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Is Mastodon Really a Twitter Alternative? Amid backlash for lack of transparency in profile verification and moderating tweets, several users are making the switch to a decentralized social network.

By Debroop Roy

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Mastodon

Social networking giant Twitter has competition. In a mark of protest against some of the site's policies, several Indian celebrities including the likes of Kavita Krishnan and Vishal Dadlani have been switching to something known as Mastodon.

The trend began after San Francisco-based Twitter reportedly suspended the account of Supreme Court lawyer Sanjay Hegde for a few tweets that were reported. One of his tweets, a famous picture from 1936 of a rally where German worker Augus Landmesser is seen refusing to do the Nazi salute, was flagged as hateful.

Hegde served a legal notice to Twitter on Thursday, asking restoration of the account and demanding a public apology.

Twitter had also faced backlash in India recently for the lack of accountability after senior journalist Dilip Mandal spoke out against the site's blue tick verification policy, claiming that it was denying the verification to people belonging to the lower caste. In a series of tweets, Twitter India responded saying it had one set of rules, and that it enforced them impartially.

Mastodon, created by a 26-year old German named Eugen Rochko, is being touted as a Twitter alternative, considering it doesn't have anyone running the show. A decentralized social network, anybody on Mastodon can create their own server and run it. Mastodon's tagline? "Giving social networking back to you"

Better Than Twitter?

For the uninitiated, these separate servers on Mastodon are known as "instances' and the instances can be managed by communities, each with its own set of rules. Like Twitter, each post on Mastodon has a character-limit. Mastodon currently allows 500 characters in a single post, compared to Twitter's 280 characters.

The instances can be crowdfunded, therefore ensuring an ad-free experience and making sure that no one person owns it.

Even though instances can be open for all, Mastodon also has an option to let you keep it private. Users in different instances have the power to follow and communicate with each other.

Currently, the most used instance on the site is Mastodon.social which is run by the lead developer.

Long Way To Go

Even as Mastodon gains popularity, it would be a while before it can become large enough for everyone to use. Many people use Twitter for the sole purpose of following celebrities and other interesting folk, and until a large number decides to make the switch, the proposition would not seem attractive enough for this audience.

According to Mastodon's homepage, it has a community of 2.2 million users. Twitter had 330 million monthly active users in the first quarter of 2019.

Debroop Roy

Former Correspondent

Covering the start-up ecosystem in and around Bangalore. Formerly an energy reporter at Reuters. A film, cricket buff who also writes fiction on weekends.
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