Why I love Mastodon
I quit Twitter at the end of 2020, and haven't really used social media at all since then. So when I heard in the news that others were ditching Twitter for Mastodon, I got really excited!
I signed up for Mastodon back in May 2019 and, at the time, I wrote on there: "I just heard about Mastodon a few days ago. I keep spelling it Mastadon. It's a really cool platform and architecture, and I would love to see it completely replace Twitter one day. Do you think it could?"
It seems like that time has come. Not everybody has moved from Twitter to Mastodon, but a large number of developers have, and that's what matters most to me.
A wild month
In 14 years of using Twitter, I never went viral. The closest I came was when I published my blog post Svelte is the most beautiful web framework I've ever seen. The tweet linking to that post received 40 retweets, which had my head spinning at the time.
Well, in the past month, I've had three toots that were more successful than that. And one of those went absolutely viral! I was excited about Mastodon and hoping all these new migrants would stay, so I wrote "Boost this toot if you're planning on sticking around Mastodon whether or not it becomes more popular than the birdsite.", and so far I've received 217 replies, 3,254 favourites and 5,765 boosts!
I also tooted a list of web developers worth following and that received 77 favourites and 52 boosts.
I'm not trying to brag, I just want to demonstrate that the reach and discovery on Mastodon is so much greater than Twitter. Part of that is that there is no algorithm on Mastodon, part of it is that people can browse "local" or "federated" feeds to find new posts from people they don't follow, so it's much easier for new users to reach a lot more people. I also find that the quality of interactions is higher, and the conversations more intelligent and engaging.
As another example, I tried putting a poll on Mastodon and Twitter at the same time. I had 7 people answer the Twitter poll, but 43 on Mastodon! This and other experiments I've done have cemented for me just how much more easily I can reach and connect with other like-minded people on Mastodon.
Whatever it is, I've definitely experienced a lot more joy interacting on this platform. It's wonderful that there are no ads, there's no company profiting off our use of the platform, and we can own our own content. It's not a new company trying to launch a startup to replace Twitter, it's a platform built on an open web standard that will surely be around for a very long time!
What is the platform?
As a web developer, I was excited to learn that Mastodon is actually built upon ActivityPub, a web standard produced by the W3C, the standards body behind other technologies you may have heard of, like HTML and CSS.
ActivityPub is similar to RSS but with pushing content instead of polling a feed. It allows web sites to publish content, and have other web sites subscribe to that content. When a new post is available, the content is pushed to each of the subscribers so that they immediately find out about it.
The world of systems that work with ActivityPub is referred to as the Fediverse. Mastodon is a Twitter-like interface built upon this platform. There is also Pixelfed, an Instagram-like platform, and PeerTube, a YouTube-like platform. Anybody can create new platforms that integrate with the rest of the Fediverse, just by implementing the ActivityPub protocol. There is even a WordPress ActivityPub plugin so that any WordPress blog can be followed by others on the Fediverse.
If you've heard anything about Mastodon, you've heard about how you have to choose a server. This is a weird step for many people, at least compared to large corporate centralised social media, but it's what we already have to do for things like e-mail (though most people choose gmail.com). There is no central Mastodon server, so you need to choose one to get started. But the great thing is, you can move to a different server, and anyone who follows you will automatically follow your new account (though you can't move your posts). You can even run your own server!
One easy strategy is just to pick any server that is currently accepting new accounts, and then accept that you may well decide to move elsewhere once you get a feel for things and settle in and discover a server that resonates better with you.
You can go to the Mastodon website or instances.social to browse servers. You could choose one that is somewhat relevant to your interests or location, or you could choose one that is totally generic. Or just choose one that has a name that you like. Like email, it will be part of your address.
Some development-related servers include hachyderm.io, fosstodon.org, indieweb.social, front-end.social, and toot.cafe, though the last two are closed for registrations at the time of writing this.
Back in 2019, I started off on toot.cafe, but decided the next day that I'd rather be on a bigger, more popular server, so I moved to mastodon.social. But earlier this month when I started using Mastodon heavily, I actually decided I'd rather be on a smaller server focused on web dev, so that I would have a "local" feed more useful and interesting to me, so I moved back to toot.cafe!
Migrating to Mastodon from Twitter
If you were already active on Twitter, you'll be glad to know there are tools to help you migrate. I highly recommend you check out Movetodon, where you can log in with both your Twitter and Mastodon accounts, and you can search for and automatically follow people. Of the 1025 people I follow on Twitter, I can find 164 of them on Mastodon, and more are moving over every day.
If you do decide to move over, be sure to put your new Mastodon address in your Twitter bio, so others can find you using automated tools as well.
I really hope this migration sticks, and so I think the best thing we can do support it is to participate as heavily as we can on there, to follow interesting people, to boost interesting posts, and to be active and contribute to the conversation so that others enjoy it there and stick with it too.
If you'd like to follow me, you can sign up for Mastodon (or another Fediverse server) and follow me at https://toot.cafe/@JesseSkinner. I hope to see you there!