How to hide your follows and followers in Mastodon

If you’re on a Mastodon server, you can keep your lists of follows and followers hidden on your profile if you want to:

  1. Log in through your server’s website
  2. Click on Edit profile if you’re on the desktop website. If you’re on the mobile website click on your profile icon in the top right corner, then Edit profile.
  3. Click on the Privacy & Reach tab
  4. Scroll down to the Show follows and followers on profile option and make sure it is un-ticked
  5. Click the Save changes button

You will still be able to see your follows and follower lists when you look at your profile while logged in, but other people will not be able to see them.

If you change your mind, repeat the process above but tick the box instead.

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Restricting who can follow you on Mastodon

On Mastodon, you can use a follow request system to restrict who can follow you. When it’s switched on, no one can follow you unless you manually approve their request. This can be used to screen who follows you.

To switch on the follow requests system:

  1. Log in through your server’s website or through the Mastodon web app
  2. Click on your profile image to go to your profile page
  3. Click on Edit profile
  4. Click on the Privacy and reach tab
  5. UN-tick the box marked Automatically accept new followers
  6. Click the Save changes button at the bottom of the page

After you’ve done this, a padlock icon 🔒 will appear next to your username on your profile. Anyone who clicks follow will send a follow request that you have to approve before the follow is activated.

If you change your mind about using follow requests, do the same thing again but tick the box instead of unticking it.

Don’t reject followers just because they don’t have a picture

Don’t screen followers out just because they have blank profile pictures. Many blind users don’t use profile pictures, but they will have text in their profile. The best way to screen potential followers is to read what they have written about themselves and what they have posted.

How do I stop non-followers seeing my posts?

You can set your posts to the Followers-only visibility setting, either manually or by default. When this is combined with the follow requests system, it means only people you choose can see your posts.

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Blocking and muting accounts on Mastodon

(If you want to block or mute entire servers, please see the Blocking and Muting Servers on Mastodon guide.)

Is it rude to mute or block people?

It is totally fine to block or mute people on Mastodon and the Fediverse. It is not considered rude or unusual to do so. Use it as freely as you want!

There are lots of reasons why someone might block or mute an account, it’s not necessarily any kind of judgement against that account.

To block or mute someone on Mastodon:

  1. Either click ⋯ on one of their posts, or go to their profile and click the ⋯ or︙ button at the top
  2. Select Mute or Block depending on what you want
  3. If you change your mind, do the same thing again but select Unmute or Unblock

Here’s what these options mean:

  • Mutes are the softest option. When you mute someone you will no longer see their posts and you won’t see posts that mention them. You can also optionally set a timer so that the mute expires after a certain period, and there’s also an option for muting or not muting notifications from them. People who are muted will not know they are muted, and they will still be able to follow you, see your posts and interact. From the muted person’s point of view, everything will seem normal.
  • Blocks are the harder option. When you block someone, it does everything a mute does but also prevents them following you and hides your posts from them while they are logged in.

⚠️ Important: If you are posting public posts they will still be visible to the blocked person when they log out, because public posts are visible to everyone on the internet. To restrict the audience for a post, use followers-only or mentions visibilities.

What about the “Block Domain” option? What does that do?

It mutes all accounts from that person’s server, but does not block them (yes, the name is very misleading!). Please see the blocking and muting servers guide for more details.

How do I keep track of who I’ve muted and blocked?

To view lists of all of your blocks and mutes:

  1. Log in through your server’s website or the web app
  2. Go to your profile page and click ︙
  3. Select Muted Users, Blocked Users or Blocked Domains
  4. If you want to remove a mute or block, click the icon next to a name on the list

How do I do a temporary mute?

To have a temporary mute on Mastodon, log in through your server’s website or web app and it will offer you the option of setting a duration when you’re confirming the mute. Set the duration to however long you want the mute to last.

How do I mute just someone’s boosts?

On Mastodon, if you follow someone and you want to see their posts but not their boosts, you can hide just their boosts without blocking or muting them. This doesn’t affect their normal posts, and they have no way of knowing you’re doing it.

  1. Open your Mastodon app or log in through your server’s website
  2. Go to the profile of the person whose boosts you want to hide
  3. Click on the ︙or ⋯ button at the top and select Hide boosts from… (or Hide reblogs on some apps)
  4. If you change your mind, go back to their profile and select Show boosts from… (or Show reblogs)

This only works on accounts you follow.

Can I hide posts that contain particular words, phrases or hashtags?

Yes, you can do this by using Mastodon’s filter system.

What happens to DMs sent by someone I’ve muted or blocked?

If you mute or block someone, you won’t see any DMs from them by default. However if you decide to browse their profile you will see any DMs sent to you in their profile timeline.

If you remove a mute or block, DMs will start arriving as normal, but any DMs sent during the mute or block will only be visible by going to their profile.

Is there any way to allow DMs and mentions to work while muting someone?

Yes! If you mute someone through your server’s website or web app, there will be an option to allow notifications. If you allow notifications, then DMs and mentions by the muted account will still show up normally in your notifications.

How do I block DMs from people I don’t follow?

  1. Log onto your server’s website or web app
  2. Click ⚙️ Preferences
  3. Click Notifications (on the mobile website click ☰ and then Notifications)
  4. Tick the box marked “Block direct messages from people you don’t follow”
  5. Click the Save Changes button

If you change your mind, repeat these steps but untick the same box.

Also, if you are blocking DMs from strangers, you might want to mention this on your profile description to avoid any misunderstandings. (This avoids situations where people are trying to contact you for legitimate reasons but think you’re ignoring them.)

Another thing to bear in mind is it will also block private replies in threads from people you don’t follow, as these are technically the same as DMs on Mastodon.

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How do I contact the people who run my server? How do I find out what my server’s rules are?

If you are having problems with your server, you might want to contact the person who runs your server, usually known as the server’s administrator or “admin”.

On Mastodon, you can find the public email address and account profile of your server admin on the server’s About page. This is visible without logging in, and it provides a way to contact the admin even if you lose access to your account for some reason. To find the About page:

  1. Go to your server’s website, the website address is usually the same as the name of the server
  2. Click on the Learn More link at the left (if you’re on desktop) or the ⋯ icon on the right (if you’re on mobile)
  3. The admin’s public email address (labelled “CONTACT”) and a link to their profile page (labelled “ADMINISTERED BY”) will be near the top of the page

How do I find my server’s list of rules?

Go to the About page using the method above, but scroll down the page a bit until you get to the part marked Server Rules. Click this to reveal the rule list.

Each server is totally independent and sets its own rules, so it is worth reading this before joining a server. It is usually written in plain language that is easy to understand.

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Reporting problematic content to moderators on the Fediverse

Reporting anti-social accounts is a good idea as it’s the main way server administrators find out about nasty behavour. Once admins are made aware of a problem, they can take action using special blocking tools that are not available to ordinary users.

How do I report posts or accounts on Mastodon?

  • To report a post click ⋯ on the bottom of the post and select Report.
  • To report an account, go to its profile and click ︙ or ⋯, then select Report.

In both cases, this will start a reporting wizard that narrows down specifically what kind of problem you’re reporting.

Remember to include examples!

Whatever you’re reporting, it’s really important to include examples of what the account has done wrong. Simply reporting the account with no examples creates a lot of work for the moderators, and it may make it impossible for them to moderate effectively.

On Mastodon, the reporting wizard includes options to select posts from that account, and if you’re reporting via a post then that post will be automatically selected as an example to include on the report.

If possible, tell the account’s own server too

Mastodon reporting forms include the option to also send an anonymous report to the server of the account that wrote the post. This is usually a good idea, because only a user’s home server has the power to suspend or delete their account. Other servers can block accounts, but in the worst cases it may be better that a nasty account is deleted at source.

However, there is a caveat to this: if the problematic user’s entire server is also problematic, it may be best not to include them in the report. Such servers tend to lash out when people report their behaviour. Your own server admin will be able to block problematic servers completely, which is usually the best way of dealing with such servers. If you notice the entire origin server is problematic, mention this in your report to your own server’s admin.

What do I do about accounts that just boost nasty stuff?

If there’s an account that just boosts lots of problematic posts without actually posting anything itself, this can seem trickier to report as they aren’t giving you any of their own posts to click on. However, it is possible to report them too!

Go to their account’s profile page and report them from there (by clicking ︙ or ⋯). If you do this though, remember to mention in the comments section of the report the boosts that are problematic and why, so that the moderator can locate them more easily.

What exactly ARE the rules on the Fediverse?

Each server is totally independent and sets its own rules for acceptable behaviour. If you go to a server’s about page you should see a copy of its rules. If possible, it’s worth reading this before you sign up on a server, as it can tell you a lot about their approach to moderation.

If there’s something bad happening and it isn’t covered by the rules, report it. There will often be bad situations that could not have been anticipated by the admin when writing the rules, and they depend on user reports to find out about them.

If you’re in any doubt about what is acceptable, ask your server’s admin for advice. If there’s something wrong with their approach or attitude, you might want to consider transferring your account to another server.

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Do I need to use my real name or real photo?

No.

You don’t need to reveal any kind of personal information about yourself on the Fediverse. Use any name you want, and any picture (or no picture at all).

The only information you need to give when signing up on a Fediverse server is an email address, and you can use an email alias if you want to keep it secret. The only other data a Fedi server might see is your computer’s or phone’s IP address, but this is hidden if you’re using a VPN or Tor.

Revealing personal information on the internet is a bad idea in general, as it makes unwanted tracking and identity theft much more likely.

What if I want to impersonate someone else?

Whatever name you choose to use, don’t impersonate other people, it’s not very nice and would break the rules on many servers, possibly getting you banned. Impersonation may also be illegal in some countries.

Can I leave the profile picture blank?

Yes, if you want. A lot of blind people on the Fediverse don’t use profile pictures, and there is no obligation to have a picture.

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How to delete your Mastodon account

You can delete your Mastodon account at any time. There’s no cool-off period, the deletion happens as soon as you confirm it.

  1. Log in through your server’s website
  2. Go to Preferences > Account > Delete account
  3. Click Proceed here and follow the instructions. It will ask you for your password to confirm the deletion.

⚠️ After you confirm deletion, it will delete your account straight away and it cannot be restored. Be really sure you want to do this. Once it’s deleted, it is gone forever and no one can bring it back.

After an account is deleted, no one else will be able to use that username on that server, in order to prevent anyone impersonating a deleted user. If you want to sign up for a new account on the same server, you’ll need to think of a new username.

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How to log out of your Mastodon account

On Mastodon, if you’re logged in on your server’s website, you can log out by clicking the ︙ (in desktop mode) or the ☰ (in mobile mode) and selecting Logout at the bottom of the menu.

If you’re logged in on the official apps, you can log out by clicking the ⚙️ settings icon and selecting Sign out at the bottom of the menu.

The third party apps will have various ways of logging out, usually on their settings pages.

IMPORTANT NOTE: You don’t have to log out to use a different account on a different server, you can be logged in on multiple accounts at once. The websites, the official apps and the third party apps all support being logged in on several different accounts at once, as long as the accounts are on separate servers. To log in on another account on the website just go to the other server’s site and log in. To log in on another account on the apps, click and hold your profile picture in the bottom right corner of the screen.

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How do I browse the Local timelines of other servers on Mastodon? Can I follow other servers’ Local timelines?

A server’s Local timeline shows all the public posts made by accounts on that server. Each server has a unique Local timeline because only that server has those accounts. It can be interesting to browse and follow the Local feed on different servers, especially those with a particular theme or atmosphere, and a good way to discover accounts to follow.

Could you explain what a Local timeline is again?

Yes, there’s a dedicated guide to Local, Federated and Home timelines.

How do I browse a server’s Local timeline?

On most Mastodon servers, you can browse the Local timeline by going to the server’s website and clicking the Live Feeds link, which by default shows the Local timeline (it is labelled “This Site” on the website).

The Local timeline is scrolling far too fast! How do I slow it down?

See the guide to Local, Federated and Home timelines for how to slow timelines down.

I went to a server’s website without logging in, and there was no link to Live Feeds or Local?

Some server admins choose to hide their server’s Live Feeds section from people who aren’t logged in. Public posts from that server are still public and can be viewed by anyone, but they are no longer viewable in one convenient feed.

Server admins can find instructions on how to hide or show the Local/Live Feeds timeline at the end of this article.

Wait, what is it called? “Local” or “Live Feeds”?

The naming on Mastodon’s website software changed in 2023. The Local and Federated timelines are accessible from the new 🌎 Live Feeds page which has three tabs at the top:

  • This Site is the same as the Local timeline
  • All is the same as the Federated timeline
  • Other Servers is the Federated timeline but with the Local timeline posts hidden

However, Mastodon apps including the official app still call the Local timeline “Local”, and this is what most people call it when discussing it.

Can I follow other servers’ Local timelines?

Some third party Mastodon apps (Fedilab and Subway Tooter on Android, Ice Cubes on iPhone/iPad) let you follow the Local timelines of other servers. The website interface and the official apps do not have this feature yet.

Many, many people have asked for this feature to be added to the website interface. If you want to vote for this and you are comfortable using Github, click here and give a thumbs up to the first post in this thread ⧉. This will let the developers know that the feature is wanted.

