Of all the random strangers hosting the service, I waited until I could get onto the instance hosted by the actual project itself; the bus factor feels higher, and the account suspension process less arbitrary.
https://web.archive.org/web/20170406103653/https://mastodon.... (April 2017)
Due to exceptionally high traffic, registrations on this instance are closed until quality of service can be assured for existing users. Choose one of the various other public instances to sign up!
https://web.archive.org/web/20170806214711/https://mastodon.... (August 2017)
Given that this is most shared instance, to preserve the ideals of decentralization we have closed sign ups in favour of spreading new users through the various alternative instances — you get the same network wherever you sign up. Click below to find one:
A few months later, I think mastodon.social has been fairly open to signups, especially now that we've got all these French and Japanese instances up and running.
Throw in a DHT and a key pair for every user and you could fully divorce account ID from instance.
Submitted it here ...
... but it got very little attention. In fact, checking my logs only about 20 people even clicked through.
Perhaps people are genuinely not interested. Attention fatigue?? Who knows?
Edit: I should add that I'm here: https://mathstodon.xyz/@ColinTheMathmo
https://mathstodon.xyz is very quiet, but building slowly.
As a result, building services like this in a distributed way a la email seems much more appropriate. Why let Twitter greedily monetize your content?
Edit: As pointed out by daveid (thanks!), Mastodon does allow uploading photos and videos. So my statement referring to it as text-only was incorrect, and I've removed that part.
Update: I created an account on an instance and it looked like Tweetdeck's web interface, which is something I do like during the rare times I login to Twitter. I personally would still like to see something richer and more familiar to people who use Facebook and Google+ in terms of the interface, features like groups, etc. I struggle to keep up with Twitter, and I find groups to be the best place for me on social networks. I also like that longform articles can be posted on Facebook with Notes. The 500 character limit in Mastodon seems a lot better than Twitter, but is still a huge restriction.
I totally agree that it is a bit barebones at the moment and could use real groups and other social features. The fact that admins of different instances can hack on their servers separately might promote third party features being created and merged.
The site loads much faster, and it's more responsive because it doesn't load trackers and ads to monetize users. 500 char limit actually facilitates having meaningful interactions with people. The column UI layout lets you see the timeline and notifications without having to jump between tabs.
Fundamentally, Mastodon is exactly the way social media should work in my opinion. Anybody can run their own instance and configure it any way they like. Since Mastodon is open source and community driven there aren't any VCs driving it, and it doesn't need to monetize to stick around. As long as people want to use Mastodon, it'll continue to thrive. Any features added to the platform are there for the benefit of the users and on one else.
I also think that Mastodon happens to be at the right place and at the right time. Hosting has become very affordable nowadays. You can get a DigitalOcean VPN for 5 bucks a month. Docker makes the installation process a breeze, and Let's Encrypt provides free TLS. You can literally spin up an instance in an hour or so. I wrote a short guide here https://github.com/yogthos/cheatsheets/blob/master/mastodon....
We took a big detour with walled gardens like Google, Facebook, and Twitter. It's time to go back to the original spirit of the internet where anybody can run a server and people can interact with one another on their own terms.
(edit: not that Twitter themselves have done much to offend me - "Twitter the company" above is more of a stand-in for commercial social networking companies at large)
2nd edit because I've not had my coffee yet and didn't explain myself properly: the "whole concept" that I'm talking about is, I guess, what people used to call 'microblogging' - a service of which Twitter is the holotype; as far as I can see, the real utility of it is in its constant presence via a phone app, but I am not sure if I want to do that. I definitely don't want to have that in my life by joining Twitter, but I can't make up my mind whether my dislike is more about the companies providing the service, or more about the generic service itself.
Does that make better sense? :)
In many gatherings speakers identify themselves by twitter handles instead of email. Do you think that is sound?
In many gatherings speakers identify themselves
by twitter handles instead of email. Do you think
that is sound?
You can have a user on any Mastadon or GNUSocial server, and communicate with any other user on any other Mastadon/GNUSocial server.
So, no get tied in there.
That's the main complaint I see with people and social networks... So can you expand?
As for the people there, the people I talk to are interested in games, philosophy, linux, vaporwave, memes, and meta talk about mastodon and decentralized platforms. There are a lot of trans and and furries and people interested in politics. The vast majority have been unfailingly nice. The granular privacy options allow one to mute those who are overbearing.
And the biggest difference between it and /b/ is that conversations tend to be two-way a lot more. People aren't purposely posting to try and anger you. In fact, here's a post I see on my feed right now:
>someone should write a paper on mastodon as a model of a therapeutic community
If what you're saying is you just don't like platforms that have lots of people you disagree with politically, that's one thing. But the behavior and subject matter and culture are significantly different from /b/ and in no way a wasteland.
If the instances that are not "barren wasteland" are difficult to find, it's a problem.
I actually think this is superior to Twitter model, because you can find an instance that fits your interests closely and not have to deal with the noise you don't care about.
But even if they weren't, the extremely active main instances are enough to show the platform isn't a barren wasteland. And the difficulty of finding offshoot instances with lower amounts of participation is a different category of problem, however real, from the platform itself not having people.
There are some ideological and technical points to consider before choosing your instance.
Maybe it would help to make it more explicit that Mastodon works more like email than Twitter in that respect, but to be fair joinmastodon.org and also the new user onboarding tutorial do try hard to make that very clear.
Maybe the network will just evolve to value interactions that aren't centered around brand pushing. Maybe it will let the rest of the social ecosystem take care of that and meanwhile mastodon will do it's own thing.
Or maybe a mastodon instance will seek to distinguish itself by providing this kind of verification and become the de-facto instance for verified brands. (There's already a mastodon that explicitly courts business brands.) Maybe we'll even discover that we just don't value such a thing that much, when it occurs on a network structured to make it easily separable from the rest of social activity.
All of which is not to say we should waive away the problem, only that it need not be a conversation-stopper when it comes to the question of whether mastodon has offers "enough" value in its current form.
I met a bunch of people on Mastodon whom I find interesting, and I have conversations with. There's no need for me to verify their identity because I'm enjoying the interactions I have with them.
This is really how internet was originally envisioned to work. You don't need to know anything about the person on the other end, the interaction itself is what's valuable.
If there's any decentralized service that has even a remote chance of succeeding, I would say that it's Mastodon. Simply because of the time when it appeared.
Conversely, hosting has become much cheaper and easier than before. You can spin up a DigitalOcean droplet for 5 bucks, get a Let's Encrypt cert, and spin up a Mastodon Docker image in an hour or so. The barrier to running an instance is very low nowadays.