Mastodon: What is it? The social network simply explained

by Johannes

The social network Mastodon has been around for quite some time, but in Germany it is still relatively unknown, but is considered the best alternative to Twitter. We show you what distinguishes Mastodon from Facebook, Twitter and Co.

Social network Mastodon: What is it actually and how does it differ from Twitter?

Mastodon is a microblogging service similar to Twitter. However, there are some fundamental differences:

  • The purpose of Mastodon is to spread short messages to friends and also strangers, so-called followers. In addition to text, users can also share images, videos and links.
  • On Twitter, messages were previously limited to 280 characters, which is quite tight in some cases. On Mastodon, users have 500 characters at their disposal.
  • On Mastodon, messages are also not sorted according to an algorithm, but are arranged chronologically in a kind of timeline.
  • Instead of tweets, you send messages as “toots”. A retweet is called a “boost” and instead of a heart or like, you give stars.
  • On Twitter there are profiles that are public or private. This means that for private profiles, messages can only be viewed by people who follow that person. With Mastodon, it can be decided for each individual message to whom it should specifically be displayed. In addition, so-called “content warnings” can be set for sensitive content.

Open Source: How Mastodon Works

The social network was founded in 2016 by Eugen Rochko from Jena. There is no company or profit behind Mastodon, it is an open source project. The source code of Mastodon is therefore freely available on Github.

  • Mastodon is financed by the work of volunteers and donations. In order for thousands of users to communicate with each other, servers are needed, but they cost quite a bit of money.
  • For this reason, some volunteers run private servers, called nodes. These decentralised nodes are connected in the background to form a large social network, a so-called “Federated Universe” (Fediverse).
  • When you sign up for Mastodon, you have to choose one of the over three thousand nodes. It doesn’t matter which node you choose, you can later communicate with all users on Mastodon.
  • To get into direct contact with other people, you need not only their user name, but also their node. For example, if you want to communicate with Max, who has logged on to the node “”, send your message to
  • You can log into the social network via the Mastodon website.

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