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Mastodon, the Social Media Platform Everyone Is Leaving Twitter for

Mastodon social platform logo
Mastodon Social Platform Logo. Credit: Eugen Rochko & other Mastodon contributors, Public Domain

Which came first? The chicken or the egg? Usually, no one knows. But the recent flight of followers from Elon Musks’ social platform leaves little doubt. So who is the upstart who has taken his claim to fame? Mastodon is the answer, a platform offering the same (or to some, even better) self-hosted social network services.

Unlike Twitter, for example, things like verification are free. Toots, as they are called on Mastodon, are evidently twice as long as tweets as well. There only seem to be two drawbacks thus far. The first involves the troublesome process of transferring one’s long list of followers from one platform to the other. The second is learning how to use it.

But to get back to the chicken or egg question, the company was founded in 2016, so why has it suddenly become so popular now? Well, that is a short rather than long story.

The elephant (or Mastodon) in the room

Restoration of an American mastodon
Restoration of an American mastodon. Credit: Sergiodlarosa, CC-BY-SA-3.0 / Wikipedia

There is no doubt as to whether Twitter was the first and then Mastodon. To start at the beginning, Twitter came long before Mastodon. Jack Dorsey conceived the idea for the microblogging and social network company Twitter in 2006.

Originally, it was part of a brain-storming session with members of the podcast firm of Odeo. Interestingly enough, it was inspired by Flicker as well as the five-character length of SMS codes in the U.S.

Twitter didn’t take off until 2007 at a conference by Southwest Interactive. During the event, usage on the platform soared from twenty to sixty thousand tweets in a single day. In 2010, the company rolled out a new Twitter version.

Yet, it was after a random tweet in 2013 sent out by Lisa Mann during the Super Bowl XLVII that the platform went viral with the ability for daily commenting becoming one of its main successful features.

The rest was history. The 2020 pandemic dramatically increased its usage (and profits) due to lockdown, and, evidently, it was at that moment that Musk also began to sit up and take notice.

Now, everyone knows about the $44 billion take-over Musk managed to accomplish. Since then, it’s been a short sled-ride down for a variety of reasons, each of which is significant on its own.

All of them, however, is what has apparently led to the mass exodus from Twitter and the legions currently signing up to Mastodon.

“Strike three and you’re out!” Twitter versus Mastodon

Elon Musk Twitter CEO
Elon Musk is now in control of Twitter and has already fired the company’s CEO. Credit: Scott Mitchell / Twitter

One of the first reasons discontent has grown among Twitter users is the mass firing of former Twitter staff members such as CEO Parag Agrawal, Ned Segal, the chief financial officer, and Vijaya Gadde, the head of legal policy, trust, and safety. Sean Edgett, Twitter’s general counsel, was also let go.

Those who were fired were—surprise, surprise—responsible for suspending Donald Trump’s account last year.

As if that were not enough, Musk had security escort them out of headquarters—right after he had finished closing the Twitter deal. This, he then followed by the tweet “the bird is free!”

Let it be noted that all occurred after Musk entered the company’s headquarters carrying a sink with the statement “Entering Twitter HQ—let that sink in!” In hindsight, this should have been an early warning.

That was the first thing. The second strike was the eight dollar monthly fee Musk decided to add on for verified blue tick accounts because, as he stated, “We need to pay the bills somehow! Twitter cannot rely entirely on advertisers. [So] how about $8?”

Just as upsetting was the fact that, according to original reports, he initially wanted to tack on a twenty dollar fee, which made many skeptics understandably wary.

That was not a good enough argument apparently, as, soon after, companies like General Motors and Interpublic Group as well as Shonda Rhimes and others not only announced that they were suspending or quitting their accounts but advised their followers to do so as well.

The third strike came when the Chief Twit, as he calls himself, posted a tweet promoting the unfounded conspiracy theory that Nancy Pelosi’s husband was actually the gay lover of his attacker. It was immediately deleted, of course, but the damage to his own and the company’s image was already done.

“Game over!” the fourth, fifth, and sixth

There was a fourth, fifth, and sixth blunder, nonetheless, though, usually with three, one is out anyway. Those fourth, fifth, and sixth strikes pertained to the ban on certain well-known celebrities such as Kathy Griffin, who had the audacity to write a series of tweets under his name.

Then, there is the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez mishap, also known as AOC, the New York Democrat known for the comment: “Lmao at a billionaire earnestly trying to sell people on the idea that ‘free speech’ is actually a $8/mo subscription plan.”

Mark Ruffalo, the actor who defended her and blasted Musk for the action also came under fire from the new CEO of Twitter. According to news sources, following her suspension, the actor tweeted:

Elon. Please—for the love of decency—get off Twitter, hand the keys over to someone who does this as an actual job, and get on with running Tesla and SpaceX. You are destroying your credibility. It’s just not a good look.

