Mastodon – Almost, but Not Quite

I really wanted to like Mastodon – but unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll be using it, and I’ll tell you why.

If you’re not familiar, here’s the quick version of “what is Mastodon?”

Mastodon is a decentralized social network, built upon the ActivityPub protocol and the idea of a “Fediverse.” Instead of there being one single, centralized social media platform, you have a whole bunch of individual ones that are all interconnected with one another – much like how the web & Internet work, actually.

Because of the interconnection, Mastodon can work somewhat like a single social media platform (where you see everyone’s posts and activity), or you can use it more like a private server, where you only see activity & posts from users on the same instance as you. Or you can go anywhere in between. And each instance of Mastodon is free to run the service however they like – if they want to run a child-friendly site, they can do that, or if they want to only allow discussion on a single specific topic, they can do that too. If they want to interconnect with every other instance, they can, or they can choose to only connect with a few other select instances. If they want to have posts last for years, they can do that, or they can have posts get deleted after just a few days. Total freedom of choice!

Sounds great, right?

Well, as with most things, it is only great in theory. In practice, it leads to confusion over what instance to join and terrible fragmentation as some instances connect (or “federate”) with others – or don’t – at the whims of whoever runs that instance. And, of course, unless your instance is backed by someone trustworthy with the resources needed to run it long term, it might end up suddenly going away – taking all your posts with it.

This last scenario is exactly what happened to me the first time I tried to use Mastodon. I joined a particular instance which was a bit on the small side, and one day it just up and disappeared, with no warning. It was just gone.

Needless to say this left a bad taste in my mouth for the service.

But beyond even that, the concept of decentralized instances all run with their own rules and such and no central authority makes Mastodon somewhat like the Articles of Confederation of social media – and I predict it will work out about as well as they did (which is to say, not at all).

Of course, this is just my opinion, and I could be totally wrong and Mastodon could go on to be the Next Big Thing. And I’m not totally against it or anything – I just don’t have confidence in its long term ability to last. But I guess we’ll see!

By Keith Survell

Geek, professional programmer, amateur photographer, crazy rabbit guy, only slightly obsessed with cute things.


  • 💬 Giving Mastodon Another Try