Deleting posts automatically in Mastodon after a certain time period

Posts in Mastodon can be set to automatically self-destruct after a certain time period, with exceptions made for posts you want to keep. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Log in through your server’s website or the web app
  2. Go to Preferences > Automated post deletion (on mobile web click ⚙️, then ☰, then Automated post deletion)
  3. Choose the Age threshold to set how long posts are around before they’re deleted
  4. Set the exceptions for posts you want to keep
  5. Tick the box at the top marked Automatically delete old posts
  6. Click the Save changes button

What if I change my mind? How do I stop posts being deleted automatically?

If you want to stop deleting posts automatically, UN-tick the box marked Automatically delete old posts, and click the Save changes button.

Will stopping the auto-deletion bring back posts that are already deleted?

No. Once a post is deleted it is gone. Be sure you want to use auto-deletion before you activate it.

I activated this but it hasn’t deleted posts that are way past the threshold. What’s going on?

If servers are busy, they create queues of tasks to work through. Automated deletion tends to go at the back of the queue, so it may take longer to happen than other tasks. If the settings are correct and it’s way past the deadline for the deletions to happen, ask your server’s admin for advice.

How does this affect server running costs?

When this feature is discussed, the issue of server running costs is often raised.

On the one hand, automated stuff always adds extra tasks for the server to carry out. On the other hand though, it would mean the server doesn’t have to store as much data so it would save money on storage costs, especially if the deleted posts have media attachments. It would also reduce storage for any servers that have federated the posts being deleted.

You would have to speak to your server’s admin to find out exactly how it affects their setup, as different servers may have different resources available.

I asked a couple of very large server admins for their thoughts on how this balances out. Both of them said the added tasks were insignificant compared to everything else the servers have to do. Both of them also said deleting posts (especially posts with media attachments) saves storage, but one of them added that there may be fees to be paid if the deletions happen for very recent posts. On their server, it would be cheaper to only delete posts more than 90 days old, and leave any newer posts intact.

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How to use groups on Mastodon and the Fediverse

At the moment, most Fediverse groups work like this:

  1. Join a group by following its account address
  2. Posts from that group will start appearing in your Home timeline
  3. If you want to post something to the group, just include its account address in a public post
  4. If you want to leave a group, unfollow it

It’s somewhat similar to following hashtags, and people who have used email discussion lists will also find this structure very familiar.

The main Fediverse group provider at the moment is Guppe ⧉. It’s platform-neutral, their groups can be followed from all kinds of Fediverse servers including Mastodon, GoToSocial, Friendica etc. It’s also free open source software so anyone can start their own Guppe server if they want to.

Where can I discover existing groups?

I’ve compiled a curated list of interesting Fediverse groups on fedi.directory ⧉. I’ve tried to only list active groups with a respectful atmosphere.

Guppe has a list of their top 50 active groups at the bottom of their website at a.gup.pe ⧉.

You can also try searching for @a.gup.pe in the search box on Mastodon, this will show Guppe groups that at least one person on your server is following. However, bear in mind if a group has no followers from your server it won’t show up in searches.

How can I create a group? Are the groups moderated? What if I see something unsuitable?

Guppe groups don’t require any kind of registration, you can create a group simply by mentioning the group name in the form “@YourGroupNameHere@a.gup.pe”. However, because there’s no registration there is no group moderator either. Guppe groups rely on members reporting bad group posts the same way they would report bad non-group posts.

What do I do if I see spam or something unsuitable in a group?

Do exactly the same thing you would do if you saw spam/abuse outside the group on ordinary posts. Whatever kind of group you are following, you can report, mute and block just like you can with ordinary non-group posts.

When you report bad posts, the admins on your server (and possibly also the server of the spammer/troll) can take action to block it and remove it.

What if a group is really busy? How do I stop it overwhelming my timeline?

You can use Mastodon’s Lists feature to set up lists for groups, and then set those lists to hide posts from your Home timeline. This will let you keep groups in their own mini-timelines you can dip into whenever you want, without causing any posts to appear in your main timeline.

Groups federate content more effectively than hashtags

Hashtag follows and groups have some overlap, and appear to work in a similar way on the surface, but there are significant differences behind the scenes.

The biggest advantage of groups is you automatically see all of the group’s posts, even if they’re from accounts that haven’t federated to your server before. Because all the group’s posts are shared to all the members’ servers, you never miss a thing.

With hashtag follows, this mass federation doesn’t happen. Hashtag following means you will only see posts from accounts that already federate with your server. Hashtags are essentially passive filters for your server’s Federated timeline and do not actively draw in any new content.

What about Mastodon’s own built-in groups feature?

Mastodon has been developing a built-in groups feature for some time now, but it hasn’t been released yet. From the screenshots posted so far, it seems it will be more of a Facebook Groups type forum rather than a public discussion list. (You can see highly technical details and screenshots of this upcoming Groups feature on their github page ⧉).

However, it is unclear if Mastodon groups will work across the Fediverse or only on Mastodon. Guppe is platform-neutral, and will work on any kind of Fediverse server that supports microblogging including Mastodon, Friendica and others.

Can I set up my own Guppe server?

Guppe is free open source software, and if you have the necessary technical knowledge and resources, you can install your own Guppe server by following the instructions on the Guppe Github site ⧉.

Groups on Friendica

The Fediverse server type Friendica includes built-in group support, which works in a broadly similar way to Guppe. Creating a Friendica group requires a Friendica account, but anyone can join the group from other Fediverse server types including Mastodon servers.

A Friendica group can be moderated by the person who created it, and they can also add additional moderators to the same group.

Is there anything like Reddit on the Fediverse?

Yes! There’s a Reddit-style link aggregation and discussion platform called Kbin.

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Browsing the Media tab on Mastodon

Screenshot of a profile page on Mastodon with the Media tab highlighted, and various images posted by the account are displayed below it.

On Mastodon, if you’re browsing someone’s profile page you can click the Media tab to just show their posts which have an attached image, audio or video file. Text-only posts and posts shared from other accounts are not shown in the Media tab.

The Media tab is especially useful if you’re browsing for works on an artist’s profile for example, or any account that posts interesting bits of media. It means you can go straight to specific works instead of having to scroll through non-media posts.

Usually the tab is indicated by the word “Media”, but in some apps it may be an icon such a series of pictures.

Does this work on the apps and the website?

There’s a media tab on your server’s website, the web app, the official apps and most of the third party apps. Some of them display a simplified grid of images/video/audio to click on, others just show a timeline of posts that include attached media.

Does the Media tab show boosts of media posts by other people?

No. The Media tab just shows media posts from that account. Shared media from other accounts are not shown in the tab.

