Mastodon (software)

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Mastodon logotype (simple) new hue.svg
Mastodon Single-column-layout.png
Original author(s)Eugen Rochko[1]
Developer(s)Mastodon gGmbH[2]
Initial release16 March 2016; 6 years ago (2016-03-16)[3]
Stable release
3.5.3 / May 26, 2022
Written inRuby on Rails, JavaScript (React.js, Redux)
Operating systemCross-platform
PlatformiOS, Android, Linux, BSD, Sailfish OS, macOS, Microsoft Windows
Available in82 languages[4]
LicenseAGPLv3 Edit this at Wikidata
A cartoon Mastodon mascot
The mascot of the Mastodon social network

Mastodon is free and open-source software for running self-hosted social networking services. It has microblogging features similar to the Twitter service, which are offered by a large number of independently run Mastodon nodes (known as "instances"), each with its own code of conduct, terms of service, privacy options, and moderation policies.[5][6]

Each user is a member of a specific Mastodon instance, which can interoperate as a federated social network, allowing users on different nodes to interact with each other. This is intended to give users the flexibility to select a server whose policies they prefer, but keep access to a larger social network. Mastodon is also part of the Fediverse ensemble of server platforms, which use shared protocols allowing users to also interact with users on other compatible platforms,[7] such as PeerTube and Friendica.

The Mastodon mascot is an animal with a trunk, resembling a mastodon or mammoth, sometimes depicted using a tablet or smartphone. Messages posted using the software are known as "toots".

Functionality and features[edit]

Mastodon servers run social networking software that is capable of communicating using the ActivityPub standard, which has been implemented since version 1.6.[8] A Mastodon user can therefore interact with users on any other server in the Fediverse that supports ActivityPub.

Since version 2.9.0 Mastodon offers a single column mode for new users by default.[9] In advanced mode Mastodon approximates the microblogging user experience of TweetDeck. Users post short-form status messages for others to see. On a standard Mastodon instance, these messages can include up to 500 text-based characters, an extension of Twitter's 280 character limit,[10][11] although numerous Mastodon servers have forked the source code to allow a larger character limit. Posts are called "toots" instead of "tweets", as is the case on Twitter.[12]

Users join a specific Mastodon server, rather than a single website or application. The servers 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 servers. Many servers have a theme based on a specific interest. It is also common for servers to be based around a particular locality, region, or country.[12][13][14]

Mastodon includes a number of specific privacy features. Each message has a variety of privacy options available, and users can choose whether the message 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 servers 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][12]

Mastodon aggregates messages in local and federated timelines in real-time. The local timeline shows messages from users on a singular server, while the federated timeline shows messages across all participating Mastodon servers. Users can communicate across connected Mastodon servers with usernames similar in format to full email addresses.[11][12]

In early 2017, journalists like Sarah Jeong[15] distinguished Mastodon from Twitter for its approach to combating harassment.[12] Mastodon uses community-based moderation, in which each server can limit, or filter out undesirable types of content. For example, and several other servers ban content that is illegal in Germany or France, including Nazi symbolism, Holocaust denial and discrimination. Servers can also choose to limit, or filter out messages with disparaging content. Mastodon's founder Eugen Rochko believes that small, closely related communities deal with unwanted behaviour more effectively than a large company's small safety team.[16] Users can also block and report others to administrators, much like on Twitter.[12][17]

In September 2018, with the release of version 2.5 with redesigned public profile pages, Mastodon marked its 100th release.[18] 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.[19] Since January 2019, it is possible to search for multiple hashtags at once, instead of searching for just a single hashtag, 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.[20] 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 2019.[21] Since the release of Mastodon 2.8.1 in May 2019, images with content warnings are, by default, blurred instead of completely hidden.[22] The most significant addition to Mastodon's functionality in June 2019 has been an optional single-column view in version 2.9.[23] This view is now displayed by default to all new users, although it can be changed to the original column-based view in Mastodon's preferences.[citation needed]

In August 2020, Mastodon 3.2 was released. It included a redesigned audio player with custom thumbnails and the ability to add personal notes to one's profile.[24]

In July 2021, an official client for iOS devices was released. According to the project's leadership, the release was part of an effort to bring on new users.[25]


Mastodon is written as a free, 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[26] within the fediverse network.[27] Its server-side technology is powered by Ruby on Rails and Node.js, and its front end is written in React.js and Redux.[28] The database software is PostgreSQL.[29] The service is interoperable with the decentralized social networks and platforms which use the ActivityPub protocol between each other.[30] Since version 3.0, Mastodon dropped previous support for OStatus.[31][32]

Client apps for mobile devices, desktop computers, and web browsers interacting with the Mastodon API have been released for a range of operating systems, including Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and iOS.[11][33]


Introductory video explaining Mastodon

While Mastodon was first released in October 2016, the service began to expand in late March and early April 2017.[34] 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.[12] The global use has risen from 766,500 users as of 1 August 2017,[35] to 1 million users on 1 December 2017. In November 2017 artists, writers and entrepreneurs such as Chuck Wendig, John Scalzi, Melanie Gillman and later John O'Nolan joined in.[15][36][37][38][39] Another spike in popularity came in March, through April 2018, due to the concerns about user privacy raised by the #deletefacebook effort.[40]

