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Mastodon is an online, self-hosted social media, and social networking service. It allows anyone to host their own server node in the network, and its various separately operated user bases are federated across many different sites (called "instances"). These instances are connected as a federated social network, allowing users from different instances to interact with each other seamlessly. Mastodon is a part of the wider Fediverse, allowing its users to also interact with users on different open platforms that support the same protocol,[3] such as PeerTube and Friendica.

Mastodon (social media network server)
Mastodon Logotype (Simple).svg
Mastodon desktop web screenshot.png
Developer(s)Eugen Rochko, et. al
Initial release5 October 2016; 2 years ago (2016-10-05)[1]
Stable release
v2.8.2 / 5 May 2019; 13 days ago (2019-05-05)[2]
Repository Edit this at Wikidata
Written inRuby on Rails, JavaScript (React.js, Redux)
Operating systemUnix, Linux, BSD
PlatformWeb, iOS, Android, Linux, BSD, Sailfish OS, macOS, Windows
Available inAlbanian, Arabic, Armenian, Asturian, Basque, Bengali, Bulgarian, Catalan, Chinese, Corsican, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Esperanto, Finnish, French, Galician, German, Greek, Galego, Hungarian, Ido, Italian, Indonesian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Occitan, Portuguese, Persian, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Spanish, Slovak, Slovenian, Swedish, Ukrainian, Kazakh, Korean, Japanese, Malay, Tamil, Telugu, Thai, Hebrew, Turkish, Welsh
LicenseGNU Affero General Public License

Mastodon has microblogging features similar to Twitter, or Weibo, although it is distinct from them, and unlike a typical software as a service platform, it is not centrally hosted. Each user is a member of a specific, independently operated instance. Users post short messages called "toots" for others to see, and can adjust each of their post's privacy settings. The specific privacy options may vary between sites, but typically include direct messaging, followers only, public but not listed in the public feed, and public and posted to the public feed. The Mastodon mascot is a brown or grey woolly mammoth, sometimes depicted using a tablet or smartphone.

Because there is no central server for Mastodon, each instance has its own code of conduct, terms of service, and moderation policies. This differs from traditional social networks by allowing users to choose an instance which has policies they agree with, or to leave an instance that has policies they disagree with, without losing access to Mastodon's social network.


Functionality and featuresEdit

Mastodon servers run social networking software that is capable of communicating either via the OStatus protocol, or also the newer ActivityPub standard. A Mastodon user can therefore interact with users on any other server in the Fediverse that supports these.

Mastodon mascot with a smartphone

Mastodon approximates the microblogging user experience of TweetDeck, where users post short-form status messages for others to see. On Mastodon, these messages can include up to 500 text-based characters, an extension of Twitter's 280-character limit[4] and posts are called "toots" instead of "tweets", as is the case on Twitter.[5]

Users join a specific Mastodon server, known as an "instance", rather than a single website or application. The instances are connected as nodes in a network, and each server can administrate its own rules, account privileges, and whether to share messages to and from other instances. The largest operating instance hosts 545,000+ users as of May 2019. Other instances are based on communal interests, such as Internet memes, Minecraft, or technology.[5]

The social media software includes a number of specific privacy features. Each message has a variety of privacy options available, and users can choose whether the post is public or private. Public messages display on a global feed, known as a timeline, and private messages are only shared on the timelines of the user's followers. Messages can also be marked as unlisted from timelines or direct between users. Users can also mark their accounts as completely private. In the timeline, messages can display with an optional "content warning" feature, which requires readers to click on the content to reveal the rest of the message. Mastodon instances have used this feature to hide spoilers, trigger warnings, and not safe for work (NSFW) content, though some accounts use the feature to hide links and thoughts others might not want to read.[5]

Mastodon aggregates messages in local and federated timelines in real-time. The local timeline shows messages from users on a singular instance, while the federated timeline shows messages across all participating Mastodon instances. Users can communicate across connected Mastodon instances with usernames similar in format to full email addresses.[5]

In early 2017, journalists[Like whom?] distinguished Mastodon from Twitter for its approach to combating harassment, one of Twitter's largest issues.[dubious ][5] Mastodon uses community-based moderation, in which each instance can limit, or filter out undesirable types of content. For example, the flagship instance,, bans content that is illegal in Germany or France, including Nazi symbolism, Holocaust denial and discrimination. Several other instances do this too. Instances can also choose to limit, or filter out messages with disparaging content. Mastodon's founder Eugen Rochko believes that small, close communities would police toxic behavior more effectively than a large company's small safety team.[citation needed] Users can also block and report others to administrators, much like on Twitter.[6][5]

In September 2018, with the release of version 2.5, that features redesigned public profile pages, Mastodon marked its 100th release.[7] Then, at the end of October, Mastodon 2.6 came out, introducing the possibilities of verified profiles and live, in-stream link previews for images and videos.[8] Since January 2019, it is possible to search for multiple hashtags at once, instead of searching for just a single hastag, as was the case before the release of version 2.7. Version 2.7 also has more robust moderation capabilities for server administrators and moderators, while accessibility, such as contrast for users with sight issues, has also been improved.[9] The ability for users to create and vote in polls, as well as a new invitation system to manage registrations have been integrated in April of 2019[10]. When media content, such as images, is marked as sensitive, it's now blurred[11].


