A lot has been said and continues to be said about the nazi cesspool that is Twitter, and the alternative favoured by some that is Mastodon.
We’ve been at this point before, a little more than a year ago in April 2017 when I first heard about Mastodon and created an account 1. Back then the main instance at mastodon.social had around 50k users, which represented a huge influx. That was also the time when lots of people wrote all kinds of hot to slightly lukewarm takes about how Mastodon is doomed to fail or how Mastodon is going to be the best thing ever.
All of that is kind of bullshit, because naturally, shit is complicated as fuck.
Also, mastodon.social now has around 200k users and we’re having all the same discussions again.

First up, no, Mastodon is not just another app.net. Remember that? Yeah, me neither. It’s an open-source thing and relies on crowd-funding, so no, there won’t be a point where the admin runs out of money and shuts off there servers. The other thing is: No, Mastodon doesn’t solve all of Twitter’s problems by magic. Obviously. It’s not immune to nazis and harassment, but in principle it should be easier to combat harassment because due to individual instances being generally on the smaller side, the ratio of moderators to users is much higher than it could ever be on centralized services.
The problem is that these benefits still rely on people, and people are kind of bad at being good people, in case you haven’t noticed, I don’t know, anything in the past few years or so.
For what it’s worth, I’m pretty happy on my instance (cybre.space), it has a nice feel to it, people are friendly, moderators are visible. I like it. I can’t speak for other instances though, there have been horror stories about mastodon.social, but I don’t know a lot about that. You’ll find it if you google though. And then there are dozens of well known instances home to bad bad people, which are usually blocked/suspended/silenced by well meaning instance admins, so that’s nice. Dicks will be dicks, everywhere they can, but the ability to nuke a whole instance from your feed is a good thing I guess.

One thing that I’ve seen critized lately is the apparent non-security of DMs on Mastodon compared to Twitter, because admins can see your DMs and such. That’s bad if you rely on secure communication on Mastodon, but I argue you simply shouldn’t do that. Use messengers lika Signal. They’re meant for messaging. Mastodon is not. Directly. That doesn’t mean I think the current system is good, it just means that I advise people to treat “DMs” on Mastodon more like what they are: A convenience feature to hide posts from people that are not meant to see them. Visually. You know, so you can chat with someone on Mastodon without spamming your combined follower’s feeds.

While were at the topic of things I’ve seen critized recently: Nomenclature.
A tweet is a toot and the mascot is an elephant and Twitter is often referred to as birdsite and all that. Yes it’s silly and whimsical or whatever, and we’ve had all these discussions back when Twitter rolled around, so I’ll just ignore it because it’s bullshit ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ As for the “birdsite” thing: I recently mentioned to a friend that as far as I can tell, the term is often used to distance oneself from Twitter, not even calling it by it’s name. As a lot of peopel have joined Mastodon due to them being trolled, harassed and sometimes suspended on Twitter, I don’t blame them. Also, I think it has a cute little subcultural ring to it.

Oh, and of course, the big one: Inappropriate comparisons to Twitter.
People who compare Mastodon as it is today to Twitter as it is today really lack a sense of perspective in my opinion. Compare Mastdon today to Twitter in 2009, that should be roughly appropriate as far as the services respective age or userbase is concerned. Not that “userbase” in that sense is even a meaningful term, as Mastodon has roughly 1.2 million users but distributed across ~2000 instances 2, while Twitter is this centralized thing with only one address.
Sigh.
It’s complicated, okay? Even Mastodon isn’t Mastodon. Mastodon is also cybre.space, it’s also switter.at, it’s also ActvityPup and apparently also Pleroma, and I don’t even know anymore. Mastodon, as in the primary software project, is apparently also in the process of being forked with the idea of a proper governance model, which I haven’t looked into a lot myself, but should give you a rough idea about the development of Mastodon not being all hunky dory as it seems. Because once again, it comes down to people, and people make stuff complicated 😫

So while I haven’t really achieved anything by making these observations and reiterating on my lack of faith in humanity, I’ll leave it here.
Because it’s complicated and I just don’t know, okay?


  1. Okay, I created a bunch of accounts [return]
  2. According to https://instances.social/list/old [return]