How To Use Mastodon and the Fediverse: Basic Tips

Which 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 easiest way to join is probably to go to JoinMastodon.org ⧉. The servers listed there have all committed to specific standards of technical reliability and responsible content moderation ⧉.

You can find out more about a server by going to its website and clicking on the Learn more link on its front page (click the ⋯ button if you’re looking at the site on your phone). A server’s website address is always the same as its name, so for example the server laserdisc.party would be at the address https://laserdisc.party ⧉

You can see how long the server has been going by clicking on the administrator’s profile link on the Learn more page; the joining date on their profile page tells you the server’s age.

You don’t need to join more than one server, because the servers talk to each other seamlessly.

You also don’t need to join a large server. The Fediverse’s servers are connected together, so whether you’re on a small or large server the audience you can interact with is the same. Small servers also have the advantage that the people who run them are easier to reach if you have any problems, and their “Local” timeline tends to be much more fun to browse (see below for more info about local timelines).

Also, whatever you do, don’t stress too much about which server you pick. You can always transfer your account to a different server if you change your mind.

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 ⧉ 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.

It’s a really bad idea to join a big server!

Joining a big server is not going to get you any advantages on the Fediverse.

Bigger servers do not mean bigger audiences because federated servers talk to each other seamlessly. The number of people you can interact with is the same whether you’re on a large or small server. Some people even run their own single user servers where they are literally the only member, yet they are able to interact with any of the millions of other people on the Fediverse.

You can follow your friends even if they’re on totally different servers, and the experience of following each other will be exactly the same as if you were on the same server.

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 now that there are literally thousands of other servers there is no reason to join mastodon.social.

Bigger servers tend to actually be much lower quality servers because there’s a much smaller staff-to-user ratio. On bigger servers the moderators have to spend a lot longer dealing with reports etc. and won’t have time for queries from users. Admins and moderators on smaller servers tend to have far more time for their members, so there’s a friendlier community atmosphere.

However, the worst problem about joining a big server is this: if everyone goes on the same big server, sooner or later it will be bought out by someone nasty. It’s really really important that we join medium and small servers instead of big ones. A spread out network where people are on lots of servers is practically impossible for anyone to buy. Joining medium and small servers protects everyone on the network from the Elon Musks of this world.

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

If you’re using Mastodon, the official JoinMastodon website has a list of official and third party apps ⧉, and there are more out there which aren’t listed.

You don’t have to use the official app to use Mastodon! In fact you will probably enjoy Mastodon a lot more if you sign up on a server through the JoinMastodon.org website ⧉ and then sign into your account using a third party app.

On Android you might want to try the apps Tusky or Fedilab, while on iPhone/iPad you might want to try Metatext or Toot!.

The official app is still missing a lot of features because it was rushed out by Mastodon in response to Musk beginning his Twitter takeover. There are many good third party apps which have been around much longer and have far more features.

The third party apps on Mastodon and the Fediverse are able to get full access to all the features Mastodon has to offer. Closed networks like Twitter or Facebook deliberately restrict what third party apps can do on their platforms. Mastodon and the Fediverse are different: they are built on open standards so third party apps can do just as much as official apps (and in fact the third party apps usually do a lot more!).

How do I log in through the website? Help, my password doesn’t work! Where is the search box on the mobile website?

Each server is independent and has its own website you log into. The name of the website is the same as the name of the server. For example, if you are on the server kith.kitchen you would log in through the website kith.kitchen ⧉.

Because of the way the network is structured, there is no central website to log in from, you must go to your server’s own website to log in. Although the servers talk to each other to form a single network, you have to log in on your own server first so that you can access this shared network.

If you are unable to log in through the 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 website, which will be the same as the server’s name. If you don’t know your server name, it’s the last part of your account address.
  2. Make sure you’re typing the password correctly. Lower case and upper case letters aren’t the same in passwords, 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. This will take you to the server’s info page which always includes a public email address for that server’s admin. You can email them for help with getting your password changed.

By the way, if you have a computer or tablet, using Mastodon through the website is perhaps the best way to experience it. It began as a website-based service, and the website version gets the latest features first. Fans of the multicolumn Tweetdeck may also want to try the advanced web interface.