How do I find interesting servers with nice Local timelines?

You can browse nice servers at fedi.garden ⧉ and joinmastodon.org/servers ⧉.

Also, if you see an interesting account on your own timelines, try going to its original page. This will take you to the account’s own server where you can usually browse its Local timeline.

I am a server admin. How do I hide or show the Local / Live Feeds timeline for people who aren’t logged in?

  1. Log in through your admin account on the website or web app
  2. Click on ⚙️ Preferences
  3. Click on Administration (if you’re on the mobile web you need to click ☰ in top right first)
  4. Click on Server Settings
  5. Click on Discovery tab at the top
  6. Go to the box Allow unauthenticated access to public timelines and UN-tick this if you want to hide the Local/Live Feeds timeline, or tick the box if you want to show it.
  7. Click the Save Changes button at the bottom of the screen

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What are the Local, Federated and Home timelines? How do I stop them scrolling too quickly?

Most Fediverse server types including Mastodon have options to show three different timelines: Home, Local or Federated. They might have slightly different names depending on the server type, but they’re usually something like this.

  • Home is the normal timeline that you see by default. It shows you all the posts from all the people you follow in chronological order. This is what you see when you log in to your account.
  • Local (also known as Community or Live Feed: This Server) shows all the public posts made by all the people on your server. On larger servers this can be a so-called firehose that is too random and unfiltered. However, on smaller servers this can be a really interesting feed to read, especially if the server is well moderated. Many people on small servers discover new accounts to follow through the Local feed.
  • Federated (also known as Live Feed: All) shows all public posts that your server has noticed. Click here for a guide to which posts and accounts your server will notice. On larger servers Federated is an absolute nightmare to comprehend as there are so many posts on so many different topics.

Where can I see trending posts and hashtags?

Trends are in their own section, click here for the guide to trends.

Can I create my own custom timelines on Mastodon?

Yes. The Lists feature lets you make your own themed timelines with whatever accounts you choose.

How do I view different timelines on Mastodon?

By default you will see your Home timeline.

To see other timelines on the Mastodon website or the Mastodon web app, click the 🌎 Live Feeds link at the right of the screen, then select the tab at the top labelled This Server for the Local feed or All for the Federated feed. The Other Servers feed shows the Federated feed minus posts from the Local feed.

On third party Mastodon apps there will be various interfaces and icons for viewing Local and Federated timelines.

On the official Mastodon app, click the magnifying glass and then scroll to the Community tab, which will show you the Local feed. The official Mastodon app doesn’t show the Federated feed at all, but you can see it by using a third party app, the web app or your server’s website instead.

The timelines are scrolling way too quickly, I can’t keep up with them! Help!

If you’re logged in through your Mastodon server’s website, you can optionally use “slow mode” to stop all automatic scrolling on feeds. When slow mode is activated, the feed will only show new posts when you manually click a special link at the top of the feed. To switch it on:

  1. Log in through your server’s website
  2. Go to ⚙️ Preferences
  3. Tick the box marked Slow Mode, then click the button marked Save Changes

To deactivate slow mode, do exactly the same thing but UN-tick the Slow Mode box and click Save Changes.

How do I see another server’s Local timeline?

Click here for more info on how to do this.

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What are toots? What are boosts? What are CWs? What are instances? What is birdsite? What is vanilla Mastodon?

Mastodon and the Fediverse have a number of common terms which you may not have heard of on other social networks. Here’s a guide:

  • Toots are posts, the Mastodon equivalent of tweets. The mascot for Mastodon is a mastodon, an ancient relative of the elephant ⧉, and “toot” is sort of the sound an elephant makes. Programmers sometimes call them statuses.
  • Boosts are shared posts, the Mastodon equivalent of a re-tweet. Programmers sometimes call them re-blogs. If you boost a post, it will appear in the home timelines of your followers.
  • CWs are Content Warnings, used to hide a post underneath a title. There’s detailed info about them here including why they exist and how to use them.
  • Instances are the sites you can sign up on on the Fediverse, also known as “servers”. They were also known as “communities” for a while, and some people call them “nodes”. All of these are just different names for exactly the same thing: the site you signed up on. If someone talks about Fediverse instances, they are talking about Fediverse servers, they are one and the same.
  • “Birdsite” and “Hellsite” are nicknames for Twitter, sometimes indicated by a bird on fire (it’s a comment on how discussions on Twitter very often turn into horrible arguments).
  • Vanilla Mastodon means standard unaltered Mastodon software, which most Mastodon servers use. Some servers use non-standard altered versions of Mastodon, such as Glitch or Hometown, and they work just as well as vanilla but tend to have more features and options.

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Inviting people onto Mastodon and the Fediverse

The easiest way to invite friends, family or colleagues to join you on the Fediverse is to send them a link to JoinMastodon.org ⧉ or Fedi.Garden ⧉ or another Fediverse “on-boarding” website. Once they’ve signed up on a server, they can use their account to sign in on their server’s website or on a comptible app.

Once your friends are on the Fediverse, you can exchange addresses with them and follow each other. You don’t need to be on the same server as them, following and interacting with each other is the same experience even if you’re on different servers.

How do I invite people to join my server? Can I invite people if sign-ups are closed?

If you do want people to sign up on the same server as you, there’s an “invite” feature on Mastodon which lets you invite them directly to your server:

  1. Log in on your server’s website or the web app
  2. Click on ⚙️ Preferences
  3. Click on Invite people at the left of the screen (if you’re on the mobile website click ☰ in the top right and then Invite people)
  4. Choose the settings you want for your invitation link and then click Generate.

Some servers close themselves to new sign-ups if they get too full, but still allow existing members to generate invitations. If your friend is unable to sign up on your server directly due to it closing to new members, they may still be able to sign up if you send them an invitation.

I can’t see any “Invite people” link my server. Why is that?

Server admins can optionally switch off the invitation system. If they do this, the “Invite people” link will disappear.

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Using Mastodon in dark mode, light mode or other themes

Mastodon can be displayed in dark mode, light mode or sometimes other colour schemes as well.

How do I set dark or light mode on a mobile app?

Colour schemes depend on which app you’re using, but generally they all have some kind of colour setting in their Settings menu, often in a section labelled “Appearance” or “Themes” or “Colours”.

How do I set dark or light mode on the website?

If you’re using your server’s website or web app, do the following:

  1. Click ⚙️ Preferences
  2. In the dropdown menu Site theme select the colour scheme you want
  3. Click the Save changes button

Are there any other options apart from dark and light?

Yes, but it depends on how you access Mastodon.

Some apps have lots of themes to choose from, and/or they let you customise the individual colours used by the interface.

The website and web app come with a dark theme, light theme and high contrast theme by default, but they also include the ability for the admin to add custom third party themes. If you want more themes on your server’s website, ask your server admin about it. For example here’s a popular third party theme called Tangerine ⧉ and there’s an admin’s guide to setting custom CSS here.

Can I set the colour scheme to match my phone or laptop settings?

Some apps have an option to match your device’s settings for dark more and light mode. This is usually presented alongside the themes.

If you’re using the website or web app, this doesn’t yet have an option to match your device setting.

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Favourites vs. Bookmarks in Mastodon

Mastodon has two ways to mark posts: Favourites and Bookmarks. These are similar, but they differ in important ways. Here’s a quick comparison:

  • Favourites can be added by clicking on the star icon ⭐ below a post. Favourites are pretty much the Mastodon equivalent of likes, and usually used to indicate you enjoy or appreciate a post. When you add a favourite, the person who posted it will get a notification, and your profile may be visible on the list of people who favourited it.
  • Bookmarks can be added either by clicking on the bookmark icon 🔖 below a post, or if it isn’t visible click on the ⋯ to open the menu and select Bookmark. Bookmarks are totally private, no one else sees what you bookmark. No one gets any notifications when you add a bookmark.

How do I browse my favourites and bookmarks?

If you’re using Mastodon through your server’s website or the web app, click the Favourites or Bookmarks icons at the right side of the screen.

On third party and official apps, you can usually see your favourites and bookmarks by going to your profile page (click on the icon containing your profile image to see your profile page). Favourites are usually indicated by a star icon, Bookmarks by a bookmark icon.

Can I transfer my bookmarks and favourites if I migrate my account to another server?

You can transfer your bookmarks (see steps 2 and 3 in the account transfer guide), but you can’t transfer your favourites.

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Why can’t I quote other posts in Mastodon?

If you’re used to Twitter, you may be wondering why there’s no equivalent of the “quote tweet” on Mastodon.

This was a deliberate design decision taken many years ago by the makers of Mastodon. Here are the lead developer’s comments on it:


Another feature that has been requested almost since the start, and which I keep rejecting is quoting messages. Coming back to my disclaimer, of course it’s impossible to prevent people from sharing screenshots or linking to public resources, but quoting messages is immediately actionable. It makes it a lot easier for people to immediately engage with the quoted content… and it usually doesn’t lead to anything good. When people use quotes to reply to other people, conversations become performative power plays. “Heed, my followers, how I dunk on this fool!” When you use the reply function, your message is broadcast only to people who happen to follow you both. It means one person’s follower count doesn’t play a massive role in the conversation. A quote, on the other hand, very often invites the followers to join in on the conversation, and whoever has got more of them ends up having the upper hand and massively stressing out the other person.

Cage the Mastodon: An overview of features for dealing with abuse and harassment ⧉

However, comments in 2023 by the same lead developer imply that they are considering introducing some kind of quote post feature, possibly with an opt-in system to prevent quoting without consent.

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How do I pin posts on my Mastodon profile?

Pinned posts are posts that appear at the top of your profile page, above your normal posts. Many people use them as introductions, but they can be used for any purpose, for example artists often use them as mini-portfolios with images, video or audio attached.

To pin a post on Mastodon:

  1. Log in through your server’s website or the Mastodon web app or a third party app (the official app doesn’t support pinning yet)
  2. Go to one of your own posts that you want to pin, click the ⋯ icon on the post and select Pin to profile.
  3. The post will now be pinned to your profile. To unpin it, click ⋯ on the post and select Unpin.

You can pin up to five posts at once on your Mastodon profile, and you can also reply to a pinned post to create a pinned thread. By creating pinned threads, you can extend each pinned post to whatever length you want.

Pinned posts will be the first thing people see when they look at your profile, and for various technical reasons pinned posts will be more widely seen on the Fediverse than normal posts. (For technical people interested in this topic, Mastodon servers which encounter your account for the first time will automatically “backfill” all pinned posts on your profile. The backfilling also applies to the same user’s replies in pinned threads.)

Why would I use pinned posts when I already have a profile description?

Pinned posts let you greatly expand your profile description, allowing not just text but also images, audio and video. For example, artists might pin posts with their works attached as a portfolio. You can also fit a lot more text onto pinned posts, especially if you use your full limit of five pinned posts.

Also, on a technical note, pinned posts prevent your server ever looking blank to anyone. It’s a good idea to have at least one pinned post on your account to prevent it being blank.

How do I reorder pinned posts?

The pinned posts are shown in the order they were pinned, with latest pinning at the top. To put a pinned post at the top, click on the post and then unpin it, then pin it again. You can use this technique to put the pinned posts in the correct order.

(NOTE: If you’re reordering pinned posts, don’t unpin a post without clicking on it first. When you unpin a post, it will disappear from the pinned section and it may be harder to find it again from amongst your ordinary posts. If you click on it first you will be taken to the enlarged view of the post, and it won’t disappear when you unpin.)

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How do I edit posts in Mastodon?

Screenshot of Mastodon web interface with edit button highlighted
Screenshot of Mastodon web interface with Edit button highlighted

Mastodon lets you edit your posts after they have been published. It lets you edit the text itself, add attachments, add text descriptions to the attachments, add polls, or change the post’s language setting. Here’s how it works:

  1. Go to one of your posts that you want to edit
  2. Click the ⋯ icon at the bottom of the post
  3. Select Edit
  4. Make the changes you want
  5. When you’ve finished editing, click Save Changes

This works on your server’s website, the official apps and third party apps. Third party apps may have a slightly different interface depending on which app you use.

(There was a bug in the first version of editing which meant you couldn’t edit image descriptions. However, version 4.1.0 of the Mastodon server software fixed this.)

What’s to stop someone abusing this feature by changing a post’s contents after it’s shared?

There are several features to prevent abuse of editing:

  • When a post is edited, everyone who has shared it will receive a notification in case they want to un-share it.
  • Edited posts are labelled as edited.
  • Clicking on the edited label displays the full contents of all previous versions of that post, so that others can see all the changes that have been made to it.

These measures together reduce the chance of anyone abusing the editing feature.

Can I edit my post’s visibility setting?

No. For technical reasons you cannot change a post’s visibility after it has been published.

If you absolutely have to change the visibility anyway, use the Delete & redraft option instead, which deletes the post and breaks any links etc, but puts a copy of it into the editing box so you don’t have to retype it all.

⚠️ Warning about editing polls

You can edit polls too, but if you edit the options on the poll it will reset the votes to zero, even if people have already voted. This vote reset happens without warning, so be really sure you want to reset the poll before you edit its options!