Does it show embedded media such as links to other websites?

No, it only shows posts with attached images, audio files or videos. Links that automatically generate a preview of media hosted elsewhere (such as YouTube links) are not counted as media posts.

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Adjusting photo previews on Mastodon so they look nice

If you’re posting a photo on Mastodon through your server’s website, click Edit on the photo before you actually post it. This will allow you to add a text description for blind people, and it will also let you adjust how the photo is cropped in the compact version of the post which is visible in people’s timelines.

Photos that have a 16:9 aspect ratio will not be cropped on the timeline, so you don’t need to adjust them at all (but do still remember to add a text description to keep them accessible!).

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Creating draft posts on Mastodon

Some third party Mastodon apps have a built-in draft posts feature.

There is no official drafts feature in the Mastodon website interface, but unofficially you can use the Delete & re-draft option combined with DMs to create drafts:

  1. Log on through your server’s website and create your draft post, but don’t publish yet.
  2. Set visibility to mentioned people only, and don’t mention anyone.
  3. When you’re ready to save it, publish it.
  4. When you want to edit it, go to your Direct Messages tab and find the draft.
  5. Click the draft open, click ⋯ and select Delete & re-draft, the draft will open in the message editing window
  6. When you’re ready to publish for real, set the visibility to the correct setting and add any mentions you want, then press the Publish button.

…but, as many people have pointed out, it might be easier to just use a notepad app and copy and paste drafts from a text file on your computer or phone 😁

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Why does it say “Follow request sent” when I try to follow an account?

On the Fediverse, and especially on Mastodon, if you try to follow an account it sometimes says you’ve followed them but then it turns into a “follow request sent” message.

Usually, this means you’ve tried to follow an account that needs manual approval of followers, and you have to wait for the owner to approve your request. You can tell if an account requires approval as it will have a padlock icon 🔒 on its profile next to the username.

They don’t have follow requests switched on, so why does it say they do?

Sometimes this message appears even when the account you’re trying to follow doesn’t have manual approval mode switched on. In this case, the message may be caused by several other things:

  • A software bug which has prevented the follow going through properly. This kind of bug is especially common if you’re trying to follow an account on a new or experimental type of Fediverse server.
  • A server is overwhelmed with new members signing up all at once, and struggling to keep up with all the requests it is receiving.
  • The server of the person you’re trying to follow has silenced your server. This restricts communications between the two servers.

If you see that an attempted follow has turned into a follow request but the other account doesn’t have requests switched on, try leaving it for a while as it may just be a temporary glitch. If that doesn’t help, try cancelling the follow completely, wait for a while and then try clicking follow again, which sometimes helps the follow to go through properly. If it still doesn’t work, contact your own server admin, and if they can’t help try contacting the admin of the server for the account you’re trying to follow.

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Making your posts visible to a wider audience on Mastodon and the Fediverse

Due to the way the Fediverse currently works, if you publish a post while you still have zero followers, that post will probably not be visible to anyone except people on your server. When people follow you, they will see your posts from that moment onwards, but there’s generally no backfilling to show them your previous posts.

On Mastodon, you can make everyone see past posts by pinning them to your profile. Pinned posts are backfilled and will become visible to anyone who follows you. You can pin up to five posts at once, and they will all be backfilled. Unpinned posts will not be backfilled though.

In general it’s a good idea to wait until you have at least some followers from other servers before you publish your most interesting stuff. Even a handful of followers will give your posts much more visibility across the Fediverse, as you only need one follower from a server to make your posts visible to that entire server.

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Why does someone’s account page look completely blank? Is it really blank?

If a profile looks blank, it may not actually be blank!

Fediverse servers work like this: servers only notice accounts from other servers if someone follows or interacts with them. If no one on your server follows a particular account, and that account is on another server, then that account may appear blank to you.

The reason servers work like this because of resources. If servers had to keep a copy of every post from every user on all the thousands of Fediverse servers in the world, their running costs would become prohibitively expensive (and most of those posts would probably never be read anyway).

The idea of the Fediverse is to let anyone start their own server if they want to, and this process of servers “noticing” accounts helps make that possible.

Viewing the latest and most complete version of an account

To check what the profile really looks like, log in to your account through the website, go to the profile, click on ︙ and then “Open original page”. This should open the profile in a new tab on its home server, which will show all the public posts the account has ever made.

Unfortunately, original pages on other servers are more difficult to interact with. By default your have to enter your username and password each time, though there are ways to make it much easier.

How to prevent your own profile from ever looking blank

If you pin some of your posts to your profile, for various technical reasons your profile will never appear blank to anyone as these posts will always be visible. You can pin up to five posts on a profile, and these can include attached photos, video and audio, so they’re a great way of introducing your account to potential followers from any server. Click here to find out how to pin posts.

Backfilling to the rescue?

There’s there may be a possible solution to blank profiles on the way called “backfilling”. This would mean as soon as you follow someone your server would automatically check the account for past posts and display some or all of them on your server. With backfilling there would be much less need to fiddle around with original pages etc. At time of writing backfilling is the most popular suggestion on the Mastodon github site, and if you’re comfortable using github you can go and give it a thumbs up ⧉.

Update buttons to the rescue?

The official Mastodon roadmap ⧉ has an item labelled “Explicit controls to fetch more data from origin server”, which seems to mean they would introduce some kind of update button to fetch the latest version of a profile on demand. It’s in the “Planned” section of the roadmap which means they’re working on it. These would be practically very similar to the backfilling mentioned above.

Accounts with restricted post visibility

An alternative reason why an active account might look blank is this: if the account has follower requests on (indicated by a padlock 🔒 next to their name), and all its posts are followers-only, then you will not see any posts on their profile until you follow them and your follow request is accepted.

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Why aren’t all Mastodon and Fediverse posts and accounts automatically visible from all servers?

There are tens of thousands of Fediverse servers with millions of users in total, and this amount is growing all the time. There are hundreds of millions of posts going back almost a decade.

It would be horrifically expensive for every independent server to keep a complete, up-to-date record of every post ever made by every user on every other server. The only people who could afford such a system would be megacorporations like Facebook, Google, Twitter etc.

The whole point of the Fediverse is to allow small independent servers to exist as part of a larger network, so that the network is as spread out as possible (click here to find out why this is a good idea). The smallest Fedi server starts from about US$10 a month to run, and this low cost is possible because the server only needs to display posts and shares from people its users follow. Even the largest Fediverse servers are able to operate on a fraction of the budget of a commercial social network because they are only showing posts their users have to see. (If you’re interested, there’s a complete list of what a server can see here.)

