Commentary

Publishers, Writers Wonder If Mastadon Can Replace Twitter

Publishing pros that use Twitter to get information out are mulling whether to jump to Mastadon now that Twitter seems to be unraveling. But they should know it’s not the same.  

Mastadon is a decentralized, open-source platform. Users join “instances,” or communities, each of which  has its own server. And there are now roughly 7,000 of them, Mathew Ingram reports in Columbia Journalism Review. 

A community for journalists—journa.host— was recently set up on Mastadon by Adam Davidson. Among other things, you apparently can probably expect fewer viral outbreaks than you would get on Twitter. 

“There’s no algorithm promoting tweets,” Davidson said in an interview with… It’s just the people you follow. This is the order in which they come. It’s not really set up for that kind of, ‘Oh my god, everybody’s talking about this one post.’ It is set up to foster conversation. I have something like 150,000 followers on Twitter, and I have something like 2,500 on Mastodon, but I have way more substantive conversations on Mastodon even though it’s a smaller audience.”

Still, the open nature of the platform could put some people off.  The Occupy Democrats group alleged today (via Twitter, by the way) that Donald Trump’s Truth Social app is “being hosted own Mastadon sending Twitter refugees flocking to pro-democracy Twitter alternative @TribeSocial.” 

Moreover, nobody controls who goes on or who says what. But each instance can block, or “defederate,” other servers

Journa.host, which has 1,300 users, is already being blocked by 45 instances. One of these claims that Journa.host is serving “click-bait/tabloid/journalists,” another that its members are probably “surveillance capitalists,” Ingram writes in CJR.

Publishers and writers that use Twitter to put out news scoops and corporate information are at the mercy of events. Twitter may be as usable under Elon Musk. And Mastadon?

“There are approximately seven thousand Mastodon servers at the moment, so the fact sthat forty-five of them block one server of journalists isn’t really the end of the world,” Ingram concludes. “But it remains to be seen whether Mastodon overall will welcome an influx of reporters fleeing Twitter and hoping to re-create what they had there.”

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