You can edit the main text of a poll post without problems though, it’s only editing the options that people vote for that causes a reset.

If I edit a post to mention someone’s account, do they get a notification about it?

No. If you publish a post, then edit it to add a mention of someone’s account, they don’t get notified. Mentions only generate a notification if they’re included when the post is first published.

Also, they may not be able to see the post if the post has restricted visibility and the mention has been added later. However, this is a reported bug and it may be fixed in the future ⧉, so don’t rely on this bug to keep a post hidden from a mentioned account.

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How do I share posts on Mastodon and the Fediverse?

There are many ways to share posts from Mastodon and the rest of the Fediverse. Which method you use depends on what kind of sharing you want to do.

How to share posts with people who follow me on Mastodon and the Fediverse

Click the Boost button below a post, which is usually a pair of spinning arrows, something like this 🔃 This will share the post in the Home timelines of everyone who follows you, and will also share it on your own profile’s timeline. (Boosting is also called a “re-blog” on some apps, but they mean the same thing.)

How to share posts with people outside the Fediverse

If you’re using a mobile app, there is usually a Share option below posts which is often shown as an arrow leaving a square. This will give you a range of things you can do including sharing a post on other apps on your device, just click the icon of the app you want to share the post to. There will also be options for opening the post in your web browser, or copying a link the post to your device’s clipboard so you can paste the link elsewhere.

How do I get a copy of a direct link to a post?

If you’re on a mobile app, click the Share button (the icon that looks like a square with an arrow leaving it), one of the options should be to copy a link to the post.

If you’re using Mastodon through the website or the web app, here’s how you can get a direct link to a post:

  1. Go to the post you want the link for
  2. Click the ⋯ below the post
  3. Select Copy link to this post

How do I embed a Mastodon post on a website or blog?

Mastodon’s website interface and web app let you copy embedding code for any post, which you can then paste into a website or blog that supports pasting custom HTML. See the embedding guide for more details on how to do this.

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What are custom emoji? How do I access them? Can I add new ones?

Every Mastodon server (and some other Fedi server types) can add their own custom emoji, which can be used alongside standard emoji. People on other servers can see your server’s custom emoji, but cannot type them. The emoji can be stills, or short animations within certain size limits.

Here’s how to use them:

  • If you’re logged in through your server’s website, you can access the custom emoji through by clicking the emoji picker icon 🙂 in the top right of the post writing window. The picker normally has custom emoji at the top and the standard ones below them.
  • if you’re using apps, the custom and standard emoji are normally in two separate menus. For standard emoji use the emoji button on your phone’s own on-screen keyboard, for custom emoji use the app’s own emoji icon when writing a post.

Server administrators can add any emoji they want. If you have ideas for custom emoji, contact your server’s admin and tell them about it. When admins add an emoji, everyone on their server is able to use it.

Admins can also block offensive custom emoji from other servers, so if you see any offensive emojis let your admin know by reporting that particular post.

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How do I post images, videos or audio in Mastodon? What can I attach to a post? How do I post GIFs?

On Mastodon, you can attach up to four images, or one video file, or one audio file when making a post. Click on the paperclip 📎 or landscape 🌄 icon to attach something to your post.

  • Images can be PNG, JPG or GIF (including animations). The maximum file size is usually 16mb per image.
  • Video clips can be MP4, M4V, MOV or WebM files. The maximum file size is usually 99mb, but there is no limit on running time.
  • Audio clips can be MP3, OGG, WAV, FLAC, OPUS, AAC, M4A or 3GP files. The maximum file size is usually 40mb, but there is no limit on running time. (If you’re uploading OPUS files, you may need to rename them to have a .ogg extension instead of .opus due to a known bug ⧉.)

File size limits may vary on different servers, but these are the documented defaults. Ask your server admin if you have problems with uploads. Note that if your server is unusually busy then file uploads may slow down or stop for a while.

The file size limits quoted above are from the official documentation. However, there’s some indcation in the source code that they’ve been raised in updates, so you may well find you can upload much larger files.

Making your posts accessible for blind or deaf people

Remember to add text descriptions to attached files before posting, so that they can be accessible to people with disabilities. You can do this by clicking Edit on the file before posting, or writing on top of the attachment itself on some apps. For video clips, remember to describe both the audio and video, so that both deaf and blind people are able to find out what’s going on.

How do I post GIFs in Mastodon?

There is no GIF picker built into Mastodon due to the federated nature of the Fediverse and the need to protect privacy. However, there are three methods for adding GIFs to Mastodon posts:

  • If you post a link to GIF it will automatically be embedded when you post it, as if the GIF had been chosen from a picker.
  • If you have the actual GIF file stored on your computer or phone, you can upload it as an image attachment.
  • Some phones or tablets have a GIF picker built into their on-screen keyboard.

How long can the video or audio attachments be?

Any length! There is no time limit on video or audio, there’s only the file size limit. To post a longer file, reduce its quality so that it stays within the size limit.

How do audio files play?

Mastodon’s web interface and most of the apps have a built-in audio player, some of them with visualisers.

How do I set the artwork for audio?

After you’ve attached an audio file, click the Edit button and then choose an image for the artwork. If you don’t set an image, it will use your profile picture as artwork.

The description has disappeared from the audio file!

If you’ve added a text description to an audio file and it vanishes, add it again and it should remain there okay. There seems to be an intermittent bug that sometimes deletes descriptions from audio attachments when you first upload them.

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Who can see my posts and replies in Mastodon? How do I send DMs in Mastodon?

The visibility of a post or reply on Mastodon depends on its visibility setting. These settings decide which other accounts have permission to see that particular post or reply.

On Mastodon there are four types of post visibility. You can set the visibility of a post by clicking the icon that represents it in the row below the message editing window. It’s usually a 🌐, 🔒, 👥 or @ icon, but some apps may use slightly different icons.

Some more details about each setting:

  • Public – Anyone can see it, even people who aren’t on the Fediverse, and the posts will be visible in searches on Mastodon. If you go to a person’s public profile page you will see all their public posts. This is normally indicated by a globe icon 🌎.
  • Unlisted (aka Quiet Public) – Anyone can see it, but it won’t appear in the trending posts list or the Local or Federated timelines, and it won’t show up in search results. This can be useful for replying in threads, so that you’re not filling people’s timelines unnecessarily. Normally indicated by an open lock icon or a crescent moon.
  • Followers-only – Only your followers can see these, normally indicated by a closed lock 🔒 or people 👥 icon. If you use this setting, it’s a good idea to switch on follower requests, otherwise anyone could follow you to see your followers-only posts.
  • Mentioned – Only people you @ within the message can see the post, normally indicated by an @ symbol. Be really careful who you @ because they will see the post.

Sending DMs in Mastodon

You can send people messages by setting a post’s visibility to @ Mentioned, then @ the people you want to receive the DM. If you use your server’s website or the web app, there’s a Private Mentions option in the menu which lets you see all your mentioned posts in a separate inbox.

⚠️ If you @ someone they will be able to see it, even in DMs or Followers-Only modes

In all modes including DMs and Followers-Only, if you @ someone in a post they will see that post! Because of this, you need to be really careful who you @ in a post.

If you absolutely have to mention an account but don’t want them to see it, try replacing the @ symbols with the word “AT” instead and make sure you’re using a visibility they don’t have access to such as Followers-Only (if they don’t follow you) or Mentions. Removing the @ symbol will break the address, and prevent the account holder seeing the mention.

I can’t see Unlisted as an option on my app?

Unlisted is available as a visibility option on almost all versions of Mastodon including the website, the web app and the third party apps. However, for some strange reason it is not included on the official apps.

If you want the official apps to support Unlisted and you’re comfortable using Github, you can let the developers know you want it added on the iOS version ⧉ and the Android version ⧉.

How do I set my default visibility for new posts?

To set the default visibility on new posts:

  1. Log onto your server’s website or the web app
  2. Click on ⚙️ Preferences (or ⚙️ on mobile web) at the right of the screen
  3. Click on Other at the left of the screen (or ☰ and then Other on mobile web)
  4. In the Posting Privacy dropdown menu, choose the default visibility you want
  5. Click the Save changes button in the top right

NOTE: This is only a default setting. You can always set it to a different visibility for individual posts or replies by clicking their visibility icon when you’re writing them.

Is it possible to edit post visibility after it is published?

You cannot edit the visibility of a post or reply after you’ve published it, so make sure you choose the correct visibility when writing it.

If you absolutely have to change the visibility, your only option is to delete the post and start again, which is most easily done by clicking ⋯ below the post and then Delete & re-draft. If you use this option, the original post will cease to exist, its boosts and bookmarks will disappear, links to it will break and its replies will be orphaned.

Who can see my boosts?

When you boost a post, it will immediately appear in the home timelines of all your followers. The original author of the post will also get a notification to say that you boosted their post.

When do replies appear in the Home timeline?

Replies will appear in your Home timeline if any one of these are true:

  • The reply mentions you
  • You wrote the reply
  • The reply is by someone you follow AND mentions someone else you follow
  • Someone you follow is replying to themselves to create a thread
  • Someone you’re following has boosted the reply

When do Unlisted posts and replies appear in the Home timeline?

In Home timelines, Unlisted posts and replies will appear exactly like public posts and replies. Unlisted posts will only be hidden in the Federated and Local timelines, in search results and in the trending posts list.

What about visibility in searches? How do I set the searchability of posts?

Posts and replies will only show up in search results if they have a Public visibility setting. If you want a post or reply to be searchable, you need to set its visibility to Public.

You also need to decide if you want your public posts and replies to be searchable by full text or just by hashtags. By default it’s just hashtags, but you can also allow the entire contents to be searched by opting into the full text search system.

What about Local-only visibility? How do I make a post only visible to people on my server?

Servers running the standard version of Mastodon do not have a Local-only visibility setting. However, servers running forks of Mastodon such as Hometown Mastodon ⧉ or Glitch Mastodon ⧉ may include a fifth visibility setting called “Local” or “Local only”.

Posts or replies using the Local visibility setting can only be seen by people whose accounts are on the same server.

If I’m replying to someone else’s post, do I have to use the same visibility setting on my reply? How do I send a private reply?

You can adjust your reply to have any visibility setting you want, regardless of the original post’s setting. Bear in mind though that some settings may exclude the author of the original post from seeing your reply.

If you want to send a post’s author a private reply, use the @ Mentioned visibility and make sure you @ them in the reply.

What about federation? How widely can my posts be seen by people on other servers?

Have a look at the guide to which posts can be seen from servers.

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Is there a built-in language translation system on Mastodon?

Yes, it is now available to all Mastodon servers. If your server is running the service, you will see a “Translate” link underneath a post in a different language. If you don’t see these links, ask your server admin about it.

The feature relies on knowing which language you speak, so make sure your account’s language preferences are set correctly, as this will allow the system to automatically suggest translations for you. If you have the incorrect language set on a post, it may confuse the translation system.

This feature is currently only on the website interface and also on the excellent third party app Fedilab ⧉.

The built-in translation uses open source translation provider LibreTranslate ⧉.

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Setting your language preferences on Mastodon, filtering out posts in other languages, filtering search results by language

There are lots of language options on Mastodon to help you understand other people, and help other people understand you. At the time of writing there are 95 different languages and dialects to choose from.

Interface language

The interface language is the language used on menus, buttons, labels, forms etc when you are logged in. To choose your Mastodon interface language:

  1. Log in through your server’s website or the web app
  2. Click ⚙️ Preferences
  3. Select the language you want from the dropdown menu marked Interface language
  4. Click the Save changes button

Filtering timelines by language

You can filter Mastodon timelines by language:

  1. Log in through your server’s website or the web app
  2. Click ⚙️ Preferences
  3. Click the link marked Other on the left of the page (on the mobile website click ☰ and then Other)
  4. Scroll down to the section marked Filter languages
  5. Tick the boxes for languages you want to see
  6. Click the Save changes button
  7. To switch the language filter off (so that you see all languages), make sure all the boxes are UN-ticked and click the Save changes button

When the language filter is on, posts in other languages will no longer appear in your timelines. However, if you follow someone this will override the language filter and show you all their posts regardless of language used.

Posting language

It’s important to set your posting language, because it means people using language filters to show your language will see your posts. Setting this also allows other people to automatically translate your posts using Mastodon’s built-in translation system.

To set which language you post in:

  1. Log in through your server’s website
  2. Go to Preferences > Other > Posting language
  3. Choose which language you use most often and click Save changes

If you post in multiple languages, you can change which language you’re using each time you’re writing a post:

  1. Write the post but don’t publish it yet
  2. Select the language you are writing from the language button. The language button is a two letter country code in the bottom row of icons, for example EN for English.

By default the button will be your selected posting language, unless you are replying to a post marked in another language in which case it will be set to that language.

The language button should remember your most recently chosen languages at the top of the menu.

Filtering search results by language

You can filter your search results on Mastodon to only show posts in particular languages by including the search operator “language:(LANGUAGE CODE)” using language codes from this list. For example to only show posts in French include the term language:fr in searches.

See the guide to searching Mastodon for more details on using special search operators.

Wait! I’m still seeing languages I don’t understand in my Home timeline! Why aren’t the filters hiding them?