Couldn’t Mastodon at least show a few old posts instead of blank profiles?

Having said all of the above, there are definitely ways that the current system of federation could be improved. One feature currently missing from the Fediverse is “backfilling”, where an account’s old posts are automatically loaded to a server when someone on that server follows an account. At the moment you only see posts made by an account after at least one person on your server has followed it, but with backfilling their past posts would become visible too. (Incidentally, Mastodon does already backfill pinned posts.)

The main thing preventing backfilling from being used has been concern about stress on servers, especially if an account has thousands of past posts to backfill. A possible compromise might be letting servers decide for themselves if they will allow backfilling, and how many posts they are willing to backfill. Perhaps smaller servers could allow at least a few posts to be backfilled in order to avoid possible blank profiles.

If you’re comfortable using Github, you can let the developers of Mastodon know you want some kind of backfilling to be possible by giving a thumbs up on the relevant issue ⧉, and if you have your own ideas you can contribute to the thread.

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Which Mastodon and Fediverse posts and accounts can I see from my server?

If you are searching for something on Mastodon and the Fediverse, you will get different search results depending on which server your account is on. This is because each server sees a slightly different view of the Fediverse.

In general, your server can see the following content:

  • All accounts on your server
  • All posts made by accounts on your server
  • All posts shared by at least one account on your server
  • All accounts that at have at least one follower on your server
  • All posts made by accounts that have at least one follower on your server
  • All posts shared by an account that has at least one follower on your server
  • All posts from groups that have at least one follower on your server
  • All posts that have been searched for by their original page’s web address
  • All accounts that have been searched for by their account address
  • All posts pushed to your server by a relay server (if your server uses relays)

How do I make my server notice more posts and accounts?

If a post isn’t visible from your server but you know it exists, you can manually force your server to notice it by copying and pasting the post’s web address from its original page on its home server into the search box on your server. This will make the post appear within your server so you can interact with it and search for it just like any other post.

If you want your server to notice a lot more posts and accounts, ask your server admin if they have considered using a relay service. Modern relay services can be for specific topics, and scripts can be used to backfill missing posts from profiles and conversations.

Why doesn’t my server just notice all posts and accounts from all servers?

Fediverse servers are selective about what they see, because keeping a complete copy of all posts from all other servers regardless of whether they’re needed would be incredibly expensive and wasteful.

The point of Mastodon and the Fediverse is to create a social network where anyone can make their own server, so that the network remains in the ownership of the people and communities that use it. This is possible partly because of the structure, but also partly because the running costs of servers is comparatively low. Fediverse server prices at hosting companies start from about US$8 a month, inculding full tech support that covers all the technical stuff.

If servers had to notice all content from all other servers, they would become incredibly expensive to run, and only megacorporations like Google or Meta/Facebook would have enough money to do so.

Can a server stop noticing posts and accounts?

Yes, if the server’s admin decides to defederate from another server. When a server defederates from another server, it can no longer see posts or accounts from the defederated server.

Alternatively, a server admin may instead decide to suspend a specific account on another server, which will make that account and its posts no longer visible on the admin’s server.

Are there any exceptions to these rules?

If you’re a member of a PeerTube server, it works very differently to most Fediverse servers. When a PeerTube server notices a channel or account from another PeerTube server, it also notices all the videos ever published by that channel or account. This is known as backfilling and at the moment it only happens fully on PeerTube, but there are plans for it to happen more widely.

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Muting conversation threads in Mastodon

On Mastodon, if you have posted in a thread or been tagged in it, but you don’t want to take part any more, you can mute the conversation so that you won’t get notifications from it. No one will know you’ve done this, and it will only affect that thread:

  1. Log in through your server’s website (and some apps also include this feature)
  2. Go to one of your posts in the thread you want to mute
  3. Click ⋯ and select Mute conversation
  4. If you haven’t posted in the thread, go to a post in the thread where you were tagged, then select ⋯ and Mute conversation
  5. If you still can’t find this option, go to your Notifications section, then click ⋯ and Mute conversation on one of the conversation’s posts there

If you change your mind, just do the same thing again but select Unmute conversation.

What if I want notifications about that conversation, but there are just one or two people in the thread who are causing problems?

If the problems in a thread are limited to a small number of people, you might want to try muting their accounts instead. You can mute people indefinitely or temporarily.

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Hiding someone’s boosts in Mastodon without blocking or muting them

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.

Log in on your server’s website, and go to the profile of the person whose boosts you want to hide. Click on the ︙ button and select Hide boosts from. If you change your mind, go back to their profile and select Show boosts from.

This only works on accounts you follow.

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How to avoid accidentally unfollowing, boosting or deleting in Mastodon

You can optionally have Mastodon ask you for confirmation when unfollowing someone, boosting a post or deleting a post.

You can switch these confirmations on or off by logging in through your server’s website, then going to Preferences > Confirmation dialogs, tick the boxes for what you want confirmation for, then click Save changes.

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Customising Mastodon polls to allow multiple selections

If you add a poll to your post on Mastodon, by default it only allows people to select one option.

However, if you use your server’s website or the Mastodon web app or certain third party apps, you can customise the poll so that it allows people to vote for several options at once.

Changing poll type on the web interface

If you’re using Mastodon through your server’s website, you can choose a poll type by doing the following:

  1. Log in through your server’s website or through the web app
  2. Write your post and create the poll as normal, but don’t actually publish it yet
  3. Click on one of the circles next to the options, the circles will all change into squares, and the poll will now allow multiple option selection
  4. If you want to go back to single selection, click the squares again and they will change back into circles
  5. When you’re happy with your choice, post the poll

If you change your mind, click on a square to change it back to a circle, which means single option selection.

Changing poll type on apps

The official apps don’t yet support creating multiple poll types, but you can choose poll types on some third party apps.

Third party app interfaces are very varied, but for example Ice Cubes for iPhone/iPad has a menu when you’re creating a poll that lets you choose between “One Vote” or “Multiple Votes”.

⚠️ Editing poll types resets the vote numbers

You can also edit the poll type after you have posted the poll, but this will reset all of the votes to zero (without any warning) when you publish the edit. Also, editing any of the poll texts causes this same reset to zero.

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Why do some people on Mastodon and the Fediverse have bigger character limits? And more poll options?

Most people on the Fediverse are on a standard Mastodon server, which has a 500 character limit for posts and a four option limit for polls.

However, a lot of people are on servers running customised versions of Mastodon where the admin has altered the character limit, or they are on non-standard “forked” versions of Mastodon such as Glitch ⧉ and Hometown ⧉, or perhaps on completely different Fediverse server types that aren’t Mastodon at all. These other servers may have totally different limits to standard Mastodon (also known as “vanilla Mastodon”).