The mobile version of the website was recently reformatted and the search box ended up being a bit hidden. You can find it by clicking on the # (hashtag) icon. If you would like the search box to be more prominent on the mobile web version, and if you are comfortable using github, you can vote for this issue to be fixed by giving a thumbs up on this issue ⧉.

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

One of the best ways to follow your friends on Mastodon and the Fediverse is to exchange account addresses with them.

All accounts on the Fediverse have a unique address that looks like this:

@ your username @ your 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 usename 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

Fediverse addresses look like email addresses because they use a similar structure for federating the network together. Each server is independent, but because they talk to each other the server’s name is included to make sure each user’s address is unique.

By default, Mastodon and many other Fedi platforms abbreviate addresses to just show the username 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.

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

No.

Your account only works 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 despite being separately owned.

To use an analogy: you can’t sign in on Yahoo Mail with a Gmail account, but you can still send emails between Yahoo Mail and Gmail because all the different email servers talk to each other despite being separately owned.

You can of course have multiple accounts if you want to, but there’s no technical need to do this as you can follow people on other servers from a single account. People with multiple accounts on the Fediverse typically only do this for non-technical reasons, for example separate work and personal accounts.

How do I customise my profile? How do I upload a profile banner? How do I verify my account?

All Fediverse platforms let you set a profile name, picture, banner image and short text or biog about yourself.

On Mastodon, you will have to use the website or a third party app to upload a banner to your profile. The official app doesn’t currently support banner uploads.

On Mastodon, there’s also a special feature called Profile metadata which creates a special section of your profile page with clearly labelled website links or any other info you want to highlight about yourself:

To access your profile’s Metadata feature, log in through the website, go to Edit profile > Profile metadata, fill in up to four labels and content, then click Save changes. 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.

For example, you could have a label saying “My website” and “https://example.com” as the content next to this label. Or you could have a label “Favourite pizza” and a pineapple emoji 🍍 as the content. It’s totally up to you how you use this feature.

Profile metadata appears as prominent boxes on the website version of Mastodon, and on the official apps it appears in the About section of your profile.

You can verify your identity on the Fediverse by several methods, click here for a tutorial on verifying your account.

How do I search for stuff?

On Mastodon, all searches are through hashtags such as #Plants or #Food. This is for privacy and technical reasons.

If you want your post to be more easily found in searches, include lots of relevant hashtags. It’s fine to use lots of tags, people understand that they’re necessary in this kind of search system.

To search on the official app, tap the magnifying glass icon and type a hashtag (including the # at the start) in the search box at the top of the screen. The results will appear below it.

To search on the website, type a hashtag (including the # at the start) 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 # icon to make the search box appear.

What about Likes and Re-Tweets? How do I do those in Mastodon? And what are Bookmarks?

The Mastodon equivalent of “Likes” are “Favourites”, which are indicated by a star ⭐. When you click the star, it tells the person who wrote it that you liked it and… that’s it. There is no algorithm on Mastodon so it doesn’t affect the post’s visibility at all. You can see your past favourites by going to your profile page and clicking the “⭐ Favourites” link, or if you’re on the web interface click the “⭐ Favourites” link at the right side of the screen.

The Mastodon equivalent of a “Re-Tweet” is a “Boost”. You can boost a post by clicking the circular arrow logo 🔃 underneath it. When you boost something, it will appear in the timeline of everyone who follows you. (Some versions of the app call a boost a “Re-Blog”, but this is just another word for a boost.) You can see all your past boosts by browsing your profile page, they will be mixed in with your own posts.

Boosts are the only way to affect a post’s visibility on Mastodon. If you want more people to see a post, boost it.

There’s also a third option called “Bookmarks” which lets you keep a 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 your bookmarks later by going to your profile and clicking Bookmarks or 🔖, or if you are on the website interface you can click the “🔖 Bookmarks” link at the side of the screen.

Who do I follow? How do I find interesting accounts to follow? How do I find my friends?

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, the same way you would exchange phone numbers. Click here fo find out how to use account addresses.

If you want to find interesting accounts to follow, one of the best ways is to browse the various human-run Fediverse directories. They only list a fraction of the users on the Fedi, but they’re a really good way of getting your timeline filled with interesting accounts. They will then share people they know, and you’ll be able to build up your timeline from there. Here are some directories you can use:

If you’re using Mastodon through your server’s website, following hashtags is a really good way to discover interesting accounts is to follow. Click here for more details on how to follow hashtags.

