We once used phone calls and text messages to carry out all our communication, now our private conversations are largely digitalized and carried out almost entirely online. That is why we must pay more attention to our data protection and privacy settings. Facebook, the kingpin of social media, has been constantly criticized in this regard – so we’ve compiled a list of alternatives to Facebook for...What are the best alternatives to Facebook?
Twitter is not the only microblogging and social media platform on the internet. Users who no longer feel comfortable with the large platform can use Mastodon as an alternative. The tool, which is based on a decentralized network, has some special features. For example, it cannot be controlled by one person or one company.
What is Mastodon?
Mastodon is a short messaging or microblogging service, just like Twitter. Registered users publish concise posts that can be read by everyone else. If you follow a person on the network, the messages are displayed in your individual timeline, just like on other social media platforms.
However, Mastodon has the special feature that it is organized in a decentralized manner. Unlike most other well-known platforms (whether Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest), Mastodon does not have just one provider, but many servers operated by different organizations or individuals.
The different Mastodon servers have different orientations and sometimes also different rules. Users choose the server that suits them best. However, it doesn’t limit you to communicating with people on that server. All servers are interconnected in Fediverse (the name of the network). By specifying a nickname and server, you can also connect to accounts on other instances and communicate across the entire Fediverse.
On the website joinmastodon.org you can find an overview of tested server instances. These are categorized by region and theme. However, you can also create your own Mastodon server. Then you set your own rules and determine, like what content is allowed and what is deleted. As the operator of a Mastodon server, you also have the option to block other instances if you don't agree with their content.
There are other social networks in the Fediverse. Thanks to a common protocol (ActivityPub), the different platforms can be connected to each other. By the way, even though the decentralized approach is the same, this network is not a blockchain.
In terms of functionality, Mastodon is similar to what you know from Twitter. You publish short posts, write directly to other users or just read other people's posts.
- Short posts: Toots can have a maximum length of 500 characters.
- Media: Toots can be enriched with images, videos or audio files.
- Mentions: In Toots, you can link other users by nickname.
- Share: You can share posts from others that you like on your own profile; this is called a “boost” on Mastodon.
- Timeline: Posts from accounts you follow are presented chronologically one below the other and not sorted by an algorithm.
- Hashtags: Using hashtags, you categorize your Toot, giving other users a way to find the post.
- Privacy: Mastodon gives you the option to decide for each post who gets to see it: everyone, only your followers, or only certain people.
- App: You either use Mastodon via the website or reach for one of the many handy apps that are now available.
Focus on data protection
Mastodon has also received a lot of attention regarding data protection. Classic social media platforms, first Facebook but also Twitter, are repeatedly criticized for their use of personal data.
Pros and cons of Mastodon
|Decentral and independent||Not very easy to join|
|Good filter functions||Servers can be removed at any time|
|Data protection friendly||Community not yet so big|
|No sorting by algorithms|
|No advertising on the software|
Mastodon is a decentralized service based on open source. This makes it virtually impossible for the platform (or network) to be controlled by single interest groups. Many people work together to make the platform available. This is good for diversity, and anyone who feels harassed by individual accounts or entire servers can simply block them.
However, since there is not just one company behind the service and servers, users have to put more effort into finding the right Mastodon server. Also, keep in mind that the operators of the servers can stop this service at any time. This could mean that all your contributions would be lost. So, you should choose a server where this is unlikely to happen.
Mastodon is not considered very easy to get started with, because you first have to get to grips with the concept of Fediverse and learn about the individual instances. However, once you have registered, the handling is very intuitive.
So far, Mastodon is still relatively unknown, but the registration rate has increased significantly. (As of November 2022). Above all, well-known personalities or brands that have a great appeal are missing on Mastodon so far. However, this may change in the future.
Mastodon and Twitter compared
Mastodon and Twitter both offer a microblogging service. While the functions of both solutions are almost the same, they differ in their concept and in some details.
|Option for own server||✘||✔|
|Sorting by algorithm||✔||✘|
|Community||Around 368 million||Around 7,5 million|
(Date: November 2022)
The biggest disadvantage of Mastodon compared to Twitter so far might be the lack of popularity. If you want to reach as many people as possible, you are still better off with Twitter. Companies with their own Twitter-strategy are especially unlikely to be successful with Mastodon. In terms of functionality, however, the alternative does not have to hide behind the big competition. What you can do on Twitter also works on Mastodon. Try out the decentralized network and only then consider deleting your Twitter account.