Despite their differences, these servers are all part of the Fediverse and you will see posts from all kinds of servers appear on your timelines. If it is a particularly long post, you may see it truncated on your timeline with a “Read more” link you can click on to show the full text.

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How to use Mastodon’s Tweetdeck-style Advanced Web Interface

Screenshot of the Mastodon multicolumn advanced web interface, showing five colums with a posting box, timeline, pinned hashtag searches and various links to features.
Screenshot of the Mastodon multicolumn Advanced Web Interface

By default, Mastodon servers’ websites use a simple single column interface.

However, if you’re using the website through a computer (or a tablet/phone in horizontal mode) there is also an optional multicolumn interface you can use instead. Here’s how to activate it:

  1. Log in through your server’s website as usual
  2. Click ⚙️ Preferences
  3. Tick the box marked Enable Advanced Web Interface and click the Save Changes button
  4. Click the Back to Mastodon link at the left of the screen

If you’re already in multicolumn and you want to go back to the normal single column interface, here’s how to do it:

  1. Click on the ⚙️ cog gear icon
  2. UN-tick the box marked Enable Advanced Web Interface and click the Save Changes button
  3. Click the Back to Mastodon link

If you prefer the normal control method using the mouse, that works fine too.

How to add more columns by using the pin feature

When you first use it, the advanced web interface only contains four columns with one of these columns dedicated to whatever you last selected. Every time you select something, it replaces the contents of this fourth column.

However, if you want to keep a column permanently visible you can pin it, and the pinned column will be added to your previous columns.

  • To pin a column, click on the slider icon in the top right corner of the column and select Pin
  • To unpin a column, click the slider same slider icon and select Unpin

When you pin a column, it expands the interface sideways, and some people have lots of pinned columns. Pinning is well suited to widescreen monitors, and you can scroll the interface sideways to see any columns that don’t fit on the screen.

How to change the order of the columns

You can move a column left or right by clicking the slider icon in its top right corner and then clicking one of the < or > buttons to move the column. These buttons are next to the Unpin option.

What kind of columns can I add?

Any column with a slider icon in the top right can be pinned or un-pinned, which includes hashtag searches, all types of timeline, private mentions (DMs), Lists, Bookmarks, Favourites etc.

Advanced hashtag searches with pinned columns

If you pin a hashtag search and then click the pinned column’s slider icon again, you will see some additional options which let you combine hashtag searches into the same column with special filters:

  • Any means it will show posts that contain one or more of those hashtags
  • All means it will show posts that contain all of those tags
  • None means it will hide posts containing those tags

Pinning accounts as new columns using Lists

You can’t pin an account’s profile page directly, but you can pin particular accounts (or combinations of accounts) as new columns by using Mastodon’s Lists feature:

  1. Click Lists on the Getting Started menu on the right (or click ☰ on the left if you can’t see Getting Started)
  2. Create a new list and add the account(s) you want to that list (see the guide to using lists if you haven’t created one before)
  3. Click the list you want to pin to bring it up as a new column
  4. Click the slider icon in the top right corner
  5. Select Pin

Using Advanced mode through your keyboard

If you prefer using just your keyboard, the Mastodon web interface can optionally be controlled almost entirely through key commands, click here to see the section on hotkeys for a complete list. These hotkeys also include some commands that only work in Advanced mode.

Why are there two official interfaces on Mastodon?

The original website version of Mastodon from 2016 used the multicolumn interface, but while some enjoyed it others found it confusing and overwhelming. Eventually a simpler single column interface was introduced, and single column became the default. The multicolumn interface was renamed “advanced” and made available as an optional mode in settings.

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Why are some accounts marked “Automated” on Mastodon?

If you’re running a Mastodon account that isn’t monitored by a human, it’s considered polite to mark it as an automated account (also known as a bot).

How to add the “Automated” label to an account:

  1. Sign in through your server’s website or web app
  2. Click on your profile image to go to your profile page, then click Edit profile
  3. Scroll down to the box marked This is an automated account, tick the box
  4. Click Save changes

I thought bots were bad? Why is Mastodon encouraging them?

Bad bots are discouraged and blocked, good bots are encouraged and followed.

Good bot accounts can be extremely useful. For example, some bots post sports results or weather alerts, which are exactly the kind of thing people might appreciate seeing in their feeds at any time of day or night. This kind of account would be difficult for a human to maintain 24 hours a day.

Bots can also be entertaining, with some bots running games or posting amusing content.

Can bots interact with people?

Some bots can interact, yes. When there is interaction, it is usually automated, hence the “Automated” label. Vote Chess ⧉ is a nice interactive account, it lets people play chess against a computer by voting for the next move (you can follow it at the address @VoteChess@botsin.space).

Also, sometimes the bot’s human maintainer will post via the bot’s account and reply as well. However, on automated accounts this is rare, and the assumption should be that there is no one monitoring the account.

Where can I find a list of good bots to follow?

Have a look at the Bots category over on Fedi.Directory ⧉.

So why do bots have a bad reputation?

The bad bots you sometimes hear about are where someone has automated an account to do something nasty or anti-social such as posting spam. Bad bots tend to be rare on the Fediverse, and would usually be blocked pretty quickly once the nastiness is reported.

So “Automated” isn’t a bad sign?

If you see an account labelled “Automated”, that is actually the sign of a good bot, because it’s the owner of the bot who chose to label it as such. Another good sign is if the bot’s creator has included a link to their own account on the bot’s profile page.

Bad bots usually try to disguise the fact they are bots, and don’t use the “Automated” label.

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RSS on Mastodon and the Fediverse

RSS feeds are simple, easy-to-use feeds of content from the internet, such as news articles, videos and podcasts. You can use RSS apps to follow Mastodon accounts, and use Mastodon accounts to follow RSS feeds.

What is RSS?

RSS is basically just a special kind of internet address that tells an RSS app where to find content. The apps used to follow RSS feeds are often called “feed readers” or “news readers”.

RSS apps let you make your own custom timelines of all the latest content from your favourite sites, news services, podcasts and other content. All you have to do is enter the RSS address of the site, podcast, news service etc into the RSS app.

How to follow Mastodon accounts from an RSS feed reader app

All Mastodon accounts have an RSS address which can be followed from RSS apps:

  1. Go to a Mastodon account profile’s original page on a web browser.
  2. Copy the web address from the browser’s address bar
  3. Add .rss to the end of the web address to create the account’s RSS address
  4. Add the account’s RSS address to your RSS app

For example, the RSS feed for the FediTips account is https://social.growyourown.services/@FediTips.rss ⧉. Note that this only shows posts with public visibility, you will not see replies or posts with other visibilities.