Another approach 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.

If you’re on Mastodon, you can also see automatically generated suggestions for people to follow by going to the “Explore” tab on the website, or the magnifying glass icon on the official app, and selecting the “For You” tab.

Why does it say “Pending” when I try to follow someone on Mastodon?

Usually it means the account has follow requests switched on, so they have to manually approve all follows. You can tell if an account has this switched on because it will have a padlock 🔒 next to their name on their profile page.

Alternatively, it may be that your server is just really, really busy and has put your follow in a queue to deal with it later. If this is the case, just leave it pending and the follow will happen eventually.

A third possibility is there’s a bug somewhere, as a broken follow sometimes triggers the “Pending” message even when there’s no follow request or busy server.

Don’t assume someone is rejecting your follow just because it says “pending”. Leave it pending for a while to give it time to work through any possible queues. If it still says pending after a few days, contact the person directly and ask them if they are aware this is happening.

How do I follow hashtags? What does hashtag following mean?

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. Log in through your server’s website
  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 👤+ icon 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.
Screenshot of a hashtag search results page showing posts about flowers. The hashtag following icon is highlighted in the top right corner with the text "Click here to follow a hashtag!"
Screenshot of the website version of Mastodon, showing where the hashtag follow button is

There’s currently no way to check which tags you’re following, you’ll have to just click on tags of posts which have appeared in your timeline from people you don’t follow. If you want a hashtag management feature and you are comfortable using github, you can vote for such a feature by giving a thumbs up to the first post in this thread ⧉.

You can also follow hashtags in the third party Android apps Fedilab ⧉ and Tusky ⧉.

The official Mastodon app currently doesn’t allow you to follow hashtags. However, once you have followed on a website or a third party app, you will see posts with that tag appear in your home timeline on all the other apps too. So, for example, you could log into your server’s website, follow the tags you want, and then go back to using your favourite app.

What kind of accounts can I follow from Mastodon?

You can follow other Mastodon accounts of course, but also accounts from many other types of Fediverse server such as PixelFed, PeerTube, Friendica, BookWyrm, OwnCast and many others.

There’s a twist as well: the process is so seamless that you probably won’t even notice you are following accounts outside Mastodon! They will look just like any other account on your timeline, and you will appear the same way to them. Fediverse servers always display content in their own style, regardless of the style used on the server the content came from.

If you’re using Masto through the website, you can see what an account “really” looks like by going to the account’s profile page and clicking on its profile picture. This will open the account’s public profile page on its home server.

Following a non-Mastodon Fediverse account is easy, it’s exactly the same process as following a Mastodon account: if you can already see their profile click Follow, if you have their address paste it into the search box and it will display their profile.

How do I get more followers?

If you want to be followed on the Fediverse, here are some tips in no particular order:

  • Write something about yourself on your profile biog, 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 to, add a profile picture and header, but these are optional. Make sure the first line of your biog sums you up well, as people who discover your account through a discovery service may only see that first line, due to the technical format used.
  • 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. You might want to pin the introduction post too by clicking ⋯ below it and selecting Pin on profile.
  • After you’ve made a few posts, 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.
  • Join in with conversations, follow other people, and eventually you’ll get some follows back. See above for tips on how to find people to follow.
  • On Mastodon, log in through the 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.

Incidentally, don’t post your best content when you have 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.

How to be notified when someone posts

On all Fediverse servers, 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 in a complete timeline.

In Mastodon, if there are particular accounts where you really don’t want to miss their posts, and you don’t have time to go through your timeline every day, 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 see a notice in your Notifications section.

To switch on notifications, log in through the website and go to the profile which you want to be notified about, then click the bell 🔔 icon next to the follow button. To stop notifications, click the bell again.

Where are the trending posts and hashtags?

On Mastodon, if you’re logged in through the website click on the Explore tab, if you’re on the official app click on the magnifying glass. Make sure the search box is empty when you do this, otherwise it will try to find items related to your search.

Setting your language preferences and filtering out posts in other languages

On Mastodon, you can set the interface language by logging in on the website and going to Preferences > Interface language, pick the language you want and click Save changes.

You can set which language you post in by going to Preferences > Other > Posting language, choose which language you use most often and click Save changes. It’s important to set this so that people using language filters will see your posts.