To which Musk replied “Hot take: not everything AOC says is accurate.”

Ruffalo’s next tweet has turned out to be highly prophetic, as the actor shot back:

Maybe so. That’s why having robust filters for dis/misinformation & credible verified users has been a popular feature for people & advertisers alike. We need those safeguards to make sure it’s accurate information, or the app loses credibility, as do you. And people leave.

Massive layoffs

The last or sixth “mistake,” so to say, came with the massive layoffs at Twitter that commenced last Friday. Yet, this was solely for the benefit of the company, Musk announced.

“In an effort to place Twitter on a healthy path, we will go through the difficult process of reducing our global workforce on Friday,” Musk announced.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with that reasoning, one has to say. What pained the company’s employees as well as its users the most was the manner in which the company did it—namely, by email whether one lost their job or not.

Needless to say, that left workers at Twitter dreading new messages dropped in their inbox. Yet, in the end, there was no need to be apprehensive about email since the main sign of being fired seemed to to be showing up at work only to find one’s access to Twitter’s IT system had been cut off or that someone had logged you out of your laptop.

Fifty percent of the staff lost their posts, which amounts to two-thirds of the design department and seventy-five percent of management.

“I recommend voting for a Republican Congress”

Twitter has undergone many drastic changes since Musk took over and the fact that he has not proven to be modest neither in his words or actions has not helped.

There is no evidence to show exactly how many agree with the new CEO, but there is in regards to those who find that, under his new leadership, the social media service is no longer a viable option.

What is the proof? The enormous and recent migration from Twitter to Mastodon following Musks’ personal use of his company’s platform was the straw that broke the camel’s back. To use the same analogy as before, it is what struck the Chief Twit of Twitter out.

“I recommend voting Republican,” Musk declared to his over one hundred million followers yesterday morning in the midst of mid-term elections.

To be exact, he tweeted: “To independent-minded voters: Shared power curbs the worst excesses of both parties, therefore I recommend voting for a Republican Congress, given that the Presidency is Democratic.”

This was a start in departure from the former Twitter CEO and most other heads of American companies. More worrying is the fact that the tweet seems to support suspicions that he will allow Trump back on the platform again in advance of a possible second run for for the 2024 presidency.

Whew! That’s a lot to take in. Still, it is quite helpful in understanding why some or many, by all accounts, are fleeing in droves to Mastodon, the politically neutral platform.

Mastodon: an upstart or social media revolutionary?

Mastodon was the underdog a few years ago with far fewer users than its rival Twitter, and it still only has 4.5 million users in 2022 in comparison to to the 217 million on Musk’s platform.

As Eugen Rochko, the software developer who launched Mastodon in 2016, has stated to news sources, such as The New York Times, what Mastodon offers is a “free, open-source decentralised social media platform” whose aim is to provide “a viable alternative to Twitter.”

Musk, needless to say, is not happy with a company he considers an upstart—especially as the numbers show that it has become one of his main competitors. On Monday, for example, the Tesla founder evidently tweeted out a series of insults about Mastodon before deleting the posts. It was a sign, however, that Rochko’s comments hit their mark.

Fight or flight: The rise of a new, federated platform

Fight or flight? This is what former Twitter users ostensibly asked themselves. One cause, perhaps, is because of their dislike of the Twitter CEO, but what about other reasons? That might be due to Mastodon possibly giving social media users something they have wanted for a long time—a federated platform that connects social networks or servers together.

There are many who own them rather than just the one, and this is on top of their evidently growing dismay over the future direction and current polices of social media giants like Twitter, Meta, and Instagram.

In this federated world, a group of federated platforms share such things as communications protocols. Another difference is that posts on Mastodon are in chronological order instead of being based on algorithms. There are no ads or paid publicity spots either. Additionally, it is mostly crowd-funded, which means the people who use it pay for it themselves. In addition, Mastodon allows servers to have their own rules and culture.

The only downside is there is no regulation or moderation of content at the moment, as the company cannot force those who create each server to follow its particular set of rules.

How to join

Joining Mastodon is easy, however. All it takes is signing up to a server which becomes the ‘home’ for one’s profile, account, and feeds. Some are immediate whilst others require approval or an invitation. Many also depend on the topic. The username is also an email account that includes the server’s name.

Setting up one’s own server has proven to be slightly more difficult. Thus, most are starting with a simple account. Yet, given how tech-savvy the world has now become, it is certain that it won’t be long before Mastodon explodes, in particular with servers created by users themselves—making it a much more personal experience than rivals.

No wonder Elon Musk seems—if not overtly worried about his new nemesis—at minimum riled up over having to face the consequences of his actions, as he continues to lose a large segment of users who either refuse to pay or no longer find it a suitable option.

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