Unfortunately if you follow an account or a hashtag, this overrides the language filters, so by default you’ll see all posts in all languages on the Home timeline.

There is a workaround for filtering the language of accounts you’re following, but it’s slightly more fiddly than general language filters:

  1. Log in through your server’s website or the web app.
  2. Go to the profile page of the account you want to filter by language.
  3. Click ︙ and select Change subscribed languages
  4. Tick the boxes for the languages you want to see
  5. Click the Save Changes button

You have to do this for any account you’re following where you want to restrict which languages it shows. For example, if ten people you follow are posting in languages you don’t want to see you’ll have to do this for each of those ten accounts.

Obviously this isn’t as easy as just setting a single language filter, and if you’re following lots of people who post in many languages it can take a while to set preferences for each of them. Also, this option isn’t even available for followed hashtags. This situation isn’t satisfactory, and you may want to give feedback to the developers about this at the links below.

If you’re comfortable using Github, you can vote for language filters to apply to the Home timeline by giving a thumbs up to the first post in this issue ⧉. You can also vote for language filters to apply to hashtags you follow ⧉.

Contributing translations for the Mastodon user interface

If you want to add or correct translations on Mastodon’s interface, click here to go to the Mastodon translation website ⧉.

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Where are the trending posts and hashtags on Mastodon?

Mastodon has a section called Explore which shows trending posts, trending hashtags and trending links. Here’s how to see it:

  • On your server’s website or the Mastodon web app, click on the # Explore link or the # icon on the right of the screen.
  • On the official Mastodon apps click on the magnifying glass at the bottom of the screen without entering anything into the search box, this will automatically make the trends appear. There’s also a Community tab in the same section which is your server’s Local timeline.
  • Third party apps display trends in various different ways using their own interfaces. However, they usually use the word “Trending” in some way. Often you can find the trends link in the main settings menu, but this will vary from app to app.

What makes a post trend on Mastodon?

Posts trend if they are new and have many recent boosts. Only one post per account can trend at a time, to prevent popular accounts dominating the trending section.

What makes a hashtag trend on Mastodon?

Tags trend if many people have used them recently.

What if I see an offensive post, hashtag or link trending?

Hopefully this won’t happen, as your server admin can optionally screen posts, tags and links before they are allowed to trend.

If you see something offensive trending, contact your server admin and ask them if they are screening trends.

I am a server admin, how do I screen trending posts/tags/links?

Log in through the website, click ⚙️ Preferences, then click Trends.

If you’re on the mobile site you will need to click the ⚙️ icon on right of screen, then ☰ in top right, then Trending Posts, Trending Hashtags or Trending Links.

Note that for links you can moderate both individual links and the sites they come from.

What is the News section in Explore?

News just shows the most shared links on posts visible to your server, whether they’re from news sources or any website. Often this will be news items (hence the name), but not always.

Can any link trend on the News section? What do I do if I see dubious news sources trending?

Your server’s admin can optionally choose to moderate which sites’ links end up in the News section. By setting a trusted set of sources, your admin can prevent the trending news section being hijacked by people spreading less trustworthy sources.

If you see a news source trending which shouldn’t be, contact your admin and they will be able to block it from appearing on the trends.

What about the People section in Explore? Are these trending people?

No. They’re just automated suggestions for accounts you might want to follow. It’s a bit unclear why these suggestions are listed next to the trends, to be honest!

Can I view trends on other servers?

Yes. Most servers have a link to their # Explore section on their websites, and you usually don’t need to be logged in to browse this. The trending posts and tags on different servers will be slightly different as they have different views of the Fediverse. You do need to be logged in if you want to interact with the posts, however.

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How to be notified when your favourite accounts post on Mastodon

When you follow someone you’ll see all their posts in your home timeline in chronological order. No posts will be hidden, but when you follow a lot of people it can be easy to miss some of the posts because there may be just so many of them.

On Mastodon, if there are particular accounts where you want to make sure you see their posts, you can set these accounts to also notify you when they post. They will still be in your timeline as normal, but you’ll also get an an alert in your Notifications section.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Log in through your server’s website or through the web app or certain third party apps
  2. Go to the profile of the person you want to be notified about
  3. Click the bell icon 🔔 next to their follow/unfollow button.

Note that this only works for people you follow. Also, if you want to stop notifications just click the same bell icon again.

Can I do this through apps too?

Yes and no. The official apps don’t have notification bells yet, but some third party ones do such as Ice Cubes and Toot! on iPhone/iPad, or Tusky and Fedilab for Android. The ones that support the notification bell may sometimes have a slightly different interface, for example the Toot! app has a “Notify” button instead of a bell icon.

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How do I get my account and posts discovered on Mastodon and the Fediverse?

If you want your account to be discovered by more people with similar interests, here are some tips:

  • Write something about yourself on your profile. It doesn’t have to be personal info, but it should let people know you’re a human being and give them some idea of what you’re interested in.
  • If you want the entire text of your public posts to be completely searchable, even without any hashtags, you can opt into being part of the full text search system
  • If you have a website, include a link to it on your profile and also link to your profile from your website. Remember to have https:// at the beginning so that people can click on it.
  • Also, if you have a website, you might want to verify the website link too, as this will make people know you’re the owner of the site and also make your account appear on discovery services such as StreetPass ⧉.
  • Make sure the first line of your profile text sums you up well, as Fediverse discovery systems often only show the first line.
  • If you want to, add a profile picture and header image, but these are both optional. Blind people often don’t use images on their profiles, so it is totally normal for a profile to have no images on it.
  • Write a public post saying something about yourself, and include the hashtags #Introduction, #Introductions and #NewHere. Try also searching for these hashtags and replying to other people’s introductions.
  • Pin your introduction post on your profile by clicking the post’s ⋯ icon and selecting Pin on profile. For various technical reasons to do with “backfilling”, pinned posts are much more visible than ordinary posts.
  • Remember to use hashtags in posts that you want to be discovered, as lots of people follow hashtags and they are a very popular discovery method on the Fediverse.
  • Try joining and posting to Fediverse groups, they are seen even more widely than hashtags and can be a good way to connect with others interested in specific topics.
  • Include text descriptions on your images, video or audio. A lot more people will share those posts, as accessibility is valued on the Fediverse.
  • Join in with conversations, follow other people, and eventually you’ll get some follows back. See here for tips on how to find people to follow.
  • After you’ve been on here a while, add yourself to the directory at Trunk ⧉ and the directory at Fediverse.info ⧉. There are instructions on these sites telling you how to add yoursrelf.
  • On Mastodon, log in through your server’s website, go to Edit profile > Suggest account to others, tick the box and click Save changes. This will add you to automated follow suggestions that others may see.

When to post your best content

Don’t post your best content when you have literally zero followers. Fediverse servers “notice” posts from accounts that their members follow. If you post stuff when you have 0 followers then your post won’t be visible to anyone except users on your own server. Even having a handful of followers will make your posts a lot more visible, because all of your followers’ servers will notice what you post.

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What kind of accounts can I follow from Mastodon?

If you’re on Mastodon, you can follow other Mastodon accounts of course, but you can also follow accounts from other types of Fediverse server such as Pixelfed, PeerTube, Friendica, OwnCast, BookWyrm etc.

How do I follow accounts from other kinds of servers?

Exactly like you would follow accounts from Mastodon servers, you just click Follow on their profiles.

The following process on the Fediverse is so seamless that you probably won’t even notice you are following accounts outside Mastodon! No matter what kind of server they are on, all accounts will look like Mastodon accounts when viewed from Mastodon (and vice versa from their point of view). Fediverse servers always display content in their own style, regardless of the style used on the server the content came from.

How do I check what an account looks like on its own server?

If you’re using Masto through the website, you can see what an account really looks like by going to its profile’s original page. This will show you the account’s profile page on its own server.

What if I can’t find an account listed on Mastodon? How do I get it to appear within Mastodon?

No matter what kind of server a Fediverse account is on, you can always follow it on Mastodon by copying and pasting its account address into the search box on Mastodon.

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How do I follow hashtags on Mastodon and the Fediverse?

If you’re on Mastodon, Friendica and some other Fediverse platforms, you can follow hashtags. This means that posts with a particular tag will start appearing in your normal timeline alongside posts from people you follow.

For example, if you followed the hashtag #Gardening you would start to see posts about gardening appear in your timeline from people you aren’t following. This makes hashtag following a really useful way to discover new people to follow.

To follow a hashtag on Mastodon:

  1. Go onto Mastodon, either on the web or an app
  2. Search for the hashtag you want to follow, then click on the tag to see the results for that tag
  3. Click on the Follow button in the top right corner of the hashtag results page to follow that hashtag. To unfollow it, click the same icon again.
  4. Posts using that tag will now show up in your home timeline even from people you aren’t following. They will be visible in the home timeline on the website and on the apps.

Which Mastodon apps support hashtag following?

Pretty much all of them! You can follow hashtags through your server’s website, or in most third party apps, or on the official apps.

How do I check which hashtags I’m already following?

If you’re on your server’s website or the web app, go to your profile page and click on the ︙ button, then Followed Hashtags.

Third party apps will have various interfaces for viewing your followed tags, usually in the settings menu for your profile.

On the official apps you can check your current follows by going to your profile page and clicking on the # icon at the top.

How do I unfollow hashtags?

The easiest method is to go to your list of followed hashtags and click Unfollow there. Alternatively, you can click Unfollow on the results page of a hashtag you’re following.

How does hashtag following work at a technical level? How does it compare to groups?

Hashtag following is technically a filter for your server’s Federated timeline. It will only show posts that your server would have noticed anyway.

If you want to make your server notice more posts about particular topics, try joining a group instead. Groups actively share new posts to your timeline, even if your server hasn’t noticed them yet.

Can I follow hashtags through RSS instead?

Yes! You can use a feed reader to follow results for a particular tag feed on a particular server. The feed address format is the following:

(web address of server) /tags/ (hashtag without #) .rss

For example, if you wanted to follow the hashtag #dogs on the server mstdn.social, you would use this address as the RSS feed:

https://mstdn.social/tags/dogs.rss

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How do I discover accounts to follow on Mastodon and the Fediverse?

There are lots of ways to discover interesting accounts on topics you are interested in, see below for a complete list.

(If you want to follow people you already know in real life, the most reliable way to do that is to exchange account addresses with them. Click here to go to the account address guide.)

Do a keyword search

You can find a lot of interesting accounts nowadays just by typing keywords into the search box on Mastodon. Once the results come up, choose the Profiles section to only see accounts. (Searching for profiles works a lot better after changes made in the Mastodon 4.2.0 update from September 2023.)

Follow hashtags

Maybe the easiest way to to discover new accounts on particular topics is to follow hashtags. Posts with followed tags will appear in your home timeline automatically as soon as they’re posted, so you don’t have to go looking for them. Click here for more details on how to follow hashtags.

Join Groups

Groups are special kinds of accounts which share posts on particular topics. If you want to post to the group, you just mention the group’s account and your post gets shared with all the group’s followers. Click here for more details about groups and how they work.

Word of mouth

When you follow an account that account will usually share interesting posts by others, and if you like the posts you can follow the authors of those shared posts too. There is no algorithm on Mastodon and the Fediverse, it’s all human beings, and word of mouth is a significant way to discover interesting accounts.

Browse other people’s follow lists

You can usually browse an account’s follows and followers by visiting the account’s original page. (Bear in mind though that some people have their follow lists to private, in which case the lists will be hidden.)

If you browse a profile’s follows and followers without going to the original page, it will just show accounts from your server. That’s why the original page is better as it shows you the complete lists.

Follow FediFollows

I run an account over at @FediFollows@social.growyourown.services ⧉ which publishes themed lists of interesting accounts to follow, with a new topic every day. The accounts are all hand picked and currently active. You can also browse previously suggested accounts organised into categories at fedi.directory ⧉.

Browse directories

Another method is to browse human-run Fediverse directories. They only list a fraction of the users on the Fedi, but they’re a really good way of beginning the process of building up your timeline. The people you follow will then share posts from others, and soon you’ll be discovering even more accounts to follow just by browsing your own timeline.

Here are some good Fediverse directories:

  • Fedi.Directory ⧉ is a human-curated collection of Fediverse accounts that tend to post about specific topics, so it’s a smaller selection but with more guaranteed quality. (By the way, as mentioned above, I’m the one who maintains this directory 🙂)
  • Trunk is a community-run opt-in directory ⧉ of people looking for followers. Users decide which categories they go in, and the listings are moderated by the site’s maintainers.
  • Fediverse.info is a keyword-based opt-in database ⧉ of people looking for followers. Users decide which keywords they have on their profiles.

Follow curators

There are human-run accounts dedicated to sharing interesting posts on specific topics or areas. Following them can offer you lots of suggestions for interesting accounts to follow.

Look at trending posts and hashtags

Mastodon has a built-in feature for seeing which posts and hashtags are trending, this can help you discover interesting accounts and active topics:

  • To access trends on your server’s website, click the # Explore link on the right of the screen. You can also browse Explore on other servers’ websites if you want to, as it doesn’t require logging in.
  • To access trends on the official apps click the magnifying glass and leave the search box blank. There’s no Explore label on the official apps, but it’s the same contents as Explore. This will show you trending posts and hashtags which will help you discover even more interesting people. There’s also an extra tab labelled “Community” which is the same thing as the Local timeline on the web interface.
  • You can also see trending posts and hashtags on third party apps, they will have their own interfaces for seeing them, usually labelled “Trending” or similar.