You can filter timelines by language by going to Preferences > Other > Filter languages, tick the boxes for languages you want to see and click Save changes. If you want to switch the language filter off (so that you see all languages), don’t tick any boxes.

If you post in multiple languages, you can select which language you’re using when you’re writing a post. The language button is a two letter country code in the bottom row of icons to the right of the CW button, for example EN for English. It will remember your most recently chosen languages at the top of the menu. This option is only visible if you’re posting through the website.

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 ⧉.

Who can see my posts? How do I send DMs?

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. You can set the default visibility by logging in through the website and going to Preferences > Other > Posting privacy, then set what you want as default in the menu and click Save changes.

Some more details about each setting:

  • Public – Anyone can see it, even people who aren’t on the Fediverse. 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 – Anyone can see it, but it won’t appear in the Explore, Local or Federated tabs. 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.
  • Followers-only – Only your followers can see these, normally indicated by a 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. You can do this by logging in on the website, going to Edit profile > Require follow requests, tick the box and click Save changes.
  • Mentioned – Only people you @ within the message can see this kind of post, it’s normally indicated by an @ symbol. This is the Mastodon equivalent of DMs. IMPORTANT: Only mention people if you want them to see the message. If you want to talk about an account without them seeing the message, don’t @ them.

You can send DMs by setting a post’s visibility to Mentioned, then @ the people you want to receive the DM. If you log in through the website, there’s a Direct messages option in the menu which lets you see all your mentioned posts in an inbox.

How do I post images, videos or audio? 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 🌄 to attach something to your post.

  • Images can be PNG, JPG or GIF (including animations). The maximum file size is normally 8mb per image.
  • Video clips can be MP4, M4V, MOV or WebM files. The maximum file size is usually 40mb, 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.

File size limits may vary on different servers, but these are the defaults. Ask your server admin if you have problems with uploads.

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 file itself on the official 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.

There is no GIF picker on Mastodon due to the federated nature of the Fediverse. However, 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.

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. They are visible to people on other servers too, though people on other servers cannot use them. The emoji can be stills or short animations within certain size limits.

On Mastodon, you can access the custom emoji through the website by clicking the emoji picker 😂 which has the custom emoji at the top and the standard ones below them.

It’s slightly more complicated on apps, where custom and standard emoji are usually in two separate menus. To use standard emoji on the apps, use the emoji button on your phone’s own on-screen keyboard as normal. To access custom emoji, use the app’s own emoji button when writing a message.

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 something nasty let your admin know.

How do I share posts?

You can boost a post within the Fediverse by selecting the Boost button which is usually spinning arrows, something like this 🔃

You can share posts with people outside the Fediverse by selecting the Share option, which is often shown as an arrow leaving a square.

On Mastodon’s website version, you can also get a direct link to the post by clicking the ⋯ below a post and selecting Copy link to this post. Alternatively, you can get embedding code to put the post on your own blog or website by clicking ⋯ and selecting Embed.

How do I edit my posts?

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

Mastodon now lets you edit your posts after they have been published. To use it on your server’s website, go to the post you want to edit and click the ⋯, then select “Edit”. Editing is also available through third party apps Toot! on iPhone/iPad and Fedilab on Android. It’s not yet available on the official app.

When a post is edited, people who have interacted with it will receive a notification in case they want to change their interaction. There will also be a note on the post showing it has been edited along with links to previous versions so that others can see how it has changed. These measures together reduce the chance of anyone abusing the editing feature.

The editing feature is very new, if your server doesn’t have it yet ask your admin about updating to the latest version.

There’s a bug in the feature which doesn’t let you edit image descriptions, but the developers know about it and it should be fixed in the next update. A workaround for the moment is to click Edit, then remove the image and attach it again, then add the description and save the post.

How do I pin my posts to my profile?

On Mastodon, log in through the website or a third party app (the official app doesn’t support this yet), go to the post you want to pin, click on ⋯ and select Pin to profile.

To unpin it, click ⋯ and select Unpin.

You can pin lots of posts on your Mastodon profile.

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 ⧉

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.

You can see your past favourites and bookmarks on apps by clicking on your profile picture to go to your profile page, then click on the “⭐ Favourites” or “🔖 Bookmarks” icons.

