-eye with, while still being able to communicate with users on other servers.

Not only that, but Mastodon is also part of a group of similar platforms called the Fediverse. This allows Mastodon users to interact with others on compatible Fediverse platforms such as Friendica.

When drawing comparisons, Mastodon emerges as a notable alternative to Twitter. Like tweets, you can share posts called “toots” on the social network. Toots improve upon the 280-character limit of tweets by allowing you to write posts with a maximum limit of 500 characters. Moreover, certain Mastodon nodes might offer a higher character limit.

Twitter sale fallout leads to Mastodon influx

While there’s little doubt over the potent ownership of Musk, not everyone on the internet — especially on Twitter — is a fan. Because his track record is filled with social media antics and controversies, there are possible concerns over the future of Twitter among the netizens.

As soon as the Twitter sale went official, many users expressed their disapproval and criticized Musk for splashing the cash on the social media platform. Among the cascade of tweets was a variety of reactions regarding the 44-billion-dollar acquisition.

Unsurprisingly, many people pointed out better ways to spend billions, such as for charity. Given Musk’s erratic public image, a significant chunk of Twitterati expressed doubts over his ability to improve the social media platform. There were others who implied the move was a clear failing of capitalism. Courtesy of the disapproving section of Twitterati, #leavingtwitter soon started trending.

Twitter users unhappy with Musk’s all but completed buyout are actively leaving for an open-source alternative in Mastodon. In fact, the traffic grew so much that the social network’s servers faced problems keeping up with the surge.

During this, Mastodon Founder Eugen Rochko shared, “… there’s twice as many people using at the same time as ever have …” Furthermore, he urged newcomers to visit joinmastodon.org, before going to mastodon.social.

As Mastodon gains new users, a new Twitter era will dawn under Elon Musk. An era that has received the formal stamp of approval from founder Jack Dorsey but still divides public opinion.

If you like this simple explainer, check out our Short Bytes section. We take complex tech topics and break them into short, easy-to-understand articles.

Priye Rai

Priye Rai

Priye is a tech writer who writes about anything remotely related to tech, including gaming, smartphones, social media, etc. He prefers to be called a "video game journalist" and grimaces when he doesn't get to be "Player 1." If you want to share feedback or talk about games, reach out to @priyeakapj on Twitter.
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