How do I opt into full text search on Mastodon?

Since version 4.2.0, Mastodon allows full text search where the entire contents of public posts are included when people do searches.

For privacy and safety reasons, the full text search feature is entirely on an opt-in basis. By default your posts are NOT available to search by that method, and you have to actively opt into full text search to make your public posts searchable without hashtags.

To opt into full text search:

  1. Log in through your server’s website or the web app
  2. Click on your profile icon, this will take you to your profile page
  3. Click on the Edit Profile button
  4. Click on the tab at the top of the screen labelled Privacy & Reach
  5. Tick the box marked Include public posts in search results
  6. Click the Save Changes button at the bottom of the screen

If you change your mind, do the same steps again but untick the box and then save changes.

What if I don’t want to be searchable by full text?

By default, your posts are NOT part of the full text search system. You have to actively opt in using the steps above if you want people to be able to search the entire text of your public posts.

If you don’t opt in, then your public posts are only searchable by hashtag.

What if I want some of my posts to be searchable, but others not searchable?

The search system on Mastodon only shows posts using the Public visibility setting. If you create a post with any other visibility setting it will not show up in search results.

If I opt in, does it make my older public posts full text searchable too?

No. Opting into full text search only applies to public posts written after the opt-in happened, because it tags them with a special tag that allows full text searching. These tags would not be on older public posts, so they won’t be full text searchable (but they will still be hashtag searchable).

If I opt into full text search, can my public posts still be found by hashtag?

Yes. Your public posts will still show up in hashtag searches whether or not you’ve opted into full text search.

If I opt into full text search but my server doesn’t offer full text search, will my public posts still be searchable on other servers?

Yes. When you opt in, the text of your public posts will be picked up by the search system on servers that do offer full text search, even if your server doesn’t.

Why doesn’t every server offer full text search?

Full text search requires a server to have an extra service called elasticsearch. This costs extra, and some servers may not have the resources to pay for it.

There are also some servers that prefer to keep things on a hashtag-only basis as they see it as an extra layer of safety.

So, now that there’s full text search, should I carry on using hashtags?

Yes! Using hashtags is still a good idea for several reasons:

  • Many people follow hashtags, so your post will get more visibility if you include tags
  • Not everyone uses full text search
  • Some servers don’t offer full text search due to its extra cost
  • Hashtags give a clear sense of topic, they say what the post is about. Text can be ambiguous and unintentional, whereas hashtags show clear intended topics.

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