You can see your past favourites and bookmarks on the website interface by clicking on the “⭐ Favourites” or “🔖 Bookmarks” icons at the right side of the screen.

Customising your Mastodon interface colours

If you’re using Mastodon through the website, you can choose your interface colours by going to Preferences > Site theme, choose the theme you want and click Save changes. By default Mastodon servers come with a dark theme, light theme and high contrast theme, but some servers have a lot more options. If you want more themes, ask your server administrator about it.

If you’re using Mastodon through the official app, you can choose interface colours by clicking the cog gear icon ⚙️ and select Automatic, Always Dark or Always Light, then click Done. There’s also a toggle switch to activate “True Black”, which makes the dark mode use a much darker background colour than usual.

Inviting people onto 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 another Fediverse “on-boarding” website. They can sign up at a server of their choice, then you can exchange addresses with them and follow each other. You don’t need to be on the same server as them, interaction works fine even if you’re on different servers.

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. Log in on the website, go to Preferences > Invite people, choose the settings you want for your invitation links and then click Generate.

Some servers close themselves to new sign-ups if they get too full, but 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.

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

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.

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 the same thing: the site you signed up on. If someone talks about Fediverse instances, they are talking about Fediverse servers.

“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).

What is the Local timeline? What is the Federated timeline?

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

  • Home is the normal timeline, 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 on some apps) shows all the public posts made by all the people on your server. On larger servers this can be a so-called firehose that scrolls too quickly to read and 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 shows all the public posts from everyone that is followed by at least one person on your server. On larger servers this is an absolute nightmare to comprehend as there are so many posts flowing so quickly on so many different topics.

You can see the Local feed on the official Mastodon app by clicking the magnifying glass and then scrolling to the “Community” tab. The official app doesn’t show the Federated feed at all, but you can see that through one of the third party apps.

On Mastodon, it’s possible to tame firehose feeds somewhat by switching on “slow mode”, which stops all automatic scrolling and only shows new posts when you manually click to see them. You can switch it on by logging in through the website, going to Preferences > Slow Mode, then tick the box and click Save changes.

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

On Mastodon, you can browse other servers’ Local feeds by going to the server’s website and clicking the “Local” or “What’s happening” links. You don’t need to log in, anyone can do this because these feeds show public posts only.

Unfortunately you cannot follow other servers’ Local timelines from your own account, but this is a popular suggestion on the Mastodon development site. If you want to vote for this feature 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.

Transferring your Mastodon account to another server

(If you are running a brand new account and 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 just for people who have followers and want to keep them.)

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

The instructions are a bit complicated as they combine several different procedures together, but you only have to do these instructions once per transfer.

Also, there’s a 30 day “cooldown period” after the transfer is complete when you cannot do another transfer. Be reasonably sure that your destination server is the one you want, because you’ll have to wait 30 days to try again if you want to do another transfer.

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

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Create a new account on the server you want to move to, but DO NOT delete the old account.
  2. Log into your NEW account on the new server’s website, go to Edit Profile > Moving From A Different Account, click on Create an account alias and follow the instructions.
  3. After you’ve finished the previous step, wait 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.
  4. When you’ve finished waiting, log into your OLD account on the old server’s website, go to Edit Profile > Move To A Different Account, click on Configure it here and follow the instructions. This will start transferring your followers to the new account. This can take a while depending on how busy servers are. The accounts won’t transfer all in one go, they will come across in waves perhaps over several hours. You can do the next steps while this is happening.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  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.

Make sure you do all these steps in the correct order. If you miss stuff out, the transfer will 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, so don’t worry if it doesn’t happen straight away.

Also note that some of your followers may take a significant amount of time to update their follows, and you may see them on your follower list perhaps hours or even days later depending on how busy their server is. There’s nothing you can do to speed this up, because it’s up to the follower’s server to process the update request and busier servers may have longer processing queues. Also, in rare cases followers may be accounts that followed you a long time ago but are no longer on active servers, so they will never transfer.

Your old posts will remain on the old server, as they cannot be transferred. However, people who click on your old account’s name on the old posts will be redirected to your new account.

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.

How to delete your account

On Mastodon, you can delete your account by logging in on the website, going to Preferences > Account > Delete account. 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 you cannot restore it. Be really sure you want to do this.

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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