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Following Elon Musk's official takeover of Twitter, rival social media platform Mastodon has become the new platform of choice for legions of people looking to flee Musk's version of Twitter in search of greener pastures.

Some 70.000 new users joined Mastodon the day after Musk took over Twitter. There's no question that Mastodon's design to specifically prohibit major control of its platform by billionaire eccentric types like Elon Musk is one element of the draw. But beyond the numbers and PR talking points, what is Mastodon? Is it really the best alternative to Twitter?

On paper, Mastodon is an open source, decentralized social media platform that works much like Twitter. You'll find comparable microblogging features, and you can post up to 500 characters, called "toots" instead of "tweets," which is objectively fun. However, there are some clear differences between Mastodon and Twitter that help it stand out. The most important of them is the operation of the platform's servers.

Choose your entry point

When you first sign up for Mastodon, you will be prompted to select a server. You can choose between large country based servers like “Australia” (aus.social), or more local regional servers like “San Francisco” (sfba.social), or more specific interest/community based servers like the giant LGBTQ+ friendly. LOL. From the user's perspective, there is no real difference between which server you choose, so opting for something in your geographical vicinity makes more sense.

Mastodon himself describes this server process as similar to email; for example, while your email domain may be Gmail, Hotmail, Outlook, or whatever, you can still email anyone, anywhere.

Where Mastodon's decentralized design has an effect is on network redundancy and resiliency. While Twitter offers a central private domain, twitter.com, for users to access its service, Mastodon's disparate and independent servers work together to keep the network alive.

The founders and developers of Mastodon consider this to be one of the biggest selling points of the platform. Without centralized oversight, they argue, the platform is protected from serving the vested interests of specific people or companies. Mastodon also claims that it makes the platform more profitable, meaning you don't have to worry about monetization or profitability.

Far from critical mass

Still, if you're hoping to follow your favorite celebrity or influencer on Mastodon, you might find it difficult…for now. Unsurprisingly, popular Twitter users with sizable followings are apparently in no rush to leave the platform just yet, though a small trickle including Grey's Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes, actress Tea Leoni and singer Sara Bareilles all recently announced their departure from the bird site.

Still, if Elon Musk continues to make controversial changes to Twitter, it may only be a matter of time before his favorites make the switch and start having fun.

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