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The key functional difference between Mastodon and Twitter is that Mastodon is a decentralized network of independently-maintained servers (called "Instances"), whereas Twitter's servers are all owned and operated by Twitter itself. Mastodon uses an open-source server platform which allows virtually anyone with sufficient server space and connectivity to join its network. This allows for servers to have domain names that attract various communities, including furry communities.
On December 1, 2017, the total number of user accounts across all instances reached one million. As of December 13, 2017, there were 1234 active instances, averaging 826 users per instance., and according to a blog post by co-creator Eugen Rochko, these have risen to 1,627,557 users on 3,460 instances by its second anniversary.
How Instances Work
Mastodon instances talk to and verify each other through a process called federation. This allows for users of different instances to view, follow, and communicate with each other. The overall network of federated instances is colloquially called The Fediverse. Like Mastodon itself, the protocol used to communicate across The Fediverse, OStatus, is also an open standard.
Each Mastodon instance has an administrator (or multiple administrators), who install and maintain the Mastodon software suite, determine the name of their instance, and set other individual rules and server parameters for their instance. They may also create a distinct theme for their instance, including color schemes, graphics, language settings, and custom emoji. For privacy and safety concerns, administrators (as well as site moderators) have the right (and, as part of The Fediverse, often an obligation) to suspend or ban users on their instances who are violating the rules of the instance, The Fediverse, or the laws of their locality. Administrators also have the ability to blacklist other instances as a whole that are either out-of-date, poorly administered, have settings undesirable to their users, allow unhidden NSFW or offensive content, or harbor malicious users or spammers.
A prospective user can create a Mastodon account on almost any instance in the Fediverse; however, some instances are open for immediate use after creating an account, while others require that instance administrator's approval before their account is created. Once created, a user will log into their instance's account to post content using their federated username of @email@example.com. Users can view and post content either from their instance's web site, or via one of several community-supported mobile apps.
A post to Mastodon is usually called a toot. Like Twitter, Mastodon allows users to toot text, image, audio, and video content, as well as use hashtags to allow for tagging of content for easier searching. Mastodon has a limit of 500 characters per toot, as opposed to 280 characters per tweet. Users can, by default, toot up to 8 megabytes of content per toot, but this is adjustable by an instance administrator. Furthermore, each individual toot can have separate privacy settings of public, unlisted (public but not listed on federated timelines), private (followers-only), and direct.
The website view of a Mastodon instance has a similar look-and-feel to Twitter's Tweetdeck product, where various pieces of content are viewed in columns, such as:
- "Home", a feed of toots of all followed users
- "Notifications", a feed of toots in which the user is mentioned or replied to
- "Local Timeline", a feed of all public toots on the user's instance
- "Federated Timeline", a feed of all public toots across all instances
- "Lists", a feed of certain public toots filtered by the user's criteria
This view changes to a single column and a series of buttons to select columns when viewed on a mobile platform (or if a web browser's width is reduced to a certain amount).
A major feature of Mastodon is that toots can also have hidden content. A built-in content warning mechanism is available on each toot, where the majority of a toot's content can be hidden behind warning text and a button that requires a viewer to click to read the rest. This is especially useful (and often encouraged) when a user toots content that is sensitive, lengthy, spoiler-ish, or NSFW. Pictures and video in a toot can also be marked as sensitive, regardless of whether they are behind a content warning, requiring the viewer to click on that media to view it.
Users can also "favorite" and "boost" toots, which are analogous to "like" and "retweet" on Twitter.
A user's profile has an avatar, header, small biographical field, and four free-form entries called "metadata". The latter are useful for stating one's pronouns, species, location, and other small information.
Mastodon and the Furry Community
Because of the level of customization and self-identification of Mastodon instances, as well as the ability to set privacy and visibility per toot, furry groups were among the first to create and populate instances. Several furry-related instances have been created since Mastodon's inception, such as:
As a whole, the mascot of Mastodon is the mastodon itself, a non-anthropomorphic predecessor of the mammoth and the elephant. However, administrators may introduce their own mascots, both anthropomorphic and not, as well as part of their instance's theme.
- Join Mastodon Retrieved December 14, 2017.
- @firstname.lastname@example.org Mastodon User Count account on mastodon.social. Tooted December 1, 2017. Retrieved December 13, 2017.
-  Network drilldown for December 13, 2017.
-  Mastodon's 2 Year Anniversary!
- "How exactly is it decentralized?" Mastodon FAQ on GitHub. Retrieved December 13, 2017.
- Mastodon App List Mastodon client app list. Retrieved December 13, 2017.
- "What is a Mastodon?". Mastodon FAQ on GitHub. Retrieved December 13, 2017.
- Join Mastodon
- instances.social, a tool to help decide which instance to join
- Mastodon FAQ on GitHub
- mastodon.social, the original Mastodon instance
- Overview of Mastodon & Why I Like It by Ruth Tillman
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|Some of this page is derived from Wikipedia. The original article was at Mastodon. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with WikiFur, the text of Wikipedia is available under CC-BY-SA and the GFDL.|