Mastodon will never be Twitter

Now that Twitter is shaking and everybody is looking for an alternative, Mastodon has been getting some attention. Some people probably think that Twitter is big too fail and Mastodon is too small that "Mastodon will never be Twitter". This article is about how I couldn't agree more with the phrase "Mastodon will never be Twitter", but not with the argument.

Terminology clarification: Mastodon is one of many different server softwares that power thousands of social media sites. Those separate social media sites communicate with each other to form a much larger social media platform called Fediverse. In this post when I say "Mastodon", I am talking about Fediverse instances that use Mastodon software as their back-end, not the software. Expect word "Mastodon" to be used in place of Fediverse.

Works on Mastodon was started on 2008 by someone who was unsatisfied with Twitter. Mastodon is another micro-blogging platform with a different direction. From the beginning, it wasn't meant to replace Twitter but offer an alternative for those who felt the same dissatisfaction.

The direction Mastodon headed is called Decentralisation. Thanks to decentralisation, Mastodon will not have a central authority, such as a corporation, government or foundation, on which the entire Mastodon depends. This is very unlike Twitter, which cannot exist without Twitter Inc.

We have many people who moved to Mastodon from Twitter. And very few actually listed 280 character limit as a reason. Most lists the toxicity as their reason for leaving Twitter. People were moving to Mastodon even before Elon Musk started joking about buying Twitter, but those people were very few. Things escalated fast once rumours became true.

If you are new to Mastodon, you will see that some "features" on Twitter are absent on Mastodon. Mastodon is a micro-blogging platform and it is feature complete in that regard. Don't expect Mastodon to have feature parity with Twitter since some limitations and missing features are deliberate decisions. I understand if you see Mastodon as not mature as Twitter at the beginning. But soon you will realise that those features aren't necessities and Mastodon is better off without them.

I also don't expect you to agree with every decision Eugen, founder and main developer of Mastodon, during the development of Mastodon. Some people thought Eugen was limiting too many things that they made their own forks of Mastodon. Sure I find 500 characters too few at times but it is not a big issue really. I believe Eugen is being mindful enough about whether a feature should be implemented and how it should be implemented.

Mastodon is a micro-blogging platform. It doesn't have Moments and QT from Twitter and I don't think I could care less. A micro-blogging software is for having conversations with "micro" messages where message are listed after one another in chronological order. When you focus on a message it should also also list parent and reply messages. Mastodon has everything to satisfy its purpose and many people like it as it is. It would really hurt us to see if it changed direction and started becoming something else.

Can you imagine Mastodon implementing features like quoting toots? Seriously, who thought it was a good idea to have replies which aren't replies, but breaks the parent-child relation that is fundamental to micro-blogging.

Open Message to Eugen

I have been using Mastodon since 2019 and I felt much better using it than Twitter. At first, I thought Mastodon's differences like absence of certain features were due to one person not being able to keep up with a corporation the size of Twitter. But the more I use it I realised thanks to those differences Mastodon is the healthier option. Now I am grateful for not having things like "@person favourited X toots your were mentioned in" notifications and QT.

Thank you for those decisions. Keep being picky 😉


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This article was updated on 26 Nov 2022