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Mastodon, the New, Odd Social Media – Part 2

Social Media Without Oligarchs

I’ve been on Mastodon for 2 months and have learned a potful I’d like to share in this post. First, to clarify I’m registered on Toot.Community, a Logo, logos, mastodon icon - Free download on IconfinderMastodon “instance.” Not to worry, an instance is simply a server, a computer used to find and “serve” (return) data (information) to you. You can think of a server as your desktop computer or laptop without a keyboard, monitor, camera or speakers being run by an operator at some remote location. So, when I say I’m on Mastodon, I mean I’m registered at Toot.Community. Toot is a general purpose instance that covers just about any and all topics. Other instances are for specific interests like journo for journalists or au for australians. Many instances have as few as 5 to 10 users while others, like have tens of thousands. Overall, since I joined on November 6, 2021, total Mastodon users have exploded from about 2.5 million to over 9 million. It really doesn’t matter which instance you join because a) you can always switch to another instance and b) all well moderated instances are connected anyway.

Now that we have that out of the way, Mastodon is sorta-kinda like an operating system. You know, Windows 10/11, MacOS or Linux. OK, forget I mentioned Linux because that usually makes peoples’ eyes glaze over. On your cellphone, an operating system could be Android (which is open source) or Apple iOS or some other variant. The OS is the device manager, sorta-kinda like an office manager. It doesn’t necessarily do any work but assigns work to ensure it gets done. Mastodon is also open source meaning the source code is available to anyone to change, modify, enhance. It’s a bit like posting Grandma’s apple pie recipe on FB to see what other variations arise. Of course, to get the original, you still have to go the Grandma’s but there are other variations if that’s your taste. For example, you may have heard of a site called, I think, “MAGA Social” by some guy who used to think he was president. That site is based on Mastodon BUT it’s not federated so it lives in it’s own little bubble, sort of like the guy who lives in an alternate reality cesspool in Florida.

The next terms are “federation” or “fediverse.” These, again, are cool marketing terms ginned up by geeks. Federation means each Mastodon is it’s own little fiefdom but they’re able to connect to and interact with other Mastodon instances. This can be compared to the United States where each state is it’s own entity but they all, for the most part, comport with federal rules and laws. Of course, if MAGA fascists aren’t soon quashed, we may end up in another civil war. Fediverse is a portmanteau of “federation” and “universe.” You can see from this image that there are different types of sites beyond Mastodon. All these sites use common commands and communications protocols to be able to connect seamlessly.

The advantage of federation is that no one person (looking at you, Elon) or company (looking at you, Zuck) controls how things work. And, just as importantly, each instance can selectively de-federate another instance. That’s why sites overrun by RWNJ conspiracy theorists, misogynists, morons and general undesirables can be blocked by other instances. If an instance doesn’t moderate it’s members to follow a generally accepted Code of Conduct, other instances can de-federate them. This can cause a ripple effect until the offending instances can’t connect with any other instance, shouting into it’s own echo chamber.

In Part 3, I’ll include images of the interface and what controls are available. For now, what’s important to take away is that each instance can be slightly different depending on the person who installed the base Mastodon software and, even, their own tastes. However, each instance is paid for and run by individuals (for the most part.) In the future, organizations may elect to stand-up their own Mastodon instance (,,, etc) but, for long term success, they’re bound by the same rules as everyone else. If, for example, Apple were to stand-up Apple.Masto and start collecting user data to resell, other instances can de-federate them and, soon, they’d be talking to themselves.

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