All About Mastodon

My latest video is an overview of what I’ve experienced so far on the Mastodon social media “federation.” I say “federation” and not “network” here because Mastodon is designed to work in a decentralized manner that no one directly controls. You can find me on Mastodon at

Mastodon’s federation consists of a growing number of servers located throughout the world that host users and their content. Servers share that content with each other, allowing a user on one server to follow content created by a user on another.

The result is an experience that feels similar to Twitter but does not have a single decision maker or management team moderating content. Each Mastodon server is run by volunteers or a single owner, and those server administrators have total control over who does what on their servers. In other words you could get kicked off a server on a whim, or your server owner could decide to shut everything down one day when they’re sick of paying for it.

Another issue involves the federated network itself. If a group of server owners decides they don’t like the content coming out of a particular instance on the federated network they can choose not to carry content from that server. So while you can still have a presence, the reach of that presence could be significantly restricted. This is something Anil Dash discovered on the instance he chose to plant his flag on :

So choosing the right server to start on is an important decision point. While it’s possible to export your content to another one it’s definitely a pain point for the fledgling network.

I decided to start on which is managed by some followers of the Indie Web movement. I picked this server because I’m passionate about independently produced and hosted content and this community is all about that. So on my server I can converse with people I may not know but share my passion for independent content while also having a broader experience with the rest of the “fediverse.” You can see how that works in the video.

Some users are opting to choose to run their own servers, but the cost is certainly much higher (and more complex) than running a simple WordPress instance. And of course this is a heck of a lot more complicated than signing up for a Twitter account.

I see a lot of potential with Mastodon especially as it seems to be attracting many new users lately. I think they’ve added more in the last couple of months than they added in the last several years. Can it scale to the size of a Twitter or Facebook? That remains to be seen – especially given the burden of cost that will be put on the server operators to support the users and content.

Over time we may also see multiple federations that are completely walled off from each other for various reasons. Mastodon’s code is open source so there’s nothing preventing this from happening.

Mastodon’s decentralization is a fascinating approach to social media and it’ll be interesting to see how this federation of independent servers operates and scales. I expect a lot of bumps in the road ahead and it’s questionable if the non-techie public will adopt a platform that is more complex than a centrally controlled corporate platform.