Mastodon is written as open source, web-based software for federated microblogging, which anybody can contribute code to, and which anyone can run on their own server infrastructure, if they wish, or join servers run by other people[12] within the fediverse network.[13] Its server-side technology is powered by Ruby on Rails and Node.js, and its front end is written in React.js and Redux.[14] The service is interoperable with the federated social network GNU social and other OStatus platforms, and since version 1.6 as well with those platforms that use the ActivityPub standard.[15]

Client apps (mobile, desktop or alternative web clients) interacting with the Mastodon API are available for a range of systems, including Android, iOS, SailfishOS and Windows Mobile.[16]


Introductory video explaining Mastodon

While Mastodon was first released in October 2016, the service began to expand in late March and early April 2017.[17] The Verge wrote that the community at this time was small and that it had yet to attract the personalities that keep users at Twitter.[5] The global use has risen from 766,500 users as of August 1, 2017,[18] to 1 million users on December 1, 2017. In November 2017 artists, writers and entrepreneurs such as Chuck Wendig, John Scalzi, Melanie Gillman and later John O'Nolan joined in.[19][20][21][22][23] Another spike in popularity came in March, through April 2018, due to the concerns about user privacy raised by the #deletefacebook effort.[24]

Mastodon has a large international userbase; notably, as of February 2019, Japanese-speaking users total over 250,000.[25][26]

Mastodon, along with a number of other alternative social media sites, saw a large uptick in membership, gaining thousands of new members in the period of a few hours compared to dozens in days prior,[27] following Tumblr's announcement of intent in early December 2018 to ban all sensitive content from their site.[28]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Show HN: A new decentralized microblogging platform". Hacker News. 2016-10-06.
  2. ^ "Release v2.8.1". Github. Retrieved 6 May 2019.
  3. ^ "Mastodon launches their ActivityPub support, and a new CR!". Retrieved 20 January 2019.
  4. ^ "Twitter just doubled the character limit for tweets to 280". Retrieved 3 December 2018.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Farokhmanesh, Megan (April 7, 2017). "A beginner's guide to Mastodon, the hot new open-source Twitter clone". The Verge. Retrieved April 8, 2017.
  6. ^ Rochko, Eugen. "Learning from Twitter's mistakes". Retrieved 7 September 2018.
  7. ^ "Mastodon 2.5 released: Highlights from the changelog". Retrieved 3 December 2018.
  8. ^ "Mastodon 2.6 released: Highlights from the changelog". Retrieved 3 December 2018.
  9. ^ "Mastodon 2.7 released: Highlights from the changelog". Retrieved 20 January 2019.
  10. ^ "Mastodon 2.8 Highlights from the changelog". Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  11. ^ "Improving support for adult content on Mastodon". Retrieved 6 May 2019.
  12. ^ "Mastodon Instances — The Fediverse Network".
  13. ^ Rochko, Eugen (1 April 2017). "Welcome to Mastodon". Hacker Noon. Retrieved 3 December 2018.
  14. ^ "Installation". Retrieved 26 December 2018.
  15. ^ "Release v1.6.0". GitHub. Retrieved 2017-09-20.
  16. ^ "List of apps". GitHub. Retrieved 2017-07-02.
  17. ^ Steele, Chandra (2017-04-06). "What Is Mastodon and Will It Kill Twitter?". PCMag Australia.
  18. ^ "dynamic status of mastodon". Retrieved 2017-04-16.
  19. ^ "Mastodon Users (bot), December 1, 2017, 4:00 PM". Retrieved 1 December 2017.
  20. ^ Bonnington, Christina (2016-11-22). "Mastodon is an open source, decentralized version of Twitter". The Daily Dot. Retrieved 2017-01-11.
  21. ^ "Mastodon Is Like Twitter Without Nazis, So Why Are We Not Using It?". Motherboard. 2017-04-04. Retrieved 2018-09-21.
  22. ^ Tidey, Jimmy (2017-01-06). "What would Twitter be if it adopted Wikipedia's politics?". openDemocracy. Retrieved 2017-01-11.
  23. ^ "Are You on Mastodon Yet? Social Network of Our Own – ProfHacker - Blogs - The Chronicle of Higher Education". Retrieved 2018-09-21.
  24. ^ POST, Brian Fung, WASHINGTON. "Facebook's poor care of customer data is driving users to social networks such as Mastodon".
  25. ^ "Mastodon instances". Retrieved 2019-02-09.
  26. ^ "citation thing". 2019-02-01. Retrieved 2019-02-09.
  27. ^ "User Count Bot". Retrieved 2018-12-03.
  28. ^ Gibson, Kate (3 December 2018). "Tumblr banning adult content starting Dec. 17, citing porn concerns". CBS News. Retrieved 3 December 2018.

External linksEdit