Trending posts are based on how often they have been recently shared, trending hashtags are based on how often they have been recently used.

Install StreetPass for Mastodon on your web browser

There’s a free open source web browser extension called StreetPass for Mastodon ⧉ which checks if websites you’re browsing have featured their Mastodon address using a verified link. The extension gradually builds up a list of Mastodon accounts you might want to follow, based on which sites you’ve browsed.

Search for flag emoji to find accounts in particular countries

You can also use Mastodon’s search function to search for standard emoji. If you paste or type a particular country’s flag emoji into the search box, it will show you accounts and posts using that flag, which are usually located in the flag’s country.

For example, if you put the Swedish flag 🇸🇪 into the search box, most of the profiles containing that emoji are Swedish.

Hang out on the timelines

Finally, the most traditional approach to discovery is simply to hang out on the timeline, search for particular hashtags, browse the Local or Federated timelines and follow any accounts you find interesting.

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How do I do likes and re-tweets in Mastodon? And what are bookmarks?

  • The Mastodon equivalent of “Likes” are “Favourites”, click the star ⭐ to favourite a post. Favouriting tells the author that you liked their post, but does not affect the post’s visibility at all.
  • The Mastodon equivalent of a “Re-Tweet” is a “Boost” (and some apps call it a “Re-Blog”). To boost a post, click the circular arrows 🔃 underneath it. Boosted posts will appear in the timeline of everyone who follows you, and boosting will also help a post appear on the trending posts chart in the Explore tab. Boosts are the only way to make a post more visible.
  • There’s also a third option called “Bookmarks” which lets you keep a private list of posts you want to read later. Only you can see your bookmarks, the people you bookmark do not know about it. To bookmark a post click ⋯ underneath the post and then “Bookmark” (some interfaces will also show a bookmark logo which you can click instead).

You can browse past Favourites and Bookmarks on your profile page on the official apps, on the icons on the right of the screen on the web, or with other interfaces on third party apps.

You can see all your past Boosts by browsing your profile page, they will be mixed in with your own posts in chronological order.

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How do I search for stuff on Mastodon?

You can search for posts and profiles on Mastodon by typing ordinary words or hashtags or emoji into the search box:

  • To search on the official app, tap the magnifying glass icon at the bottom of the screen, and type in the search box at the top of the screen. The results will appear below it.
  • To search on your server’s website, type into the search box and press enter. The results will appear beside or below the search box, depending on your window size.
  • If you’re using the website through a phone, click on the 🔍 magnifying glass icon at the top.
  • Third party apps will have various interfaces for search, but they’re usually quite obvious, using a magnifying glass icon or the word “search”. (One exception is Toot! which has its search function bizarrely hidden away in the ⋯ menu in the top right corner.)

What order are search results shown in on Mastodon?

Chronological, with newest posts at the top.

How do I make my own posts more visible in search results?

If you want your post to be more easily found in searches, opt into full text searches and also include relevant hashtags. Remember to use CamelCase on hashtags that contain multiple words. Hashtags are really good for actively indicating a topic being discussed, instead of a word just used accidentally or incidentally.

Although hashtags are no longer required to appear in search results on Mastodon servers, hashtags are still important in making posts visible, because many people follow hashtags and many people search for them (especially as some servers still only allow hashtag searches). You can find out more about hashtags in this special guide.

How do I search just my own posts?

To search just your own posts, include the phrase from:me in your search. If you want to search posts that you’ve interacted with, include the phrase in:library in your serarch.

There are lots more operators like this, scroll further down this page to see them all.

Are there any special operators for filtering searches on Mastodon?

Yes, Mastodon 4.2.0 introduces a number of operators you can use to filter your search results with:

  • has:media – Only shows posts with an attachment (images, audio, video)
  • has:poll – Only shows posts with a poll
  • has:embed – Only shows posts with a link that produces some kind of embedded media (such as a YouTube or PeerTube link)
  • language:fr using language codes – Only shows posts using that language, the example would filter for posts in French. Click here to see a complete list of language codes on Mastodon.
  • is:reply – Only shows posts that are replies
  • is:sensitive – Only shows posts marked as sensitive
  • from:(FEDIVERSE ADDRESS HERE) – Only shows posts by that particular user, for example from:@FediTips@social.growyourown.services
  • from:me – Only shows posts you have made yourself
  • in:all – Searches all posts visible to you
  • in:library – Only shows posts you have interacted with or written yourself
  • before:date, during:date, after:date – Filters for posts before, during or after the selected date. Dates are written in the format YYYY-MM-DD, so for example posts after 1st June 2023 would be after:2023-06-01

Make sure there’s no space between the : and the other words when using these operators. For example, to search for posts with the word “elephant” that are in English, you would search for elephant language:en

Wait, what’s an “operator”?

It’s a special phrase you include in your search that makes the search behave in a special way. The list above describes all of the ones available in Mastodon.

Can I use several operators in the same search?

Yes, just include several operators along with the keyword or hashtag you’re searching for.

Can I use negative operators to exclude certain kinds of posts?

Yes. Just add a minus sign before the term, for example to exclude posts with polls from results you would include the operator -has:poll

How do I opt in to being searched by words as well as hashtags?

Click this link to find out how to opt in to being in full text search results.

Even when I search for stuff, there’s never anything I want!

If you’re on a very new server, it’s possible that it hasn’t noticed much of the Fediverse yet. Try following some groups as they will send all their content to everyone who follows them. Also try asking your server’s admin if they might connect to a relay server, so that the server can see more of the Fediverse.

Wait… I can search for emoji?

Yes! Any emoji can be entered in the search box, and will show posts and profiles containing that emoji in the search results.

It’s a bit more complicated with custom emoji though, you may have to strip away the colons :: around the alt text that appears when you add a custom emoji to a post. The alt text without the colons will show you posts and profiles containing that custom emoji.

My server says search options are unavailable, what’s going on?

Advanced search options require the server to be running a special add-on called “Elasticsearch”. If the operators don’t work and/or you can’t search posts by keyword, ask your server’s admin about this. It’s possible they haven’t installed Elasticsearch, perhaps because they lack the resources as it costs extra.

However, hashtag searches should work fine on all servers, even the ones without Elasticsearch.

I thought Mastodon only allowed searches with hashtags?

Before September 2023 Mastodon searches were entirely based around hashtags. Since then Mastodon also allows full text searches where you just type what you want and it searches the entire texts of posts for matches.

HOWEVER… for privacy reasons the full text search system is opt-in, so you can only get search results for people who have opted into their posts being included in full text searches. If you want your posts to be fully searchable you need to opt into this system, click the link to find out how.

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How to use and customise profile pages on Mastodon

Screenshot of FediTips profile page on Mastodon including a banner image, profile image, text description, joining date, verified link to a website, links to other accounts, links to other websites.
Screenshot of the FediTips Mastodon profile ⧉ with a verified link to the FediTips website.

On your profile page you can set your display name, picture, banner image and short text (also known as a “biog”) about yourself. You should see an Edit profile or Edit Info button on your profile page which lets you change all these things.

How do I find my profile page?

If you’ve already set a profile image, you should be able to just click on the icon that looks like your profile image to get to your profile. Your profile image is visible on the website and all the apps, usually in one of the corners of the screen.

If you haven’t set a profile image, the icon for your profile will normally be some kind of blank sihouette, depending on what you’re using to access Mastodon.

Fill in your profile’s text

It’s really important to fill in your profile’s text description (also known as a “biog”) if you want people to notice your profile. The first line of the profile text is used in Mastodon’s discovery systems, so it’s a good idea to have this sum up what your account is about.

Upload a profile picture and banner

You can upload or change the profile image and banner for your account on the Edit profile page. However, images aren’t as important as the text, and many blind people do not use profile images at all.

The images can be JPG, PNG or GIF files up to 2 megabytes in size. Pictures will be downscaled to 400×400 pixels, banners will be downscaled to 1500×500 pixels. GIFs and PNGs can be animated, though some people’s settings may prevent the animation playing when they look at your profile.

⚠️ WARNING: Do not use rapidly flashing animations on your profile images. These can be extremely dangerous to people with certain neurological conditions.

Fill in your Mastodon profile’s Extra Fields

On Mastodon, there’s also a special feature called Extra fields which creates a special section of your profile page with clearly labelled website links or any other info you want to highlight about yourself. (Extra Fields were previously known as “Metadata”.)

For example, you could have a label saying “My website” in one box and “https://example.com” in the other box next to this label. Or “My other accounts” and links to your other account addresses on the Fediverse. Or you could have a label “Favourite pizza” next to a pineapple emoji. It’s totally up to you how you use this feature.

If you add a website link in your extra fields, it’s important to include https:// at the beginning of the address so that it is clickable, and if it’s your website you can optionally verify it to prove you are the owner of the site.

Extra fields appear as prominent boxes on the website version of Mastodon, and on the official apps it appears in the About section of your profile. Third party apps will show these in various ways, usually boxes on your profile page.

To edit your profile’s Extra Fields feature through the website:

  1. Log in through your server’s website
  2. Click on your profile image to go to your profile page
  3. Click Edit profile, then go to the Extra Fields section of the page
  4. Fill in up to four labels and content. The labels can be text or emoji, the content can be links, text or emoji. If you do put links in, remember to put the https:// at the start so that they are clickable.
  5. Click Save changes

To edit Extra Fields through the official apps:

  1. Click on your profile image to go to your profile page
  2. Click Edit Profile or Edit Info
  3. Scroll down to the About section and click on the + button or Add Row to add a field
  4. You can edit an existing field by tapping on its title or contents to edit them
  5. When you’ve finished, click the Done button at the top

Third party apps may also support editing Extra Fields, and will have various interfaces for doing so.

Verifying your account

Verification on Mastodon happens mainly by adding a special link to your website, click here for more info about how it works.

How to add video, audio, images and even more text to your profile

If you want to greatly expand the introductory material on your profile page, try creating a post with the extra material and pin it to your profile. Pinned posts will always appear at the top of the profile for everyone who browses it, and you can pin up to five posts on a single profile.

Pinned posts are particularly useful if you want to let people know about images, video or audio you have created, as media can be attached to posts.

If you do create an introductory post about yourself you might want to include the hashtag #Introduction, as this is the most widely used tag for new people introducing themselves.

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How do I verify my account on Mastodon and the Fediverse?

Screenshot of the Mastodon profile of the Texas Observer featuring verified official website links in green.
Example of a Mastodon profile with a verified official website link and also running on its own server with its own domain name

If you have an official website, the most straightforward way to verify your identity on Mastodon is to link to your Mastodon profile from that official website. If you include a special piece of HTML code in this link, it will make your website address turn green on your Mastdon profile and people will instantly know that you are the owner of (or professionally connected to) that website. If people already trust your website to be official, then by extension they can trust your account to be who it says it is.

Alternatively, if you’re really keen, you can also create an official Fediverse server based on the web address of your official website. This is, for example, how the European Union has verified all its official accounts on the Fediverse.

How to make a link on your Mastodon profile page turn green

On Mastodon, you can create a special verified website link on your profile which turns green. This means anyone browsing your profile will immediately know you’re verified as the owner of the website:

  1. Log in through your Mastodon server’s website or using the web app
  2. Click on Edit profile
  3. Click on the Verification tab
  4. Copy and paste the HTML code from the verification section on Mastodon into your official website’s front page’s code
  5. On Mastodon, add your website’s address into your Mastodon profile’s Extra fields section, remembering to include https:// at the beginning.
  6. On Mastodon, press the Save changes button in your Mastodon profile settings. It is important that you do this step after you have already inserted the HTML code into your website.

After you’ve done all this in the correct order, you should see a link to your official website on your Mastodon profile, which will turn green with a green tick next to it to verify you are the site’s owner. If you have any problems, see the troubleshooting section below.

This can also be used to verify specific pages on a website, for example if you’re listed as a staff member on an organisation’s website. As long as the creator of the website is willing to add the special verification code, you can verify the link.

Create your own server and have your official Fediverse account there

If you’re really keen, the most watertight way to verify your identity is to make your own Fediverse server as a subdomain of your official website. This is what the European Union did when they made their own Mastodon server ⧉ and their own PeerTube server ⧉. Because the European Union’s official website is well known as being at europa.eu, and their servers are all subdomains of europa.eu, it means all the accounts on their servers can be trusted as being official EU Fediverse accounts. Making your own server on a subdomain is much easier and cheaper than you think.

…but don’t verify by doing any of these!

  • Don’t use “verified” badges next to your name, they don’t mean anything. Because no one owns the Fediverse, there is no central authority to give out “verified” badges the way Twitter etc do. If you do see any Twitter-style verified badges these are just custom emoji and don’t mean anything, it’s just people having fun or messing around.
  • Don’t use centralised “verification” services or sites, even if they seem to be friendly and/or temporary. As the Fediverse has expanded, various brand new websites have sprung up trying to set themselves up as the one and only way to verify identity. It’s rubbish, don’t fall for it. The entire point of being on the Fediverse is to prevent any central authorities taking over, and there are already many tried and trusted ways to verify your identity on the Fediverse without using centralised services.

