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:
- Ask your server admin if they would consider using relay servers. This will quickly give a server a much wider view of the Fediverse. If they’re nervous about the demand on resources, point out the option for relays based on particular hashtags, or perhaps suggest relays as a temporary discovery measure while people on the server build up their follow lists.
- Discover accounts to follow via directories, as these sites don’t depend on federation.
- Discover accounts to follow from the Local and Federated timelines of established servers. You can do this by going to their websites and clicking on Local or Federated, you don’t need to log in. Copy and paste account addresses into your own server’s search box to follow them from your server.