It is becoming increasingly clear that if any system is going to displace Twitter in the next several years, it will be Mastodon (including other platforms that are able to integrate into the Mastodon “fediverse”.) So, how is it going?
It is still very early in the game, so we can’t be very precise about the details. It is clear there is a whole lot of movement toward Mastodon. But what we haven’t yet seen is a flood of the “celebrity” accounts that have large followings on Twitter. With each passing day, people with large Twitter followings are turning up on Mastodon, but we aren’t anywhere close to a turning point yet. Most of the “big following”” names have set up Mastodon accounts but aren’t actively posting.
What is a user?
It is a chicken and egg thing. With 3 million to 8 million (depending on which numbers you prefer) active users, Mastodon doesn’t have a critical mass of users to attract the big players. However, in the next 90 days, I expect we will see many of the big names cross-posting to Twitter and Mastodon. In other cases, there will be bots that replicate Twitter posts to the Mastodon network. These are all small steps in the migration. It will appear to move slowly until that critical mass is reached, and then you will see things flip 180 degrees to where Mastodon is the primary presence. That might take 12-18 months , or even more, but when critical mass is reached, it will flip quickly.
Here is an article that seems very well informed about the user base. This is almost a month old, which is an eternity is this space, but it has been updated more recently. absolutelymaybe.plos.org/…
Highlights worth noting.
- The “users” statistics on all these systems are suspect. Remember, Musk claimed much of Twitter was bot traffic. Beyond that, there are are many inactive accounts on Twitter, just as there are many new “place holder” accounts on Mastodon that have not been used yet.
- Mastodon’s architecture has thousands of instances and some users have multiple accounts, so that exaggerates the numbers.
- Beware the “active users” statistic. There is no consistent definition for this.
- The article makes a very important point about “off network” Mastodon instances. The code is open source, so if you want, you can set up a private social network. That’s exactly what Truth Social did, although Trump lied about that until he was exposed. Those numbers should not be counted because those users won’t be using the system the way Twitter has historically been used.
Having said all that, it is beyond any question that Mastodon is growing very quickly — and some of the more popular instances have had waiting lists for months as they add resources to support their local user load. Mastodon recently passed the half-billion daily posts level. That’s still much smaller than Twitter, but a half-billion posts per day is pretty darned impressive. By most reports, the number of active users has increased about 10X during 2020.
And again, that is without a large number of personalities and organizations people would like to follow. Nonetheless, there are many Mastodon accounts that now have hundreds of thousands of followers. For example, Robert Reich has 199K followers. George Takei has 324K followers. This is happening and moving fast. Imagine how it will grow once Barack Obama, Taylor Swift, Ellen Degeneres, LeBron James, Lady Gaga and Oprah Winfrey become active on Mastodon, and they will.
What does it cost?
Today, most Mastodon instances offer accounts for free. And most have no advertising at the moment. Mastodon doesn’t have algorithms that promote products or points-of-view that they can sell to the highest bidder. So how can this be sustainable?
Well, it probably is not sustainable in a totally free model. However, it is important to understand that a person can run a Mastodon instance without spending a lot of money, which begs the question how Devin Nunes was able to run up more than a half million dollars of unpaid bills in his deadbeat Trump account.
Here’s an article from a guy who set up a server on Amazon’s AWS and he’s spending under $100/month: www.micahwalter.com/… Now, if his server takes off with hundreds of thousands (or millions) of accounts, he will probably be spending several hundred dollars a month, but with a large user base, that amount would be easy to cover on a donation basis.
We need to see Musk fail miserably, and bring Twitter down to the level of Parler and the other hate speech sites. The infrastructure is coming along quickly. The main obstacle now is the chicken-and-egg thing. We need to push the people we follow to start cross-posting to Mastodon so that new users will find a rich ecosystem as they arrive.
The hate group sites (Parler, Truth Social and others) all seem to be is rapid decline. Reports are that Truth Social’s active user rate has dropped to half of its high point and is continuing downward. DWAC (Digital World Acquisition Corporation, the SPAC entity that was supposed to acquire Truth Social is one of Trump’s scams) is now trading at $17, which is just barely above the liquidation value. It is clear that site is heading for the dumpster. In that case, the SPAC was set up with lots of promises from investors, but most of the money was never put on the table and never will be. Hopefully Trump will never see a penny from this scam. And if were Nunes, I’d check my bank account to see how far behind the paychecks are running.
UPDATE: MindMatter ·
One of the most confusing things for new users is deciding on which server to create your account. There are thousands. Some are probably just experimental and may be gone in a few months. Some are very large. Some cater to a particular interest area.
Below I have listed the top 20 instances in terms of number of accounts. These are all likely to be around a long time because they have made a commitment to scaling resources. This list includes some non-English-speaking sites because Mastodon is a global phenomenon. But most of these are worth investigating if you are looking for a home to get started.
Please note that these 20 instances have over 2 million accounts and there are thousands of other instances. It will not be too long before this environment reaches critical mass needed to make Musk and Twitter mostly irrelevant.