Elon Musk, the co-founder of Tesla and Neuralink and founder of SpaceX and Boring Company, initiated a hostile takeover of Twitter on Thursday, April 14th. Twitter rejected and countered the takeover by initiating a so-called “poison pill” policy that would flood the market with discounted shares and dilute Musk’s ownership percentage. However, Musk didn’t relent and ultimately convinced Twitter to sell the company to him for $44 billion on Monday, April 25th, for $54.20 per share.
Amidst the controversy, Twitter users started looking for alternatives to the platform. It didn’t take long until Mastodon was trending on Twitter. Mastodon is an open-source Twitter alternative that is decentralized and can be run and used by anyone. It’s somewhat similar to how email works, except instead of using a protocol like IMAP, it uses the open standard protocol ActivityPub.
Unlike Twitter, Mastodon doesn’t have any ads, is not centrally controlled, and doesn’t track you. It allows users to control every aspect of their online social presence, including running their Mastodon server, using a custom domain, and following people on other Mastodon servers.
Mastodon accounts can also interact with accounts on other social platforms that support ActivityPub. For example, PixelFed, an open-source and decentralized Instagram alternative, uses ActivityPub, allowing Mastodon users to follow and interact with PixelFed accounts. This cross-network social following and engagement capability is called the fediverse.
The fediverse has a long history of stalled and failed projects, but Mastodon’s use is growing. And its slow success is proving ActivityPub’s efficacy as a decentralized social networking protocol of choice. ActivityPub does have challengers, though. Twitter has been working on bluesky, its version of a decentralized protocol. The biggest difference between ActivityPub and bluesky is that bluesky is still vaporware, and they’re attempting to create a version based on Web3 principles.
The easiest way to get started with Mastodon is to create an account at mastodon.social. If you want to run your own Mastodon server as I do at coywolf.social, I recommend using masto.host. Lastly, check out Fediverse Guide to learn how to get the most out of Mastodon.