How to follow RSS feeds from Mastodon

You can also now do this the other way around, and follow RSS feeds from your Mastodon account, thanks to a service called RSS Parrot ⧉:

  1. Create a new post but don’t publish it yet
  2. Mention the RSS Parrot Fediverse account @birb@rss-parrot.net
  3. Mention the RSS address you want to follow
  4. Publish the post
  5. RSS Parrot will create a new Fediverse account that mirrors the contents of the RSS address you provided, and then reply to you with a link to the new account
  6. Follow this new account to follow the RSS feed

This method works for any Fediverse platform that supports microblogging, including Mastodon and many other Fedi platforms.

How to follow PeerTube Channels and Accounts from RSS apps

You can follow any PeerTube accounts or channel through RSS apps:

  1. Go to the channel’s or account’s profile page on PeerTube
  2. Click the channel’s or account’s Subscribe button (if you are logged in on that PeerTube server, click the little arrow on the right of the subscribe button instead)
  3. There will be an RSS subscription option at the bottom of the subscription menu, click this to go to the RSS feed (which may look a bit crazy but don’t worry!)
  4. Copy the address at the top of the browser to get the channel’s or account’s RSS address
  5. Paste the RSS address into your RSS app

This feed will deliver embedded videos to your feed reader and you can watch them there.

Friendica: Champion of RSS

The Fediverse platform Friendica has probably the best RSS support on the Fediverse, including a built-in feed reader which doesn’t need any third party services or apps.

To follow an RSS feed in Friendica:

  1. Paste the RSS address into the search box in Friendica
  2. The RSS feed’s profile page will appear, click Follow
  3. The RSS feed’s contents will start showing up in your main timeline as it is published, and will look like normal account posts

Friendica also lets you turn RSS feeds into Fediverse accounts that people can follow from other Fediverse platforms.

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How to embed Mastodon posts on a website or blog

You can embed posts from Mastodon on your own website, blog or other platform that lets you post HTML code. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Log in through your server’s website or the web app
  2. Go to the post you want to embed
  3. Click ⋯ at the bottom of the post, then select Embed
  4. Copy and paste the HTML code into your website’s page code

What does embedding mean?

Embedding means the post itself will be displayed on the website, and all the post’s interactive elements such as links, images, video, audio etc can be clicked on and will work. For example, news website The Verge embedded a post from Mastodon in this story ⧉.

How do I embed Mastodon posts on WordPress sites and blogs?

If you’re using the block editor in WordPress, don’t use WordPress’s “Embed” block. Instead, use WordPress’s “Custom HTML” block and paste Mastodon’s HTML embedding code there.

Alternatively, if you’re editing the page’s code you can paste the embedding code directly.

How is embedding different from posting a screenshot?

Embedding a post means the post itself is displayed, and any interactive elements such as links, video, audio or images can be clicked on. Screenshots are just pictures of a post and cannot be interacted with.

Some posts don’t have an “Embed” option. How do I embed them?

If a post has a restricted visibility, it cannot be embedded because the creator of the post doesn’t want it to be widely seen. You can only embed posts with a public visibility.

I embedded a post but it doesn’t look like a Mastodon post any more? It uses some other format?

The post you embedded may be from a different type of Fediverse server. Embedding shows the post in the format used on its own server rather than your server.

Timelines on Mastodon servers show posts from all across the Fediverse. Some of these posts are from other Mastodon servers, but some are from different kinds of servers. For the sake of making timelines easy to read, your Mastodon server will display all posts in the same Mastodon format, but that’s not necessarily how they appear on their own server. If you embed a post from a different kind of server, it will look different when you embed it.

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Using Mastodon through a keyboard

If you’re using Mastodon through your server’s website on a computer, you can control it almost entirely through your keyboard. Particular keys will carry out particular functions, and you can type emoji too.

Hotkeys on Mastodon

Hotkeys are always on, press shift + ? (or just ? on some keyboard layouts) to see a complete guide to which keys do what.

Note that some of these keys are only useful in the advanced web interface (multicolumn) mode, but most of them can be used with the default single column mode.

For your convenience, here’s the complete list:

rReply to post
mMention author
pOpen author’s profile
fFavourite post
bBoost post
enter, oOpen post
eOpen media
xShow/hide text behind CW
hShow/hide media
up, kMove up in the list
down, jMove down in the list
1-9Focus column
nFocus compose textarea
alt+nStart a new post
alt+xShow/hide CW field
backspaceNavigate back
sFocus search bar
escUnfocus compose textarea/search
g+hOpen home timeline
g+nOpen notifications column
g+lOpen local timeline
g+tOpen federated timeline
g+dOpen direct messages column
g+sOpen get started column
g+fOpen favourites list
g+pOpen pinned posts list
g+uOpen your profile
g+bOpen blocked users list
g+mOpen muted users list
g+rOpen follow requests list
?Display hotkeys list

Typing emoji through a keyboard on Mastodon

If you’re using Mastodon on a computer, you can type emoji directly with your keyboard.

Just type : (colon) and a keyword without a space. A dropdown menu will appear with the top five matching emoji, and you can pick one with the arrow keys. For example :sun will bring up the top five emoji matching the keyword “sun”.

If there are more than five matches for a keyword, they will not all appear on the dropdown. If so, you’ll need to search for them from the picker icon 😂 in the top right corner of the editing box.

The keywords are based on the alt text of an emoji. If you’re wondering how to search for a particular emoji in future, find it in the picker and then hover your mouse over it. The alt text will appear, and you will be able to use this keyword to bring the emoji up using your keyboard.

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Remote Following on Mastodon: Why does Mastodon keep asking me to log in again and again?

Remote following is where you go to an original page which is not on your own server, and click the Follow or Subscribe button there. By default, it will ask you to sign in again, because it’s asking your own server who you are.

This method is obviously pretty cumbersome, but there are a couple of ways you can avoid having to sign in again:

  • If you have Firefox on a computer you can install the Simplified Federation add-on ⧉ which automatically signs you in when you’re doing a remote follow.
  • If you don’t want to install any extensions but you don’t want to have to sign in again and again, go to your own server’s website or your app, sign into your account as normal, then copy and paste the web address or Fediverse address of the account’s original page into the search box. This will bring up the same account profile but within your own server’s interface, where you can just click Follow. This method avoids having to do remote following at all, and you won’t have to keep signing in. After you’ve done this once, your server will remember the account and you will be able to find it again by just searching within your own server.