My website address won’t turn green! How do I make it happen?

Don’t panic, there are things you can do:

  • Make sure that all the links to your Mastodon account on your website include rel=”me” in their link code. If there’s one without rel=”me”, for example in a dropdown menu, the verification process may fail.
  • Bear in mind there may be some delay before your website address turns green on your profile, don’t worry if it doesn’t happen straight away.
  • The website address can be case sensitive, so try typing it entirely in lower case.
  • The website address has to have https:// at the beginning (which also makes it clickable)
  • Make sure the HTML code of the a href contains only rel=”me”, the link and no other attributes such as styles.
  • Make sure that you haven’t accidentally used http:// instead of https://
  • Try using this debugging tool ⧉ to check why the link doesn’t turn green

Also, note that each server on the Fedi verfies addresses independently and at their own pace. It is possible that people on other servers may see your address turn green before you do.

If your website link still won’t turn green, try verifying through the header instead

If you can’t get the normal link code to work for verification, you can instead insert this code into your site’s front page’s header:

<link href="https://yourserver/@yourusername" rel="me">

Substitute your profile page’s URL for the example in the code, but leave it otherwise intact.

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Can I use my account to log in on other servers?

Fediverse accounts only let you log in on one server, because all the servers are independent. The server you joined is your gateway into the wider network, because all the different servers talk to each other to form a single network, despite being separately owned.

If that seems confusing, think of it this way: you can’t sign in on Yahoo Mail with a Gmail account, but you can still send emails between Yahoo Mail and Gmail accounts. The reason this works is because the different email providers talk to each other, despite being separate companies.

But I thought Pixelfed lets people log in with their Mastodon accounts?

Not quite. They have a system that lets you create a new Pixelfed account and automatically copy over settings from your Mastodon account, but you still end up with two separate accounts at the end of it (the original Mastodon one and the new Pixelfed one).

What if I want to use features that are only available on a different kind of server? For example tracking my reading on BookWyrm?

If you just want to follow people from other types of server, you can do that from your Mastodon account. Go to the profile page of the account you want to follow and click Follow, or if their profile isn’t visible in Mastodon then paste their account addresses into the search box on Mastodon.

If you want to actually use features that aren’t available on Mastodon, such as the book database on BookWyrm, then you’ll need to set up a separate account on a server that has those features. In the example of BookWyrm, you would need to set up an account on a BookWyrm server.

If you do set up separate accounts, it’s a good idea to mention these on your Mastodon profile so people know to follow your other accounts too.

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What’s my account’s address? How do I follow other people’s addresses? How can people follow my address?

The most reliable way to follow an account on Mastodon and the rest of the Fediverse is to follow its account address, also known as its Fediverse address. All Fediverse accounts have a unique address that looks like this:

@ username @ server

Your address is visible on your profile page, just below your profile picture and display name.

Screenshot of Mastodon official app, with profile page visible and its account address highlighted
Account address on a profile, as seen through the official Mastodon app
Screenshot of Mastodon web interface with account address highlighted on profile.
Account address on a profile, as seen through the Mastodon web interface

If you want people to follow you on the Fediverse, give them your full account address from your profile. Addresses are by far the most reliable way to find an account’s profile. You can exchange Fediverse addresses with friends in real life the same way you would exchange phone numbers.

Each full account address is unique because only one account has that username on that server.

You can follow an account by copying and pasting its address into the search box on Mastodon (or whatever Fediverse server type you’re using) and then searching for it. The account associated with that address will appear in the search results, and clicking on it will take you to the account’s profile page. You can then follow it by clicking the Follow button.

If you can’t see the search box, click here to see how to access search on the apps and website.

An account address pasted into the search box on the official Mastodon app
An address pasted into the search box on the Mastodon desktop interface

Other types of Fediverse addresses will also work on Mastodon

As well as Mastodon addresses, the above process will also work with other types of Fediverse address including Pixelfed, PeerTube, OwnCast, BookWyrm, Friendica etc. When such an address is viewed within Mastodon it will look like a Mastodon profile, but it’s actually on another server type. If you open its original page you will see what it “really” looks like.

Why do Fediverse addresses look like email addresses?

Fediverse addresses look like email addresses because they use a similar structure for federating their networks together. Each server is independent and the servers talk to each other, so the address includes both the server’s name and the user’s name to make sure messages get to the correct account. Because only one person can register a particular username on a particular server, an account’s full address is always a unique combination.

Why does it usually show just the first part of my address in posts? Why does it sometimes show the full addresses?

In order to make the posts easier to read, Mastodon and many other Fedi platforms abbreviate addresses to just show the first part of the address when you’re @-ing people within a post. However, if there are two addresses with the same username being discussed in the same post, then Mastodon will show the entire addresses to avoid confusion.

Think of it like names and full names in real life: in a conversation you would probably just use part of someone’s name (“Have you met John?”), but if there were two identical names in the same conversation you might say both names in full to distinguish them (“Have you met John Smith and John McDonald?”).

Why can’t I just find accounts by searching?

You can find accounts by searching, however if an account is very new or if no one on your server has ever interacted with it, it may not be visible in search results yet. This is why account addresses are so useful, because they force your server to notice that account straight away.

Does registering a username on one server reserve that username on all other servers?

No. Fediverse account addresses are structured like email addresses: your address is unique because it’s a particular combination of username and server that no one else has.

Someone else can register the same username on a different server, but then their address will be different because the server part will be different. This prevents the accounts being mixed up by the network.

To avoid confusion, Mastodon shows the full addresses if two accounts with the same username are mentioned in the same post.

(This is how email works too: the person with the email example@gmail.com may not be the same person as the one with example@yahoo.com, even though the username part is the same.)

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How do I use Mastodon through the web? How do I log in through my server’s website?

You can use Mastodon entirely through your server’s website if you prefer. This works especially well on computers, but the mobile web interface is good too and appears automatically on small screens. To log in through the web:

  1. Go to your server’s website
  2. Click the Sign in button
  3. Log in with the same email and password you use to sign in on the app

Can I install Mastodon as a web app on my home screen?

Yes! Mastodon supports being installed as a web app on Android and iPhone / iPad. See this site’s complete guide to installing web apps for Mastodon and the Fediverse.

Which websites can I log in from?

Each server on Mastodon and the Fediverse is independent and has its own website you log into. The address of the website is usually the same as the name of the server. For example, if you joined Mastodon through the server kind.social you would log in through the website kind.social ⧉.

Because of the way the network is structured, there is no central website to log in from, so you must go to your server’s own website to log in. (It’s exactly the same reason there is no central email website, you can only log into email through specific email providers such as Yahoo Mail, Gmail etc.)

Although the Fediverse’s servers talk to each other to form a single network, you have to log in on your own server so that you can access this shared network.

My password doesn’t work! I can’t remember my password! I can’t log in, help!

If you are unable to log in through your server’s website, try doing these steps in this order:

  1. Make sure you are logging in on the correct website. You have to log in through your own server’s site, which will usually be the same as the server’s name. If you don’t know your server’s name, it’s in the last part of your account address.
  2. Make sure you are typing the password correctly. Passwords are case sensitive, so you need to make sure each letter’s case is correct.
  3. Underneath the login form there will be a link that says something like “Forgotten password?” or “Having trouble logging in?”. Click this link, then enter your email address and it will send you an email with a reset link in it. If the email hasn’t arrived after a few minutes, check your spam folder in case it’s there,
  4. If you’re still having trouble logging in on Mastodon, go to your server’s website and click on the Learn more link (if you’re on the desktop website) or ⋯ (if you’re on the mobile website). This will take you to your server’s info page. Your server admin’s public email address will be shown in the info page’s section marked “CONTACT:”, you can send them an email to ask for help with logging in even if you get locked out.

By the way, if you have a computer using Mastodon through the website is perhaps the best way to experience it. Fans of the multicolumn Tweetdeck may also want to try the advanced web interface.

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Which Mastodon apps can I use? Should I use the official app or a third party app?

Most people tend to start on Mastodon through the official app, which is simply called “Mastodon” and available on the Apple App Store, Google Play and F-Droid.

However, you don’t need to do this! In fact, you will probably enjoy Mastodon a lot more if you sign up on a server through JoinMastodon.org ⧉ or Fedi.Garden ⧉ and then sign into your account using one of the third party apps listed below, or if you prefer you can use your server’s web app or website.

Official Mastodon apps

Mastodon was originally launched in 2016 and all of its apps were third party. The official app (for Android and iPhone/iPad) was only introduced in 2022 as new people were expecting there to be an official app. However, it was intended just as a beginner’s app and was not meant to replace the third party apps. Third party apps tend to have more and better features than the official app, and most people who try them prefer them.

Because Mastodon uses open technical standards, all apps have equal access to all of Mastodon’s features. The official app has no special advantages or privileges compared to third party apps.

Third party Mastodon apps

There are lots and lots of Mastodon and Fediverse apps out there. The official Mastodon website has a very long list ⧉, but if you just want a few quick simple suggestions here they are:

ANDROIDTusky
Fedilab
Tooot ⧉
iPHONE/iPADToot!
Ice Cubes
Ivory ⧉

Mastodon websites and web apps

Mastodon’s official web interface is excellent and well-developed. You can use Mastodon entirely through your server’s website and you can also install your server’s website as a web app on your phone or tablet. The web app works very much like a normal app, including notifications.

The Mastodon web interface is excellent and generally gets the latest features first. It can be used on computer, tablet or phone, and automatically changes to a mobile layout when used on a small screen.

Third party web interfaces

There are also third party web interfaces you can use instead of your server’s official website. You can log in using the same details as you do on your server’s website, but it will work through a different interface.

One of the most popular third party web interfaces is called Elk, however it is still having a lot of bugs ironed out. You can try it at elk.zone ⧉ and if you’re a techy person you can find out more at Elk’s Github page ⧉.

Command line and TUI apps

If you’re a techy person, you can use Mastodon through a CLI or TUI if you prefer.

Retro computer apps

There are (amazingly!) Mastodon apps available for many home computers of the 1980s and 1990s.

What about safety? How safe are third party apps compared to official apps?

Obviously it’s a bad idea to ever install random unknown apps from sources you don’t trust. However, the apps listed on this page are all well-established and recommended on the official Mastodon website’s apps page ⧉ (scroll down past the official apps section).

Also, most of the apps listed are open source so their workings are visible to anyone in the outside world. Any shenanigans in what a widely-used open source app does would be noticed fairly soon by outside observers.

How do apps handle my account password? Do the apps find out what my password is?

The security of your Mastodon account works like this:

  • The sign-in process on all apps (including official, third party and web apps) happens through your server’s website, which the app opens in a built-in web browser window. That’s why the sign-in page on apps looks like your server’s website, because it is your server’s website.
  • None of the apps listed on this page ever find out your password, all they know is that your server confirmed the password is correct and the server gave the app a special access token so it could work with your account. (Tokens are just a special code that lets apps and servers talk to each other.) That’s why the sign-in process always includes asking you about permissions, it is your server asking if you want to give that app an access token.
  • If you don’t want an app to work with your account any more, you can cancel its access token by logging in on your server’s website and going to Preferences > Account > Authorised Apps, then click the Revoke button for the app you want to remove permission from. Revoking will stop that app having any access to your account. (On the mobile website, you may need to click the cog icon ⚙️ and then ☰ in the top right corner to get to the Account section.)
  • You can make your account even more secure by enabling two-factor authentication, an extra layer of security which means even if someone found out your password they would still be unable to log into your account.

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Don’t join a big server on Mastodon!

When new people sign up on Mastodon and the Fediverse, they often assume that they must join the biggest server to have the best experience.

This isn’t true at all, for a number of reasons:

  • Servers of all sizes talk to each other to form a single giant network, and people can follow each other regardless of which server they are on. You don’t need to be on a large server to get lots of follows and followers.
  • The experience of following an account is absolutely identical, whether you’re on the same server or not. You don’t need to be on the same server as people you follow.
  • Larger servers usually have a much lower staff-to-member ratio, which means the moderation will be worse than on a smaller server. Also, because there are fewer staff per member, if something breaks it will be a lot harder to get hold of anyone who can fix it.
  • Smaller servers usually have a friendlier community atmosphere on their Local timelines, while the Local timeline on large servers is an unreadable firehose.
  • Large servers are much easier for nasty billionaires to buy out, which puts the network as a whole at risk. By staying on medium and small servers, you are helping to protect the network from anyone taking it over.

Mastodon.social is not anything special

A lot of the media still thinks that the “default” server is mastodon.social, but this just isn’t true. Mastodon.social became a very big server mainly because it was the first Mastodon server, but it has no advantages or privileges over any other server. It would be like expecting the first station on a rail network to be somehow better than the other stations.

If you want your server to be busier

If a server is very new, it perhaps can’t see the rest of the Fediverse yet, and this may mean the server seems very quiet and empty. As more people sign up on your server, and as your server’s members follow accounts from other servers, it will gradually start noticing more of the Fediverse and start to feel busier.