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,[41] following Tumblr's announcement of intent in early December 2018 to ban all sensitive content from their site.[42]

In November 2019, nearly 20,000 Indians temporarily shifted to Mastodon over complaints by left-leaning users against Twitter's moderation policies.[43]

A spike in Mastodon's user participation occurred in April 2022, following the 25 April announcement of Elon Musk purchasing Twitter. By 27 April, 30 thousand new users had joined Mastodon.[44][45]

On 28 April 2022, the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) launches the official ActivityPub microblogging platform (called EU Voice) of the EU institutions, bodies and agencies (EUIs), based on Mastodon.[46]


In 2017, Pixiv launched a Mastodon-based social network named Pawoo.[47] The service was acquired by media company Russell in 2019. Pawoo is banned by most instances on Mastodon due to allowing lolicon art.[48][49]

In April 2019, computer manufacturer Purism released a fork of Mastodon named Librem Social.[50][51]

Gab, a controversial social network with a far-right user base, changed its software platform to a fork of Mastodon and became the largest Mastodon node in July 2019.[52] Gab's adoption of Mastodon allowed Gab to be accessed from third-party Mastodon applications, although four of them blocked Gab shortly after the change.[53] In response, Mastodon's main contributors stated in their blog that they were "completely opposed to Gab’s project and philosophy", and criticized Gab for attempting "to monetize and platform racist content while hiding behind the banner of free speech" and for "paywalling basic features that are freely available on Mastodon".[54]

In October 2019, the Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corporation released a fork of Mastodon named Civiq.Social.[55]

Tooter is an Indian social networking product launched in September 2020. Tooter is forked, or derived from the Mastodon project.[56]