Remote following is meant more as a method of last resort, and you’ll find it a lot easier to follow people from other servers within your own server’s interface.

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What are Original Pages on Mastodon and the Fediverse?

Every account and post on the Fediverse has an “original page” on the server that the account or post is hosted on. The original page shows the latest and most complete version of a profile or post. They’re called original pages because they are the original versions of posts and profiles that are federated to other servers.

How do I find a profile or post’s original page?

If you’re using the website or web app:

  1. Log in through your server’s website or the web app
  2. Go to a profile or post and click on ⋯ or ︙
  3. Select Open original page, which will open the original page in a new browser tab

If you’re using an app store app:

  1. Log in through your app
  2. Go to the profile or post and click on ⋯
  3. Select Share, then select the option for opening it in a web browser

Once the page is open, the original page’s web address will be visible in the browser’s address bar at the top.

How to copy original page links for posts more quickly

You can also copy original page links for posts without actually opening them in the browser.

If you’re using the website or web app:

  1. Go to the post
  2. Click ⋯ on the post
  3. Click Copy link to status, this will copy a link to the original page onto your device’s clipboard so you can paste it elsewhere

If you’re using an app store app:

  1. Go to the post
  2. Click ⋯ on the post
  3. Click Share, then select Copy, this will copy a link to the original page onto your device’s clipboard so you can paste it elsewhere.

What’s the point of original pages?

The main reason for looking at the original page is to see the latest and most complete version. However, you can also use original pages to do many useful things, with some examples given below.

Checking if a blank profile really is blank

If no one on your server has interacted with a profile before, it may appear blank. You can open the profile’s original page to check if it really is blank.

Browsing a profile’s followers and follows lists

Sometimes a profile’s follows and followers may not be visible to your server, or it may be incomplete. If you go to the original page and click on the follows and follower lists there, you will see their complete versions. (However, note that some people deliberately keep their follows and followers lists hidden for privacy reasons.)

Using original page addresses to interact with posts and profiles

If there’s a profile or post that you can’t find by searching on your server, but it does show up in results on search engines such as Duckduckgo, Google etc, you can use these pages to force your server to notice people and posts it hadn’t noticed before, including pages from other types of Fediverse server. Just copy and paste the page’s web address into the search box on Mastodon, and it will make that post or profile appear within your own server where you will be able to interact with it directly.

Not just Mastodon, there are original pages on all kinds of Fediverse servers

Original pages aren’t just on Mastodon, they work with any Fediverse server type. For example if you know the web address of a PeerTube video or Pixelfed photo, you can paste it into the search box on Mastodon and the video or photo will appear within Mastodon. You will then be able to interact with it as if it was a Mastodon post.

The process of copying and pasting web addresses works in a very similar way to account addresses.

Sharing Fediverse content with people outside the Fediverse

Original pages are really useful if you want to share a profile or post with people outside the Fediverse, as you don’t have to be logged in to see them. Just give people the original page’s web address and it will open in any browser, they don’t have to log in or be a member.

Why doesn’t Mastodon just show original pages everywhere, instead of sometimes showing incomplete ones?

Click here for more discussion about this, including why it happens and what might be done about it.

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Crossposting between Mastodon and Twitter

You can automatically crosspost between Mastodon and Twitter in either direction using third party services. Crossposting means when you post on Mastodon the same content will also be posted on Twitter (or vice versa).

This can be controversial if you’re just mirroring your Twitter account to Mastodon without interacting on Mastodon at all. Some servers specifically ban such “zombie accounts”.

Going in the other direction, if you’re active on Mastodon and mirroring it to Twitter, there’s no controversy at all.

Which crossposting services are available?

Professional paid crossposting services such as Buffer ⧉ and Publer ⧉ are still working.

However, most free crossposting services have shut down due to Elon Musk’s shutdown of Twitter’s free API.

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Customising your notifications on Mastodon

On Mastodon, you can customise your notifications to adjust what triggers a notification to appear and what kind of notification it provides. The notification options you have depend on what you are using to access Mastodon:

  • On your server’s website, go to your Notifications column and click on the slider icon in the top right corner to open the notification settings. Note that there are even more options available if you scroll this settings menu down a bit.
  • On the official app, go to the main timeline and click on the cog icon ⚙️ in the top right corner, then click on Notifications.
  • Third party apps will have various different interfaces for customising notifications, but they’ll usually be in their settings sections.

Different ways of accessing Mastodon will give you different options for customising notifications, for example the website lets you adjust which notifications cause a sound.

What about email notifications?

Email notifications on Mastodon are a totally separate system that happens to have a similar name. To adjust your email notifications:

  1. Log in through your server’s website
  2. Click ⚙️ Preferences
  3. If you’re on the desktop website, click Notifications on the left of the screen. If you’re on the mobile website click ☰ in the top right and then Notifications.
  4. Choose your email notification settings. If you don’t want to receive any emails, untick all the boxes.
  5. Click the Save Changes button in the top right corner of the screen

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I’ve written a link but it isn’t clickable, how do I make it clickable? What kind of links can I use on Mastodon?

If you want a clickable website link within a post or on a profile on Mastodon, remember to include https:// at the beginning when you’re writing it. This tells the server that you want the link to be clickable.

Twitter automatically changes anything with a dot in the middle into a clickable link, but this doesn’t happen on the Fediverse because some people want to include dots without making clickable links.

As well as website links, you can also use many other kinds of links. All of these will work as clickable links on Mastodon: https://, http://, gemini://, dat://, dweb://, gopher://, ipfs:// and ssb://

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Choosing a good username on Mastodon and the Fediverse

Fediverse addresses have two parts, the username and the server name.

By default, Mastodon and most other Fedi server types hide the server part of the address within posts so that they are easier to read. All you will see in conversations is the first part of the address, so you would see @john even if the full address is @john@example.com. (This is similar to how real life conversations often just use a person’s first name.)

This means that it’s a good idea to choose something distinctive for a username, because in posts people will often just see the username on its own.

I’m not sure what you mean. Could you give some examples?

An account with the address @MarvellousWidgets@example.com, would look like @MarvellousWidgets in conversations. People can refer to it in discussions and it’s still clear who is being talked about: “Have you seen the latest release from @MarvellousWidgets?”

If it had a more generic username such as @software@example.com, all that people would see of its address in posts would be @software, and it’s not clear who is being talked about. A discussion using it would look like this: “Have you seen the latest release from @software?”. People would have to click on the username each time to find out who they are, because so many other accounts have a similar username.

I have my own server with a custom domain. That makes my address distinctive, right?

Yes and no. The full address with a custom domain is indeed very distinctive, but because the domain is hidden by default in discussions, it is still important to choose a distinctive username, as this is what most people see most of the time.