However, if you want to speed up this process of discovery, there are ways of doing this:

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What if a server closes down? What happens to my account?

Servers do sometimes decide to close down. However, all of the servers listed at JoinMastodon.org ⧉ and Fedi.Garden ⧉ are required to give at least three months notice if this happens. This gives the server’s members time to transfer their accounts to other servers. The transfer process lets people keep their followers and follows.

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Which Mastodon server should I join? How do I find out more about a server?

If you’re totally new to Mastodon and the Fediverse, the safest and easiest way to join is probably to go to JoinMastodon.org ⧉ or Fedi.Garden ⧉ and pick one of the listed servers. After you’ve signed up, you can use your account on the server’s website, or use the same account on an app if you prefer, or use both web and app.

Many of the servers are themed or intended for particular kinds of people, but many of them are just general. If you can’t make up your mind, just pick one of the general servers from those lists.

The servers listed on those sites have all committed to specific standards of technical reliability and responsible content moderation ⧉. (There are also many other much longer server lists, but the longer lists don’t have the same requirements to be listed, so tend to be less safe to use.)

Is there a more direct, in-depth way to find out about a server?

If you know the server you want info about, go to its website and click on the Learn more or ⋯ links, which will take you to that server’s About page. A server’s website address is usually the same as its name, so for example the server laserdisc.party would be at the web address laserdisc.party ⧉

The About page will contain general information about the server, as well as a list of the server’s rules and a link to the server administrator’s page (along with their public email address). It may also show a list of other servers that the server has blocked, which can be a useful indicator of the server’s priorities and how responsibly it is run.

What are the differences between servers?

Each server is totally independent: it is owned by the person or group who maintains it, it makes its own rules of acceptable behaviour and is responsible for moderation, it chooses which other servers it blocks, and all these things together give it a general vibe or atmosphere. The sense of community is usually much stronger and friendlier on medium and smaller servers.

Because Mastodon and the rest of the Fediverse is built on open technical standards, servers are free to offer features that aren’t available on standard Mastodon. For example, some servers allow you to write longer posts.

What’s to stop a server shutting down?

Any kind of internet site can disappear ⧉, but the Fediverse reduces this risk by letting you move your account to another server if the one you’re on is closing.

All of the servers listed on Fedi.Garden and the JoinMastodon.org sites have promised to give three months warning if they intend to shut down, so that users have time to move their accounts to a different server without losing their followers or follows.

Another way of mitigating the risks of shutdowns is to join a server that has been around for a long time. The Fedi.Garden website has a section which lists recommended servers sorted by the year they were founded ⧉. You can also check a server’s age by clicking on the administrator’s profile link on its About page. Because the admin is usually the one who founded the server, their joining date on their profile page usually tells you the server’s age too.

Do I need to join more than one server?

No. You don’t need to join more than one server, because the servers talk to each other seamlessly. If your friend is on another server you can still follow each other, and being on different servers doesn’t affect that at all. (It’s similar to friends being on different phone providers, they can still call each other.)

Should I join the biggest server?

No. Joining the largest server is a bad idea. Medium-sized and small servers are much better both for you and for the safety of the network as a whole. There are really important reasons why being spread out on lots of medium and small servers is the best option.

Medium and small servers also tend to have much better moderation. Their ratio of staff to users is much higher than on large servers, so if there are any problems it’s much easier to reach someone who can help.

Can I move my account if I change my mind about which server to join?

Yes! You can always transfer your account to a different server if you want to be somewhere else instead. The transfer process lets you keep your followers and follows, plus bookmarks, blocks, mutes and lists. Posts from the old account remain on your old server, but when people click on the profile name above old posts they will be redirected to your new account’s profile page.

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Are there any other guides to Mastodon and the Fediverse?

Yes, there are lots of places you can get more help:

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What’s that rainbow pentagon thing that everyone seems to use on the Fediverse?

You mean this?

The most commonly used Fediverse logo, a bright multicoloured pentagon with corners marked by dots and lines joining the corners across the middle of the shape.

It’s the Fediverse logo!

Well, sort of. There’s no central authority on the Fediverse to choose an official logo, but many community members published their own suggestions and one of them has become very widely used. This is probably the nearest the Fediverse will ever get to an official logo.

The creator of the logo released it into the Public Domain, so anyone can use it for any purpose. It’s effectively the flag of the Fediverse, and used to represent it in discussions, videos, apps and lots of other contexts.

The logo’s creator published high quality versions of the logo available to download on Wikimedia Commons ⧉.

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What other kinds of servers are on the Fediverse?

As well as Mastodon ⧉, there are lots of other server types on the Fediverse, for example:

BookWyrm ⧉ – A social reading platform, an alternative to Amazon’s GoodReads

Friendica ⧉ – A general social network with no character limits, sort of like Facebook used to be on its older interface

Funkwhale ⧉ – Music and podcast storage and sharing

Kbin ⧉ – Link aggregation and discussion, sort of like Reddit

Mobilizon ⧉ – Event organisation, the Fedi’s alternative to Facebook Events

OwnCast ⧉ – Video livestreaming with a chat window at the side, very much in the style of Twitch

PeerTube ⧉ – YouTube-style video sharing site which uses P2P technology to allow even small servers to have videos go viral, as the more people view a video the more bandwidth it gets

PixelFed ⧉ – Photo sharing site, similar in style to Instagram and Tumblr

WordPress – All WordPress blogs can optionally be followed from Mastodon and the rest of the Fediverse

WriteFreely ⧉ – Minimalist blog where focus is on the text, like a calmer version of Medium

…and that’s just some of them! If you’re a techy person, you can see more comprehensive lists of server types at FediDB ⧉ and delightful fediverse apps ⧉.

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Does Mastodon or the Fediverse use ads or trackers or algorithms or blockchain or cryptocurrency or anything annoying like that?

No.

There are no ads, no trackers, the timeline shows all posts from everyone you follow in chronological order, and there is no blockchain/cryptocurrency/web3.

Fediverse servers connect to each other using traditional sustainable methods that email and websites have used for decades.

I thought “decentralised” meant blockchain/web3/cryptocurrency?

No.

The so-called “web3” is just marketing crap that con artists have used to promote blockchain-based get-rich-quick schemes ⧉. Part of the deceptive marketing around web3 scams includes trying to steal the term “decentralised”, but in reality blockchain and cryptocurrency schemes are just about trying to make money through dodgy investments, they don’t care about their users.

Honest, proven, sustainable decentralised networks are nothing to do with blockchain/web3/cryptocurrency.

So, what is a true decentralised social network?

True decentralised networks are where many independent service providers talk to each other in a process known as “federation”, so that even people on totally different providers can still communicate. The Fediverse takes its name from this: it’s a Federated Universe of independent social network servers.

Federated networks have been around for centuries, and all of us have used them all our lives. The entire world is built around federated communications networks.

The postal service is federated, different post offices around the world exchange letters and parcels. You don’t need to use the German post office to send a letter to Germany, you just use your local postal service and they pass it on to their German equivalent. The traditional telephone network is federated, and so is email. That’s why you can make a call or send an email to someone else even if you’re using a completely different provider, because the providers on a federated network talk to each other.

Federated networks have been the default for human communications from the earliest days, since before computers or the internet even existed. It’s this sensible, sustainable, common sense tradition that the Fediverse is trying to bring to the modern social media world.

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Why is the Fediverse on so many separate servers?

The Fediverse is decentralised for many reasons:

  • It stops anyone buying the Fediverse out. There is no central server, so there’s no single thing anyone could purchase in order to take over the network. Twitter-Musk scenarios aren’t possible on a network that is spread out on many servers.
  • It promotes higher quality moderation. Smaller servers tend to have higher quality moderation, because they have a much larger staff-to-member ratio. On massive servers, the number of staff per user is very low and the moderation quality tends to be much poorer.
  • It empowers the user. If the people running a server do something bad, users can move their accounts to a different server without losing their followers. This discourages server owners from doing anything bad in the first place, and gives users lots of options if the worst happens.
  • It lets anyone start their own server, even non-technical people (click here to find out how ⧉). The simplicity of a small server means it only costs about $8 per month from a managed hosting company which does all the technical stuff for you ⧉.
  • It means each server can make its own rules, so if there are any disagreements people can move to a different server with different rules, or even start their own server with rules they write themselves.
  • Servers that find themselves in extreme disagreements over acceptable behaviour can disconnect from each other without disconnecting from the rest of the network.
  • If one server goes down or has technical problems, other servers keep working fine. Problems on one server don’t bring down the whole network.
  • Servers don’t all have to use the same software. This diversity means if one kind of software doesn’t work properly, it doesn’t affect the whole network, and servers can switch to other software if they want. The diversity also allows servers to specialise in particular kinds of content for users who just want particular features, for example PeerTube specialises in video publishing, BookWyrm in book reviews etc.

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Who gets to start their own server on Mastodon and the Fediverse?

Anyone.

It’s now much cheaper and easier than most people realise, it starts from about 5 to 10 euros or dollars per month for a small server.

There are three main ways to start your own server on Mastodon and the Fediverse, depending on your technical skill level:

  • If you’re non-technical, you can use a managed hosting provider. The hosting company does all the technical stuff for you behind the scenes in return for a monthly fee, but the server belongs to you and you have total control over it through the web interface. You can find out more about managed hosting on my website Grow Your Own Services ⧉.
  • If you’re moderately technical, you might want to use Yunohost ⧉ which lets you install and manage a wide range of online services (including Fediverse servers) through a graphical interface. This option does require you to know how to install a server OS though.
  • If you’re very technical, all Fediverse platforms (including Mastodon) have manual installation instructions in their documentation which you can use.

Once your server is set up, you can follow people on other servers and they can follow you.

Should I set up my own server?

It’s much easier to join someone else’s server, but it’s really important that creating your own server is there as an option. Here’s an article on my other site about why someone might want to run their own server ⧉.

I’m interested, but I don’t know anything about this topic. Is there anywhere I can get advice?

Yes! I run a website at GrowYourOwn.Services ⧉ which is aimed at non-technical people who are interested in making their own online sites and services. This includes Mastodon and other kinds of Fediverse servers, and there’s an in-depth step-by-step guide to making your own Mastodon server ⧉. The site doesn’t have any connection to the providers mentioned, so it can give advice freely on what is possible.

There are also guides for Fediverse admins on Fedi.Tips, just go to the front page and scroll to the section marked Running your own server on Mastodon and the Fediverse at the bottom of the screen.

I set up my own server but it’s hard to pull content in! What can I do?

The content should come in more as you follow more accounts, and if you’re running a public server then your members will draw in more content as they follow more accounts too.

However, if you want more content right now you might want to read the guide to groups (which actively federate all their content to all their followers), and also see the guide to relays (especially the newer custom hashtag relays).

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Who sets the rules on the Fediverse? How do I find out what the rules are on my server?

Because the Fediverse is a network of totally independent servers, there is no central set of rules for them. Each server creates its own set of rules which its members must obey. Usually the owner of a server sets the rules for that server, although some servers may consult their members about what should be allowed.

How do I find out what the rules are on my server?

  1. Go to your server’s website, you don’t need to log in.
  2. If you’re on a computer, click the “Learn more” link. If you’re on a phone, click the ⋯ icon.
  3. You will be taken to that server’s info page, scroll down the page until you get to a section marked Server Rules and click this to open it. It’s worth reading the rules before joining a server, they’re usually relatively short and written in clear plain language.

What kind of rules are typical on servers?

Most servers will have rules against bigotry, abuse, threats etc, but it is totally up to a server’s owner to decide. That’s why it’s important to check a server’s rules before you sign up or transfer an account, as they are not all the same and it’s best to know the kind of place you are joining.

How are the rules enforced? What happens if an offender is on another server?

If the rule-breaker’s account is on an admin’s server, the admin can issue a warning, limit the account, suspend the account or even delete the account.

If the rule-breaker is on another server, admins can limit or totally block remote accounts from communicating with their server.

If a server is consistently full of problematic accounts and refuses to do anything about them, admins can defederate badly-run servers. Really badly run servers tend to end up isolated, because so many other servers defederate them.

What if I disagree with a rule? What if a rule is unclear?

You can ask the owner(s) of your server if you have any comments or questions about the server’s rules. Bear in mind though that the owners have the last word on what is allowed.

Is it possible to run a server jointly, owned by its members?

Yes, some servers are owned and run jointly by co-operatives, where the members vote on what should happen and what the rules should be. Real world ownership structures such as co-ops can be applied to servers too.

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Who owns the Fediverse? Is the Fediverse owned by a corporation or venture capital firm? Can it be bought out by Google/Facebook/Elon Musk?

No single person or company or organisation owns the Fediverse or Mastodon. Its ownership is spread throughout the thousands of independent servers that make up the network.

No one can buy out the Fediverse or Mastodon because there is no single thing that could be bought, it would be like trying to buy out the global phone network. The Fedi is made up of thousands of independently owned and run servers, which makes it extremely difficult or impossible for anyone to purchase it.

