Mastodon: What it is, how it works and reason for choosing it

The decentralized social media Mastodon is the largest existing one in the world. You should know that many of the attributes that characterize Mastodon appear familiar to those who are familiar with the world of cryptocurrencies and blockchain.

In fact, one of the main features that distinguish networks of this technology is the decentralized infrastructure aimed at preventing concentrated control, just like in Mastodon.

As you continue reading, you will have the opportunity to deepen your knowledge of Mastodon. In particular, you will read about:

  • what Mastodon is and how it works;
  • why Mastodon represents an alternative to traditional social media;
  • its pros and cons.

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What is Mastodon?

Created in 2016 by Eugen Rochko, the open-source platform Mastodon is known for being the most important free network for microblogging. Due to these characteristics, it functions as a self-managed version of Twitter.

You should know that in this user-managed social platform, algorithms and advertising campaigns have no place. Consequently, there are no limits or dangers when using it. Additionally, by not allowing advertisements, there is no risk of a single company monopolizing communication.

Anyone can become part of Mastodon by creating an instance, which is like a website to navigate the social channel and connect with other instances within it.

Differences between Mastodon and traditional social media

For many users, the free software Mastodon could be an alternative to traditional microblogging social media platforms. This is because Mastodon is not a single platform but rather consists of a series of separate servers.

How to join MastodonThese servers are autonomously managed, giving users the ability to define rules that are not imposed from top to bottom.

This mechanism is referred to as “democratic” by founder Eugene Rochko because if a server promoting hate, for example, appears, other servers can take action to block and remove them from the platform.

A social platform without algorithms like Mastodon is inevitably appealing. Users can decide which servers to follow and be followed by, without the use of intermediaries. Furthermore, the true attraction is emphasized by the clarification “join a server with rules you agree with” that appears when signing up.

Mastodon vs Twitter

Mastodon is open-source and prides itself on the motto “a social network that doesn’t sell.” It has no company behind it with shareholders and employees. In essence, it belongs to no one and belongs to everyone, and this is precisely its distinguishing feature compared to Twitter, which, as we know, was acquired by Elon Musk.

So what are the differences between Mastodon and Twitter?

  • Twitter generates revenue from advertising, while Mastodon, which refuses to use it, is funded through donations and sponsorships from its users and free software organizations and similar entities.
  • Twitter controls and manages its own servers, whereas Mastodon uses a decentralized network that is interconnected.
  • On Mastodon, users have the ability to create their own server – public or private – with their own rules, unlike Twitter, where the rules are uniform and the same for everyone.
  • Twitter displays other people’s posts based on an algorithm, while Mastodon shows them in chronological order, without manipulation.

How to use Mastodon in 3 steps

Getting started with this ad-free and user-friendly platform is really simple. First and foremost, you should know that the Mastodon app is completely free and compatible with both HTML-based mobile phones and desktop PCs.

During the course of reading, you will also have the opportunity to explore the different possibilities of using, the largest Italian community with over 65,000 members.

So, to be a part of this new decentralized world and judge whether this social platform is an alternative to Twitter, I will guide you step by step on:

  1. how to sign up for Mastodon;
  2. how it works and how to access the timeline;
  3. how to post your own toots (posts) and find users to interact with, without the interference of any algorithm.

Sign Up

How to use MastodonIf you’re wondering how to sign up for Mastodon, I can assure you that it’s easy and can be done in a few simple steps. Specifically:

  • choose a generic or specific server based on your interests or preferences;
  • create a username, which, together with the server, will form your personal address, for example,

There are various suffixes available, with thousands of servers to choose from based on your needs.

Furthermore, to fully answer your question how to register on Mastodon:

  • Set a password;
  • Accept the server rules and terms of service;
  • Click on the verification link that you will receive after a moment.

Access the Timeline

Once you have signed up for Mastodon, you can start using it and take full advantage of this alternative social platform. However, keep in mind that the methods of posting content on Mastodon are not much different from Twitter. The difference lies in how users can access the posts.

Mastodon has 3 timelines that govern the streams through which posted content is visible. What sets them apart is the absence of algorithms.

  • Home: In this first default timeline, users can see the toots of those they follow in chronological order, starting with the most recent.
  • Local: In the second timeline, also in chronological order, all the toots from the user’s own server are visible. It is a stream that encompasses all the users posting from a particular instance. So, by clicking on it, you can see everything happening on a specific server.
  • Federated: This is the place, along with the local timeline, to discover new accounts and topics of interest. It consists of the interactions of members from the user’s server. You can see the toots from accounts followed by at least one profile in your instance and those reshared by at least one user in your space.

Just like on Twitter, you have the opportunity to report users for harmful behavior, mute them to hide their posts, or block them permanently without the possibility of undoing it.

Publish Your Content

Once you are part of the Mastodon world, you have the opportunity to follow and send messages to the people you want to contact, regardless of their address. Keep in mind that in the event of a cyber attack, anyone can read your private messages as they are not end-to-end encrypted.

You will have access to a timeline with a maximum capacity of five hundred characters and powerful privacy tools aimed at preventing harassment. Before publishing a toot, you can choose to:

  • show it only to your followers;
  • send it to public timelines;
  • make it visible online without publishing it in the timeline;
  • make it visible only to mentioned users.

Your toots are published instantly. However, before each publication, there is a check by the administrators of all servers who can report content if they find any violations of the guidelines.

It should be noted that Mastodon does not collect user data and does not contain advertisements. Therefore, the mode of interaction management differs. Likes do not generate visibility, and the only way to spread a toot is through the equivalent of a retweet called a “boost.”

Pros and Cons of Mastodon

Based on the premises of this article, it would seem logical to evaluate Mastodon positively. In fact, it is quite difficult to judge negatively a system that is completely user-centric and values the interests of its members and peaceful coexistence among them.

But its features should not deceive users who are approaching the German platform for the first time. Keep in mind that every digital tool can have pitfalls as well as being an added value for those who use it.


  • The freedom to choose the server to join based on your values and goals. This gives users the opportunity to divide tasks and distribute responsibilities among multiple people, relying on the legitimate interest in keeping spaces organized and clean.
  • The management of toots and profiles of Mastodon users by numerous small-scale networks that establish precise rules for the integration of internet users and proper functioning.
  • The ability to switch from one server to another while retaining your content and followers if the server’s policies are not aligned with your own.


  • Moderation: despite the undeniable efforts of instance administrators and users, it does not always work optimally, although the atmosphere is generally healthier compared to traditional social networks. Each instance has its own rules enforced by its moderators, usually volunteer users.
  • Fake profiles that can proliferate quite easily. If one is not careful, there is a risk of getting involved in various types of scams, both financial and romantic.


Will Mastodon become a viable alternative to Twitter? The potential is there, but only time will tell the final outcome. Predicting the future of this social platform and whether it will succeed is currently complex. To discover what the future holds for Mastodon, all you can do is wait.

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