Don’t use dots / full stops / periods in usernames

Some Fediverse server types allow you to use . in usernames while others (including Mastodon) don’t allow it. People will not be able to follow you from Mastodon if you use a . in your username, so it’s safest just to avoid using . in usernames.

Don’t use really short usernames

If your username is very short, it is physically more difficult for people to click on it or tap it. Try to use at least four or five letters, preferably more.

What happens if two accounts with the same username are mentioned in the same post?

Mastodon etc will automatically show accounts’ full account addresses if two accounts with the same username are mentioned in the same post. This is also similar to real life conversations: if you were talking about two people called John in the same conversation, you might mention their surnames so that people know which John you’re referring to.

Why doesn’t Mastodon just show everyone’s full account addresses within posts?

Account addresses can be very long, depending on the domain name used by the account’s server. It can be quite hard to read a post where full addresses are used all the time. Just showing the username makes posts a lot more readable.

How do I find out the full account address of a username?

Just click on the username, that will take you to the user’s profile page which includes their full and unique account address.

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How to use the Lists feature on Mastodon

The “Lists” feature lets you create mini-timelines that show posts from selected accounts you already follow. You can also optionally hide listed accounts’ posts from your main timeline, and just browse them on the lists.

Why would I want to make a List?

If your main timeline is getting a bit crowded from following so many people, you can add accounts to Lists and then hide them from your main timeline (see instructions further down the page).

Alternatively you might just prefer having themed Lists to browse. For example, you could create a List which just shows posts from artists you follow, or just news accounts, or whatever kind of theme you want.

Okay, so how do I actually make a List on Mastodon?

You can create and use Lists on your server’s website, on the Mastodon web app and on some third party Mastodon apps such as Tusky for Android or Mona ⧉ for iPhone/iPad.

To create a list through the web version of Mastodon:

  1. Open your profile page, then click on the section marked Following.
  2. Browse through the accounts you follow. When you find an account you want to add to a list, click on their name to open their profile page.
  3. On the profile of the person you want to add, click on the ︙ symbol and select Add or remove from lists. This will cause the Lists editor to open.
  4. Create a new list by typing a name for the list into the white box (you can skip this step if you’ve already created a suitable list).
  5. Click the + sign next to the list you want to add the account to.
  6. Click anywhere outside the Lists editor box to close the editor.
  7. You can browse Lists by clicking the Lists icon on the right of the screen (three horizontal lines with three dots). If you’re using the website through a computer, direct links to lists will also be visible on the right side of the screen.
  8. Don’t worry if a list looks empty. Lists always start out empty as they don’t show posts from before the list was created, but you will start seeing new posts appear on the list over time.
  9. To edit or delete an existing list, click on the list’s name to open it and then click on the slider icon in the top right corner of the list. This editor also includes a search box for searching accounts you follow, if you prefer to add accounts to your list that way.

…and that’s it! You can add more accounts to lists by repeating these steps.

By the way, third party apps may have slightly different interfaces for lists, but it’s the same feature.

You can also add accounts to Lists (though you can’t create new Lists) on the official Mastodon Android app. Go to the profile of an account you want to add to your list, click ︙in the top right corner and then Add to list…

Can I view accounts on Lists without them appearing on my Home timeline?

Yes! You can hide posts by accounts on your lists Home timeline:

  1. Log in through your server’s website
  2. Go to the Lists section
  3. Click on the list you want to hide on Home
  4. Click on the slider icon in the top right corner
  5. Select Hide these posts from home

This means you can have lists that are entirely separate from your Home timeline.

Why do I have to follow accounts that I add to Lists?

The following requirement is for the sake of safety and privacy. On some social networks such as Twitter, List-style features have been misused by trolls and bullies to make lists of potential victims.

On Mastodon, the follow requirement gives people more control over being listed. If an account has follow requests activated, it lets them control whose Lists they may end up on, and if an account blocks someone that also prevents them being added to that person’s Lists.

Do boosts show up on Lists?

Yes, you see everything you would see from that account on your Home timeline.

Can I follow hashtags on Lists?

No, not at the moment. However, this is a very popular suggestion and if you’re comfortable using Github you can vote for this option by giving a thumbs up on the relevant issue ⧉.

How many Lists can I create?

As many as you want.

Can I share Lists with other people?

No, they’re just for your personal use.

What do all the options mean on the Lists feature?

Edit list – Lets you change the list’s name and add or remove accounts from the list

Delete list – Deletes the list

Hide these posts from home – With this option switched on, posts that appear on your lists will not appear in your Home timeline

Show replies to no one – You will not see any replies in your list, only new posts by the accounts on the list

Show replies to members of the list – You will only see replies by accounts on the list to other accounts on the list, and new posts by accounts on the list

Show replies to any followed user – You will see replies by accounts on the list to accounts that you follow, and new posts by accounts on the list

If I move my account to another server, can my Lists come with me?

Yes. Lists are now available to export and import as part of the account transfer process.

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Using multiple accounts on Mastodon and the Fediverse

First of all, it’s worth saying that most people do not need multiple accounts. The Fediverse is designed in such a way that people on different servers can interact seamlessly, as if they were all on one network. For most people one account is enough, because it lets you interact with people on the whole network. However, there are situations where having more than one account is useful.

So, why have multiple accounts?

Lots of possible reasons:

What are “alt accounts” or “alts”?

“Alt accounts” or “alts” just mean alternative accounts owned by the same person. They may be permanent or temporary.

Can I be signed into several accounts at once?

Yes, all the official and third party apps support being logged into multiple accounts simultaneously, and you can also be signed into several accounts at once on the web browser and web apps.

Apps normally have an account switching button in the corner of the screen which you can press to select which account you want to use. Alternatively, you can use several different apps if you prefer. The official Mastodon apps have a switcher in the bottom right corner of the screen, hold it down to add an account or switch between accounts.

If you’re using accounts through the web browser and your accounts are on different servers, you can be signed into multiple servers at once and switch between them by keeping each one open in a separate tab. You can use the same email address when signing up for accounts on different servers.

Should I sign up for multiple accounts on the same server or different servers?

If you’re going to have multiple accounts, it’s highly recommended that you sign up on different servers. Having accounts on separate servers brings significant advantages:

  • If a server breaks down, accounts on other servers will still work. It is extremely unlikely that several servers would break down at exactly the same time, so if you have multiple accounts you will always have at least one working account.
  • Web browser and web app users can be signed into all of their accounts at once if they are on separate servers.
  • By having accounts on different servers, you can use the same email address for all of them.

