Are you on Mastodon?

This is the english version of a post previously published in PT-BR.

In 2017 I was introduced to Mastodon. Like most people, the first impression I had (and, frankly, practically everyone says this) was that Mastodon would be “just” an alternative to Twitter. Even more so after the blunders caused by world record holder Elon Musk with Twitter, Mastodon has been gaining many users in recent months and practically everyone thinks it is just a clone of Twitter. It’s normal to think that… The character limitations and even the way the standard interface is presented make us think this is really the case.

But things aren’t quite like that. And, thankfully, I didn’t need 5 years to learn this. Mastodon is something completely different from Twitter (frankly, much better too); very easy and fun to use.

To begin with, an important consideration. Mastodon is part of Fediverse, a true constellation of services that work on top of a protocol called ActivityPub, created by W3C and which allows content in different formats to be distributed across the internet.

Mastodon is one of these services, but it is not the only one. There are social media services that work on top of ActivityPub dedicated to images and videos, for example. Mastodon is just one of them, which allows text format updates and posting of different media formats.

Well, this is the basics of the ActivityPub related thing. If you want to know more about ActivityPub, you can follow this link.

To understand and use Mastodon, however, you don’t need to know it in depth. Just understand that, being built based on this protocol (ActivityPub), Mastodon is a federated and open social media platform. By federated, understand that each one can create an instance (or server) and connect this server to the federation, causing the content of the other federated servers to be accessed by whoever is in their instance and vice versa (the content posted on their instance will be viewed/accessed by anyone linked to the other federated instances).

This provides a very interesting scenario. Each instance administrator can define their own rules and is also responsible for user management and, of course, the functioning of this little piece of the network. And as the network is federated, servers communicate with each other and everyone can see what is posted on other servers and interact with other users.

It works more or less like email. My email server ( has specific rules for attachment sizes and storage space for messages. These rules may be different from those of Gmail, iCloud, UOL or Yahoo. However, people who have email created on each of these services can send messages to people on other servers without any problems. We’ve been doing this for years, right? At Mastodon it’s the same thing. Each server has some particularities but, as long as they are linked to the federation, users can interact freely.

Well, the different servers/instances of Mastodon can allow – for example – the entry of only one type of user (think of an instance of a University, which can only allow members of the academic community to register), establish posting rules and own conduct, define character limits, allow or prohibit specific types of media and so on. This can be cool because there is the possibility of restricting viewing or responding to certain posts only to members of the instance (or their followers)… Anyway, one thing is important to reinforce: members of an instance with restricted access (such as in the example I gave, of a University) can follow and be followed by everyone in the fediverse (as this large environment of servers participating in the federation is called) normally.

Many people consider this issue of instances as a complicating element of Mastodon. However, explaining it this way, things are quite simple, right? We choose a server to connect to based on requirements that may be our own (being part of a community, for example, or being interested in meeting people from a certain group) or even for reasons that are particular to the instance (choosing to participate in an instance that has a higher character limit in posts, for example or even being an employee of a company that created an instance) and start interacting.

One thing I mentioned above is important to explore further: meeting people from a server/instance. This is because on Mastodon, posts are viewed in three possible minimum timelines (I say “minimum” because you can choose to follow hashtags and have even more timelines). These three are: Your timeline (called HOME) where posts from all the people you follow appear. The second timeline is the server timeline (called LOCAL), where you can see all posts marked as public by people in your instance. The third is very broad (called FEDERATED) and shows all posts marked as public from all people linked to the servers that are connected to yours. This means that these three timelines tend to be very busy, on an increasing basis, you know?

Oh, and while I’m explaining this, it’s worth delving deeper into a topic I touched on above: posts marked as public. That’s because on Mastodon, you can mark posts as restricted. Then only those who follow you will see the post. This way, you won’t have your selected posts visible on anyone’s LOCAL and FEDERATED timelines. Unless you signal. All of this is configurable for people, which gives Mastodon users enormous freedom. In addition to being able to mark posts as public or private, you can set the language of the post (because, similarly, you can choose to only view posts from a specified language) or even lock your profile, so that only those you approve can see you. follow. In other words: the user has control over a lot of things on Mastodon.

Understanding these basic points, you can see that it is a social media platform with a lot of versatility and potential, right?

Feel like using Mastodon? The first thing to do is create your account. The best way to do this is by accessing where you can filter servers and find your preferred server. Don’t worry as this choice is not final. You can migrate later. I myself have already migrated four times (I started in 2017 on, then I migrated to, then I went to, then to and now I’m on When you migrate servers, you take your list of followers and the list of profiles you follow. Only the posts are not migrated either. It’s all very simple.

Well then. Once you have chosen the server, simply register. I strongly recommend that this process be done through the browser on a computer. Once the account has been created, you can access your server via your browser and also use one of the many Mastodon clients available. There are clients for all platforms and with different functionalities/looks. The native (official) clients for Android and iOS are pretty cool. On iOS I use Mona. But I’ve used Metatext a lot, which I think is really cool (Metatext allows you to edit posts after they’ve been published, which I think is really cool, since I keep making typos) and there’s also Woolly and IceCubes, which are excellent apps.

Using mastodon on your smartphone is easier. Applications make the process of following and interacting with people from other servers very easy. On the desktop you can interact with people freely too, but from time to time following a profile may require copying a URL and pasting it into the search bar in order to follow. An extra step but it doesn’t kill anyone. We get used to it. As if that weren’t enough, you can also choose, in the browser, to use the basic or advanced interface. Many people recommend the advanced interface because it looks like the interface of some Twitter clients that people used (TweetDeck).

As Mastodon is open, there are also alternative ways to access it via browser. Elk ( and Pinafore ( are two of these forms. These initiatives allow you to use mastodon with a different interface. I really like Pinafore and, when I’m on the computer, I access it through it.

Coming back to usage, Mastodon is quite inclusive. Every image you post, you can put a description text. Instance administrators emphasize that this is very important and recommend that everyone post image descriptions. This ends up helping a lot. Furthermore, it is up to the post author to indicate that content is sensitive and, thus, readers are warned. You can do this with text posts as well as image posts. Look how cool! Of course, in the applications (and also in the web interface) you can configure it to mark everything as sensitive or view all content without having to click again.

Regarding the dynamics of the platform, understand that one thing is very cool: Mastodon has no interference in the assortment and ordering of posts through algorithms. This makes the platform a very cool environment for interaction. You will see everything that the profiles you follow post and vice versa. All your public posts will be seen by everyone who follows you. In addition, there are boosts, which are impulses. You can replicate someone’s post to your followers. This is really cool to make a message reach a larger audience. There are also, of course, comments, which allow you to interact with the authors of the posts and with anyone who may have already commented there. Finally, there are favorites, which, although they do not amplify a message, signal to the author that you liked it.

Of course, you can use replies to posts to build threads, in the same way as on Twitter. Likewise, there are also direct messages (DMs, which can be individual or group). About messages, one important thing: they are not encryption and the instance admin will be able to access them. Therefore, it is recommended to never put sensitive information in a DM (but this applies to any platform).

Well then. I think this is pretty basic, right? The one thing to do now is to create the account and start interacting. There are cool services like movetodon ( where you can see which people you follow on Twitter are already on Mastodon and follow them there too. Migration is very simple and easy.

Hope to see you at Mastodon!

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