Ade Malsasa Akbar contact
Senior author, Open Source enthusiast.
Tuesday, October 8, 2019 at 13:55

Mastodon is a Twitter-like social network that is free software-based and federated. Being free means society controls the software running behind the server, and being federated means the social network is independent against central authority. In Mastodon, we can follow & text to anybody in same social network but unlike Twitter, there are no ads and we can follow & talk to users in other social networks. Speaking technically, Mastodon is one among today's so-called Fediverse social networks, it's based on modern ActivityPub technology, its source code is written in Ruby language, and therefore we can easily host our own Mastodon servers. I wish to support wider adoption of Mastodon in our GNU/Linux community so I tried to write this very short introduction that I divided into only 3 parts. Start with and go ahead!

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On GNU/Linux community: Mastodon list | Telegram list | RSS list | Computer vendors | Invidious | Twitter list

Part 1. Posting

In this part we learn that Mastodon has post, repost, reply, hashtags, trending now, just like Twitter.

Twitter's post is limited to 160 character, while Mastodon's is 500. Twitter user says "tweet" and "retweet" while Mastodon user says "toot" and "boost".
Reply, retweet ("boost"), and favorite are the same, however. This buttons trio appears at every tweet ("toot") bottom, with same button placement as Twitter's.

What is allowed to post? Mastodon allows uploads of picture, audio, and video.

RSS Feed is available in every Mastodon profile, surprisingly. So, unlike Twitter, even without Mastodon account you can subscribe the toots of any Mastodon user by using RSS Feed program like Akregator or Liferea. You can find RSS URL of a profile, for example Ubuntu's (, by pressing Ctrl+U on Mozilla Firefox browser.

Part 2. User Interface

In this part we learn about Mastodon appearance. Below is my Mastodon Home as example. Mastodon looks very similar to Twitter, but the text box is on left column instead of center.

A Mastodon profile will publicly look like this. Every profile has URL like this for example. This is my personal profile. The unique thing about Mastodon profile is that we can add maximum 4 information at right panel, to show who we are with category we can decide ourselves.

TweetDeck-like interface on Mastodon is available built-in, just enable Advanced View at your profile preferences.

Tweeten and Whalebird, respectively are Twitter's and Mastodon's desktop clients. The user interface are different, as Whalebird is more like Slack (and hence Mattermost and Riot/Matrix) than actual Mastodon. Alternatively, you can use other software for GNU/Linux here.

Part 3. Registration and Fediverse

In this part we learn about registration, social activities, federation, and fediverse in Mastodon.

(This is is where you can create new account)

Registration model of Mastodon is different to Twitter. How different it is? First thing is you can create new Mastodon account at That is to compare, you may create new Twitter account only in while you may create new Mastodon account not only in but also in a lot of other Mastodon servers (instances) available you may choose. Unlike Twitter, in Mastodon, user in one server can follow and talk to user in other server. Every Mastodon server is created and ruled by different maintainer (you may choose one with Terms of Service / Privacy Policy that suits you), not centrally controlled by a single company like Twitter Inc. This is all because Mastodon is federated, just like how internet is all federated, except Twitter.

(Registration page of Mastodon: example here is from Fosstodon.Social instance)

Social activities at Mastodon started at an instance. An instance is for example Mastodon.Social or Floss.Social website. After having an account there, you can find new friends, new community, even new friends from other social networks.

  • A Twitter ID would be @ademalsasa
  • A Mastodon ID would be

Discover users, See what's happening, and Try a mobile app are 3 links for us to find new friends at Mastodon.

For example, in Mastodon.Social instance the links would be:
See what's happening, or, Live Stream at your Mastodon profile is similar to recent news at your Twitter profile. It shows news from multiple sources either you followed them or not.

About page explains who hosted the Mastodon instance you are in, and what is the rule, including funding/donation information if any.

For example, at Floss.Social instance where I'm in, the server is maintained by Michael Downey (Michael, you have my gratitude), and you can see the About Page here.

Community model of Mastodon is also different to Twitter. Twitter user can only contact Twitter user, and cannot follow nor talk to user in other social networks. On the other hand, Mastodon user can contact any Mastodon user in any Mastodon server. Beyond, Mastodon user can also contact user in other social networks, namely, Hubzilla, GNU Social, Pleroma, PeerTube, and PixelFed. This means not only users are connected, but also the servers and the social networks themselves. This is why we call Mastodon federated.

Below is the Fediverse, interconnected social networks forming a giant social network:

(PeerTube, YouTube-like federated video sharing)
(GNU Social, another Twitter-like federated microblog)

 (Pixelfed, Instagram-like federated photo sharing)

(Friendica, a mix of Facebook-like and Twitter-like federated macroblog)

(Misskey, Japanese SNS-like and almost Friendster-like federated microblog)
(Diaspora*, Facebook-like federated social media)

Rules in Mastodon are also different to rules in Twitter. In Twitter, there is only one pair of Terms of Service and Privacy Policy (TOS/PP) because it's controlled by one company. There is no alternative TOS/PP in Twitter, so if you disagree that, you cannot use the social media. On the other hand, if you dislike TOS/PP in a Mastodon server, you still can use Mastodon, by registering to other Mastodon server. In fact, there are strict and loose rules among Mastodon servers. For example, compare between Ubuntu.Social's and Floss.Social's TOS/PP. Thanks to federation, community model of Mastodon allows such thing cannot be found at Twitter.

Part 3. GNU/Linux Community

Last part, you can follow and talk to these GNU/Linux and F/LOSS communities at Mastodon. I listed here several projects like Kubuntu and Manjaro, as more complete list I had published yesterday here, plus several individual people in our community worth to know.




I know this short article is short and a lot of stuffs remain unmentioned here. But I believe this is enough for you to explore Mastodon by yourself. Thank you Mastodon, thank you whole Fediverse, and you all have my gratitude GNU/Linux community. Go ahead and enjoy Mastodon!

This article is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.