Most Fedi servers belong to unpaid volunteers, or non-profit community groups and co-ops. The running costs are covered by the server owners themselves and donations from their users. There are no investors, no venture capital firms, no ads, no trackers.

Companies can start their own Fedi server if they want to, anyone can, but all they would control is their own server. They would have no control over the thousands of other servers out there.

The Fediverse is built on free and open source software, made by many independent groups, and the software copyrights are licensed in such a way that no company or organisation could ever take control of them.

I thought Mastodon belonged to some guy called Gargron or Eugen or something?

The software which runs on most Mastodon servers is developed by a non-profit software organisation in Germany called Mastodon gGmbH, which is run by Eugen Rochko (also known as “Gargron”). The non-profit publishes this software under a free open source licence so anyone can use it, distribute it or modify it. Many of the contributions made to the software are from people outside the non-profit, so this open licence is of benefit to everyone.

Rochko’s non-profit also runs two Mastodon servers (mastodon.social and mastodon.online) and the JoinMastodon.org promotional website, but they do not own or have any control over any other servers. Also, many Fediverse servers run on totally different kinds of software which aren’t made by Rochko’s non-profit.

What about the apps? Who owns them?

The “official” apps for Mastodon are made by Rochko’s non-profit and are aimed at new users. However, the third party Mastodon apps have been around a lot longer than the official ones, and tend to be better designed with more features. You can use your Mastodon account (and many non-Mastodon Fediverse accounts) with any of these apps, you don’t have to use the official ones.

The “official” Mastodon apps have no technical advantages over third party apps, they all have equal access to Mastodon’s features.

I thought apps and social networks were the same thing?

In recent years companies like Meta/Facebook and Twitter have attempted to drive people onto their official apps in order to control their experience more tightly. This has happened to such an extent that many people now refer to social networks as “apps”.

There used to be many third party Facebook and Twitter apps you could use, but the corporations who own Facebook and Twitter didn’t like this lack of control so they gradually started to block all other apps from their services except their own. Because Facebook and Twitter are built on closed standards and based on single servers, there was nothing the third party app makers could do about it.

Mastodon and the Fediverse are different, they are built entirely on open standards and spread across thousands of independent servers. That means no one can force you to use a particular app, you can choose from many different apps and they will all work with your account. Any company or programmer can make a new Mastodon/Fediverse app if they want to, and there are no restrictions on the features they can provide.

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Do I need multiple accounts? Do I need to join lots of servers?

You only need one account on one server to follow and interact with people from across the Fediverse. Think of it like your telephone: you only need one phone with one SIM card to call anyone in the world.

You don’t need phones for every phone network, because the world’s phone networks talk to each other.

You don’t need an account for every Fediverse server, because the world’s Fediverse servers talk to each other.

But some people do have multiple accounts? Why?

There are specific situations where having multiple accounts is very useful, see the guide here for more on this topic.

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Transferring your Mastodon account to another server

(If your account is new and you don’t have any followers yet, don’t bother doing all this! Just sign up on the server you want and delete your old account. These instructions are for people who have followers and want to keep them.)

You can migrate your Mastodon account to another server if you want. Moving lets you keep your followers, follows, bookmarks, mute lists and block lists.

The instructions below might seem a bit complicated as they combine several different procedures together, but you only have to do these things once per migration.

The transfer has to happen through the website interfaces of your old server and new server, so make sure you’re logged in through a web browser. The apps don’t support transfers at the moment.

How to choose a new server to move to

Choose a new server from fedi.garden ⧉ or joinmastodon.org ⧉. Both of these sites are human-curated and require all servers listed to promise certain standards of technical reliability and content moderation ⧉.

Do not use the really long automated non-curated server lists, as the automated lists tend to include unreliable servers too.

Before you do the transfer, make a note of your followed hashtags

Followed hashtags aren’t currently transferred, so if you want to keep them you’ll need to make a note of your existing hashtag follows before the transfer, then follow them manually on the new account after the transfer. To see your current followed hashtags, go to your profile, click on ︙ and then Followed hashtags.

How to transfer your account to the new server

  1. Create a new account on the server you want to move to, but DO NOT delete the old account.
  2. On your OLD account, go to Preferences > Import And Export > Data Export and download all the CSV files one file at a time by clicking on the CSV icons. However, DO NOT press the archive request button! Archive request has got nothing to do with transfers. (You of course may want to separately request an archive just so you have a personal copy of an account’s contents. This is especially relevant if your old server is closing down.)
  3. On your NEW account, go to Preferences > Import And Export > Import and upload the CSV files one at a time (the files which you just downloaded in the previous step). Remember to select the correct file type from the drop-down menu for each CSV file before you upload it.
  4. Log into your NEW account on the new server’s website, go to Preferences > Account > Moving From A Different Account (at the bottom of the screen), click on Create an account alias and follow the instructions.
  5. After you’ve finished the previous step, wait at least five minutes. The previous step can take a while for the server to actually carry out, and it’s important that it happens before you continue. While you’re waiting, you might want to optionally change your OLD account’s name to say “(YOUR OLD ACCOUNT NAME HERE) has moved” and change your OLD profile text to tell people your new account address. You don’t technically have to do this, but it helps make extra-sure that everyone can see you’ve moved.
  6. When you’ve finished waiting, log into your OLD account on the old server’s website, go to Preferences > Account > Move To A Different Account (also at the bottom of the screen), click on Configure it here and follow the instructions. This will start transferring your followers to the new account. The accounts won’t transfer all in one go, they will come across in waves depending on how busy their own servers are. Some of your followers will automatically follow your new account straight away, while others may take hours (or in extreme cases even days!). Don’t worry though, you can carry on with the next steps while this is happening in the background.
  7. Even after the transfer, DO NOT delete your old account. It’s best to leave it where it is, because it will redirect people to your new account and leave your old posts intact. Your old posts will redirect people to your new account as long as you don’t delete the old account.

Make sure you do all these steps in the correct order. If you miss stuff out or do things in the wrong order, the transfer may fail or be incomplete.

After doing all these steps, your old account will redirect to the new one, and your followers, follows, bookmarks, mutes and blocks will transfer automatically. There may be a delay on some items transferring, do not worry if this happens.

What happens to my old profile after the move?

After you confirm the move in step 6 above, your old account profile will automatically turn black and white, people will not be able to follow it, and there will be a notice on top of it telling people that you have moved your account to a new address, along with a link to your new account’s profile.

However, not every Fediverse app shows this automatic notice, and it may be a good idea to also add a manually-created note of the new account address. See step 3 of the procedure for more info on how to do this.

How long does it take for all my followers to transfer over?

Most people on your follower list should transfer over in a few hours, but for some of your followers it may take days or weeks to automatically follow your new account. There’s nothing you can do to speed this up, because it depends on how busy their server is and how many tasks it has to do before it gets to your follower’s update. Busier servers may have longer processing queues and take longer to handle follower transfers.

However, your followers can skip this queue by manually following your new account. It won’t cause any problems if they do this. You can encourage them to follow your new account manually if you prefer.

I did the transfer but there are still some followers on my old account. How do I bring them over to the new account?

If there are still followers on your old account after 30 days, you can do the procedure below to bring the remaining followers over to the new account. This won’t affect followers who have already been transferred, they will remain on your new account whatever happens.

To transfer followers that are still on your old account:

  1. Log into your OLD server’s website or web app, this should take you straight to the old account’s settings page (if it doesn’t, try logging out and then logging in again, and do this on a desktop computer or tablet in horizontal mode rather than a phone)
  2. Scroll down to the section marked Move to a different account and click the Configure it here link
  3. Click Cancel redirect at the top of the screen
  4. Scroll down to the Move to a different account section and enter your NEW account’s account address and your OLD account’s password
  5. Click the Move Followers button

Your remaining followers should then start transferring over to your new account. Just like the first time, this second attempt may take days to finish. If there are still some followers on the old account after another 30 days, you can do it a third time etc.

The reason for the 30 day “cooldown” period is to give the first transfer time to work, as some servers do take days or weeks to get round to processing follower transfer requests.

Note that a small proportion of your followers may be on broken servers which aren’t processing transfer requests. There’s nothing you can do to transfer such followers, but that kind of situation is rare.

What happens to my old posts? Do they transfer over as well?

Your old posts cannot be transferred. However, your old posts will still be accessible on the old server, as long as you don’t delete your old account. Also, your old posts will redirect people to your new account if people click on the username.

If you absolutely have to delete your old account for some reason, you can do so, but it will mean all your old posts will disappear and people will find it more difficult to find your new account.

If you want to make sure your content is completely under your control forever, you can start your own server for around US$8 a month on a managed hosting service ⧉. Managed hosting means the hosting company does all the technical stuff behind the scenes, so you don’t have to be a techy person to use this option.

Does the new account I’m transferring to have to be empty?

It doesn’t have to be empty. You can transfer your account to any other account, including accounts that already have followers.

Can I go back to my old account if I change my mind?

Yes. As long as you don’t delete your old account, and as long as the server it is on is still functioning, you can always go back to your old account and cancel the redirect.

To go back to your old account:

  1. Log into the website or web app of your old server with your old account’s details
  2. This should take you to a settings page with a message at the top saying the account is inactive
  3. Click on the Cancel redirect link in the message at the top

Followers you transferred to the new account will remain on the new account even if you cancel the redirect, but you can transfer them back from the new account to the old account if you want by using the normal transfer process in reverse.

Can I go back to the new account again if I change my mind about going back to the old account?

Yes, you can go back and forth between accounts if you want, and transfer your followers back and forth too.

However, there will be a cooldown period of 30 days between such transfers. Also, if you do this a lot some people may get confused, and you may lose a few followers if they are on servers that aren’t handling transfers properly.

I tried uploading my data and it won’t recognise it! It says “Invalid CSV File”. What’s happening?

It sounds like you’re trying to upload your account archive file, which is not used in account transfers. The layout of the data export page is a bit misleading, transfers only involve the individual CSV links. The archive request button is not used in account transfers.

Screenshot of account data export page on Mastodon, with notes added to indicate the CSV links are used in account transfers while the archive request is not used in account transfers.

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How do I join Mastodon and the Fediverse?

It’s really easy:

  1. Choose a Mastodon server on the Mastodon website ⧉ or through Fedi.Garden ⧉. All the servers listed on those sites have committed to certain standards of reliability and responsible content moderation ⧉.
  2. Click on the server you want, this will take you to the server’s own website where you can do the actual signing up.
  3. Once you have signed up, you can log in on that server’s website, or if you prefer you can use a Mastodon app.

Don’t worry too much which server you join, as you can always transfer your account to another server (including your follows and followers).

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What is Mastodon? What is the Fediverse?

Simplified diagram of the Fediverse, showing many kinds of social media servers connected together

If you call someone on an ordinary phone, your phone provider will connect to the phone provider of the person you’re calling. You don’t need to be on the same provider to call someone. This works worldwide and seamlessly, because all the hundreds of phone providers in the world talk to each other. From the user’s point of view, it’s as if all phones in the world are on the same network.

The Fediverse (or “Fedi”) is basically the same idea, but for social media. The Fediverse is a collection of thousands of independent social media servers that talk to each other seamlessly. This means that the millions of users on these servers can interact with each other as if they were on a single social network.

The most popular type of Fedi server is called Mastodon (or “Masto”) and works a bit like a calmer, more friendly version of Twitter. Click here for a cute animated video about Mastodon ⧉ that explains the basic principles of a federated social network, or click here for an even simpler explanation video ⧉. You might also want to watch this short video about the Fediverse ⧉ that emphasises the importance of common technical standards.

There are many kinds of Fediverse servers, often with a specific purpose such as photo sharing, video sharing, livestreaming, book clubs etc. Although the various types of servers work very differently, they talk to each other with a common technical standard called ActivityPub. The common standard means people on totally different kinds of servers can follow and interact with each other seamlessly.

In fact, the process of interacting with other servers is so seamless, most people don’t even notice that they are communicating with other servers!

Could you give some examples of this in action? How do different kinds of servers interact?

Let’s suppose someone has an account on a Mastodon server, which means they have a Twitter-style timeline and features. They can create short posts, follow other people, reply to posts, share posts, like posts etc. That person can follow and interact with accounts from other Mastodon servers, but they can also follow accounts from completely different kinds of Fediverse servers too.

For example, if they follow a video account from PeerTube, videos from the PeerTube account will appear in their Mastodon timeline just like Mastodon posts do. If they reply to one of these video posts in their timeline on Mastodon, that reply will also appear as a comment below that video on PeerTube.

There are many other kinds of server on the Fediverse, such as Pixelfed for photos, BookWyrm for reviewing books, WordPress for writing blogs etc. All of them can be followed and interacted with from Mastodon accounts.

I thought the Fediverse and Mastodon were the same thing? Where does the word “Fediverse” come from?

Mastodon is currently the most popular kind of Fediverse server, but it’s just one kind. There are many other kinds, communicating through a common standard to form a single network. The collective term for this network of compatible servers is “The Fediverse”, which is short for “Federated Universe”. There’s a short video about the Fediverse ⧉ which sums up its nature.

Who owns Mastodon? Who owns the Fediverse?

No single individual or organisation owns Mastodon or the Fediverse. Ownership is spread across thousands of independent server owners.

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