Former US President Donald Trump's social network, Truth Social, is based on Mastodon; however, it initially did not make its source code available, violating Mastodon's AGPLv3 license. After Eugen Rochko sent a formal letter to Truth Social's chief legal officer on 26 October 2021,[57] Truth Social published its source code on 12 November 2021.[58]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The coder who built Mastodon is 24, fiercely independent, and doesn't care about money". Mashable.
  2. ^ "Contact us / Impressum".
  3. ^ "v0.1.0". 16 March 2016. Retrieved 18 July 2019 – via GitHub.
  4. ^ English plus 81 translations listed in "Mastodon translations in Crowdin". Retrieved 2 July 2021.
  5. ^ a b Farokhmanesh, Megan (7 April 2017). "A beginner's guide to Mastodon, the hot new open-source Twitter clone". The Verge. Retrieved 4 February 2021.
  6. ^ Wong, Joon Ian. "How to use Mastodon, the Twitter alternative that's becoming super popular". Quartz. Retrieved 4 February 2021.
  7. ^ "Mastodon launches their ActivityPub support, and a new CR!". Retrieved 20 January 2019.
  8. ^ "ActivityPub IndieWeb". Retrieved 12 October 2019.
  9. ^ "Mastodon 2.9". Official Mastodon Blog. Retrieved 16 June 2019.
  10. ^ "Twitter just doubled the character limit for tweets to 280". 26 September 2017. Retrieved 3 December 2018.
  11. ^ a b c "How To Get Started on Mastodon and Leave Twitter Behind". PCMAG. Retrieved 4 February 2021.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g Farokhmanesh, Megan (7 April 2017). "A beginner's guide to Mastodon, the hot new open-source Twitter clone". The Verge. Retrieved 8 April 2017.
  13. ^ "Ditt lokale sosiale nettverk —". Mastodon hosted on Retrieved 19 October 2020.
  14. ^ "Tŵt Cymru | Toot Wales". Mastodon hosted on Retrieved 19 October 2020.
  15. ^ a b "Mastodon Is Like Twitter Without Nazis, So Why Are We Not Using It?". Motherboard. 4 April 2017. Retrieved 21 September 2018.
  16. ^ "One Mammoth of a Job: An Interview with Eugen Rochko of Mastodon". 9 July 2018. Retrieved 5 October 2019.
  17. ^ Rochko, Eugen. "Learning from Twitter's mistakes". Archived from the original on 10 December 2018. Retrieved 7 September 2018.
  18. ^ "Mastodon 2.5 released: Highlights from the changelog". Retrieved 3 December 2018.
  19. ^ "Mastodon 2.6 released: Highlights from the changelog". Retrieved 3 December 2018.
  20. ^ "Mastodon 2.7 released: Highlights from the changelog". Retrieved 20 January 2019.
  21. ^ "Mastodon 2.8 Highlights from the changelog". Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  22. ^ "Improving support for adult content on Mastodon". Retrieved 6 May 2019.
  23. ^ "Introducing the single-column layout". Retrieved 15 July 2019.
  24. ^ "Mastodon 3.2". Official Mastodon Blog. Retrieved 21 August 2020.
  25. ^ "Mastodon now has an official iPhone app". The Verge. 30 July 2021. Retrieved 31 July 2021.
  26. ^ "Mastodon Instances — The Fediverse Network".
  27. ^ Rochko, Eugen (1 April 2017). "Welcome to Mastodon". Hacker Noon. Archived from the original on 12 September 2018. Retrieved 3 December 2018.
  28. ^ "Installation". Archived from the original on 27 December 2018. Retrieved 26 December 2018.
  29. ^ tootsuite/mastodon, Mastodon, 4 February 2021, retrieved 4 February 2021
  30. ^ "Release v1.6.0". GitHub. Retrieved 20 September 2017.
  31. ^ Your self-hosted, globally interconnected microblogging community: tootsuite/mastodon, TootSuite, 4 October 2019, retrieved 4 October 2019
  32. ^ "Mastodon to drop OStatus support". Retrieved 5 October 2019.
  33. ^ "List of apps". Archived from the original on 27 January 2022. Retrieved 12 February 2022.
  34. ^ Steele, Chandra (6 April 2017). "What Is Mastodon and Will It Kill Twitter?". PCMag Australia.
  35. ^ "dynamic status of mastodon". Retrieved 16 April 2017.[dead link]
  36. ^ "Mastodon Users (bot), December 1, 2017, 4:00 PM". Retrieved 1 December 2017.
  37. ^ Bonnington, Christina (22 November 2016). "Mastodon is an open source, decentralized version of Twitter". The Daily Dot. Retrieved 11 January 2017.
  38. ^ Tidey, Jimmy (6 January 2017). "What would Twitter be if it adopted Wikipedia's politics?". openDemocracy. Retrieved 11 January 2017.
  39. ^ "Are You on Mastodon Yet? Social Network of Our Own – ProfHacker - Blogs - The Chronicle of Higher Education". 28 November 2016. Retrieved 21 September 2018.
  40. ^ POST, Brian Fung, WASHINGTON. "Facebook's poor care of customer data is driving users to social networks such as Mastodon".
  41. ^ "User Count Bot". Retrieved 3 December 2018.
  42. ^ Gibson, Kate (3 December 2018). "Tumblr banning adult content starting Dec. 17, citing porn concerns". CBS News. Retrieved 3 December 2018.
  43. ^ Kapur, Manavi. "This chart from Mastodon's creator shows just how angry some Indian Twitter users are". Quartz India. Retrieved 14 November 2019.
  44. ^ Bell, Karissa (27 April 2022). "After Musk's Twitter takeover, an open-source alternative is 'exploding'". Engadget. Archived from the original on 27 April 2022. Retrieved 27 April 2022.
  45. ^ Woźniak, Michał rysiek (27 April 2022). "Elon Musk kupił sobie Twittera. Czy ,,absolutysta wolności słowa" przywróci konto Trumpa?" [Elon Musk bought Twitter. Will the 'absolute defender of free speech' bring back Trump's account?]. (in Polish). Archived from the original on 27 April 2022. Retrieved 27 April 2022.
  46. ^ EDPS launches pilot phase of two social media platforms (press release).
  47. ^ "Mastodon hosted on". Pawoo. Retrieved 17 January 2020.
  48. ^ Glaser, April; Oremus, Will (30 August 2018). "The New Social Network Dodging Government Surveillance—and Nazis". Slate. Retrieved 27 April 2022.
  49. ^ Zuckerman, Ethan (18 August 2018). "Mastodon is big in Japan. The reason why is… uncomfortable". Retrieved 27 April 2022.
  50. ^ Lunduke, Bryan (30 April 2019). "Purism Launches Librem One, a Suite of Privacy-Protecting, No-Track, No-Ad Apps and Services". Linux Journal. Retrieved 17 July 2019.
  51. ^ Kißling, Kristian; Linux Magazin; Grüner, Sebastian (2 May 2019). "Librem One: Purism startet Angebot für sichere Online-Dienste" [Purism Launches Secure Online Services Offering]. [de] (in German). Retrieved 17 July 2019.
  52. ^ Makuch, Ben; Koebler, Jason; Mead, Derek (11 July 2019). "Mastodon Was Designed to Be a Nazi-Free Twitter—Now It's the Exact Opposite". Vice. Retrieved 17 July 2019.
  53. ^ Robertson, Adi (12 July 2019). "How the biggest decentralized social network is dealing with its Nazi problem". The Verge. Retrieved 17 July 2019.
  54. ^ Eleanor (4 July 2019). "Statement on Gab's fork of Mastodon". Official Mastodon Blog. Retrieved 17 July 2019.
  55. ^ "Announcing the launch of Project Civiq". Fourth Estate. 24 October 2019. Retrieved 24 October 2019.
  56. ^ "How "Swadeshi" is Tooter If It Clones Far-Right Platforms Like Gab?". 27 November 2020. Retrieved 19 December 2020.
  57. ^ Rochko, Eugen (29 October 2021). "Trump's new social media platform found using Mastodon code". Mastodon Blog.
  58. ^ Kan, Michael (1 December 2021). "Trump's Social Media Site Quietly Admits It's Based on Mastodon". PCMag.

External links[edit]