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Could Mastodon Become the New Twitter?

Following Elon Musk's purchase of Twitter, droves are fleeing the social network and joining Mastodon, an open-source federated service in the 'fediverse.'

PUBLISHED NOV 8, 2022 12:00 A.M.
Don't get stomped.

Don't get stomped.

Dantheman9758   Wikipedia commons

Like many other online media shops, California Local makes extensive use of Twitter. 

Twitter’s well suited for news feeds, and for that reason it’s a magnet for journalists, people in need of a microphone and people in need of a listening post—and bots.

California Local is about all of that, so when it became clear that the change in ownership of Twitter was veering in unfavorable directions, I immediately started looking into Mastodon.

Mastodon is a micro-blogging platform like Twitter in which users have unique addresses (i.e. @chris@social.californialocal.com) and can read and post short messages (“toots”). Users can direct message other users, and all the other Twitter-like stuff.

While there are only about 1 million active monthly Mastodon users compared to Twitter’s 450 million, Twitter is losing long-time users and advertisers in droves while the Mastodon network is growing at a furious clip.

The point with Twitter, and also Facebook and the other platforms, is that when people are mistreated and have alternative places to go, they’ll go.

An unsung truth about the Internet is that most of the underlying software is open source, meaning it's non-proprietary and available at no cost. Open source is how geeks donate and volunteer, and geeks love to build tools and communities and virtual places to go, like Mastodon.

Mastodon is the latest incarnation of an open source federated service in which a network of independent servers voluntarily connect with each other to exchange ActivityPub standard messages. Together, they form a “Fediverse,” and Mastodon is already its largest participating platform. 

People can sign up for accounts on existing servers, and even start their own independent federated server that becomes a node on the Mastodon network.

That’s how email works, and how the old distributed bulletin boards like FidoNet and the UUCP message networks worked. To an old-timer like me, Mastodon looks like USENET.

And being open source, it is still a little rough around the edges—but oh boy is that about to change with all this new attention resulting in additional contributors, users and servers joining Mastodon’s ranks. Including us at California Local. 

We’re busy integrating Mastodon into our platform and workflow and setting up servers for our members. We’re planning to use Mastodon to distribute the news, traffic and weather updates that our bots currently circulate on Twitter. Mastodon is a great platform for information exchange, one which exemplifies the ethic of the free-speech town square, the love and defense of which were touted as the rationale for the Twitter takeover.

Which brings us to the Mastodon in the room. 

Musk and his other co-investors could have saved $44 billion if they’d just kicked a few million into a Mastodon dev team and contributed to the source code and brought the service up to commercial grade.  

But no need now. The geeks are on it.

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