It’s the independence of each server that makes it good to have accounts on separate servers. It means any kind of problem that hits one server will not affect your other accounts.

Can I sign up for multiple accounts on the same server if I want to?

Yes, you can, but it will be putting all your eggs in one basket. If that server goes down, it means you lose all access to the Fediverse. It also makes it more difficult to log in on web browsers and web apps, as you will probably have to keep signing in and out.

How should I promote my other accounts?

A common way to promote your other accounts is to mention them in your account profile page. It’s also highly recommended that you follow your other accounts, so that their content will federate more widely.

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Adding user safety through Authorized Fetch on Mastodon

This is a bit technical, but there’s a little-known feature on Mastodon called “Authorized Fetch”, aka “Secure Mode”. By default it is switched off as it uses more resources and can cause compatibility problems with servers running older software.

When it is switched on, it makes all blocks more effective, including both server-level and user-level blocks. This empowers users to fight abusers and trolls more effectively, and makes the server’s own blocks more powerful too.

Which kind of posts does this affect? Can abusers see followers-only or mentions-only posts?

Posts using follower-only or mentions-only visibilities are already protected from unauthorised interaction. Authorized Fetch only makes a difference on public or unlisted posts. If you never use public or unlisted posts, you don’t need Authorized Fetch.

Please see the post visibility guide for all the kinds of visibilities that a post can be, and how to set your defaults.

I am a server admin, how do I find out more about this?

There’s an official technical description of Authorized Fetch here ⧉ and a detailed unofficial article here ⧉ which might be useful.

How to activate Authorized Fetch on Mastodon

Only server admins can activate it, so if you’re not an admin you’ll need to contact your server’s admin and ask them to do this.

The latest version of Mastodon includes controls in the graphical interface for activating it:

  1. The admin should sign onto the Mastodon server’s website or web app using their admin account
  2. Click ⚙️ Preferences
  3. Click Administration (on the left of the screen or in ☰ on the mobile site)
  4. Click Server Settings
  5. Click the Discovery tab at the top
  6. Tick the box marked Require authentication from federated servers
  7. Click Save changes

On some managed hosting services this option may be greyed out. If so, ask the managed hosting company to switch it on for you.

Why isn’t this on by default?

Authorized Fetch uses more server resources as the server has to do a lot more checks for each post to prevent unauthorised interactions.

However, the costs of these extra resources may be worth it for the extra level of user safety the feature brings.

Does this stop website scraping?

No, nothing can stop scraping of public posts on a public website. However, scraping a website and copying its contents is not the same thing as interacting directly with a thread on a social network.

Compatibility with other Fediverse servers

Authorized Fetch is an official feature of Mastodon and it should work fine when federating with servers that are running Mastodon 3.0.0 or higher. It should also work with GoToSocial (which uses Authorized Fetch by default), Pixelfed, PeerTube and most other Fediverse server types.

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Is Mastodon end-to-end encrypted?

No. Mastodon isn’t E2EE yet.

If you’re needing to send sensitive information, use an E2EE messaging system instead.

In theory, the owner of your server could read at your DMs in the server’s database, and you’ll often hear people say “The admin can read your DMs”. This is not quite the whole story. An admin would need a certain level of technical skill, as there is no way to view DMs in Mastodon’s admin interface. The server owner would have to look directly at the database itself to read a DM, and ignore Mastodon’s interface completely.

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Using Two Factor Authentication (2FA) on Mastodon

To keep your Mastodon account extra secure, you can use a feature called “Two Factor Authentication”, also known as “2FA”. When you have 2FA activated, even if someone finds out your password they still cannot log into your account.

How does 2FA work?

2FA usually works through a special app on your phone, tablet or computer which constantly generates special pass codes, often in the form of six random numbers. These codes are linked to your account, and only your app will generate codes that match your account.

When you want to log into your account, as well as your password Mastodon will also ask you for your 2FA code, which you can find out from your app. It will then log you in.

How do I get a 2FA app?

There are many 2FA apps in all app stores, for example Aegis and Raivo are popular 2FA apps. Apple’s keychain also includes 2FA support. The technical name for these apps is “TOTP” or “Authenticator”.

I’ve got my 2FA app, how do I activate 2FA on Mastodon?

  1. Log into your account on your server’s website or on the web app
  2. Click ⚙️ Preferences
  3. Click Account (on the mobile site click ☰ and then Account)
  4. Click Two Factor Auth (on the mobile site click ☰ again and then Two Factor Auth)
  5. Follow the instructions, including the part about keeping the backup codes in a safe place

After you’ve activated 2FA, the next time you log in on Mastodon it will ask your password and then ask your 2FA code. Go to the app and find the code, then type this into Mastodon.

Do I need to type a 2FA code in every time I use Mastodon?

No. You only need to use a 2FA code when you log in, so if you stay logged in it won’t ask for the 2FA code.

What if someone sees my current 2FA code?

It doesn’t matter, because the current 2FA code changes so frequently. Most people set it to change every few minutes or even every 30 seconds. If someone sees your current 2FA code, it will soon change to something else anyway and the old code will be useless to them.

The only code you need to keep secret is the 2FA’s backup code, which you should print out and put in a safe place. This backup code gives you access to your account if the 2FA app stops working for some reason.

Is 2FA just for techy people, or can non-techy people use 2FA as well?

Setting up 2FA is slightly tricky, and it will require you to keep a permanent copy of a special code in a safe place, preferably printed out and kept at home with your other important documents. This special code lets you access your account if you lose access to your 2FA app. If you’re not technically minded, you might want to get help from a trusted friend or relative in setting it up. Make sure they are people you trust, as the backup code would allow them access to your account.

However, after it has been set up, 2FA is extremely easy to use: the 2FA app displays a code and you simply type this in when Mastodon asks you to. It’s very simple and becomes second nature quickly.

Does the 2FA app know what I’m doing?

No. 2FA apps have no awareness of anything you’re doing.

The apps just passively display a list of security codes generated from the current time and your unique account keys. It doesn’t send any data anywhere, the code generation happens entirely offline on your own phone or computer. The apps have no idea if you’re even using the codes.

At a technical level, 2FA apps are essentially just very elaborate clocks, but instead of displaying the time they display ever-changing access codes. Your account’s server also knows what time it is, and that’s how it knows whether your 2FA access code matches up with what it should be.

Is 2FA just for Mastodon, or can I use it for other things?

It’s not just Mastodon! Most major online services nowadays have an option to activate 2FA. For example most email providers include 2FA support, and using it works just like logging in on Mastodon.

You can use the same app to generate all your codes. Each service uses a different code, and your app will generate a list of different codes if you use it on many services.

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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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