Is there a reminder bot for Mastodon and the Fediverse?

Yes, there’s an unofficial “remind me” bot you can use at @remindme@mstdn.social ⧉

It can remind you minutes, hours, days, weeks, months or years later. To use it, just mention the bot in a post or reply and include the period you want to be reminded after, for example:

@remindme@mstdn.social 1 week

Can I receive the reminder in private?

Yes, reminders can be sent privately if you prefer. To be reminded privately, include the word “dm” in small letters:

@remindme@mstdn.social dm 1 week

It will only send it as a private message if you use “dm” in small letters. The phrase “DM” in capital letters will be ignored and the reminder will be public.

Which Fediverse platforms does this work with?

It should work with any Fediverse platform that supports microblogging, such as Mastodon, Friendica, GoToSocial etc.

Can I see the source code for the reminder bot? Can I set up my own reminder bot?

Yes, the reminder bot uses free open source software. The source code for the reminder bot is available online ⧉ if you want to contribute to the project and/or set up your own bot. (Setting up your own does require some technical knowledge though.)

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You don’t need link shorteners on Mastodon

All links on Mastodon count as 23 characters towards your post’s character limit, no matter how long they really are. Because of this, there is no need to use link shortener services on Mastodon.

Mastodon does this because it’s much better for privacy that links remain in their original form, as link shortener services tend to track the people that click on them. It also means the links will continue to work in the future and aren’t dependent on the existence of the link shortener service.

The official iPhone/iPad app counts it as more than 23 characters?

There’s a known bug on the official iPhone/iPad app ⧉ which causes links to count for more than 23 characters. A fix has been proposed but it hasn’t been released yet. In the meantime, you can avoid this bug completely by using third party apps such as Toot!, Ice Cubes and Ivory, or by logging in through your server’s website.

But I want to track people who click on my links!

You can use link shorteners to track people, but you probably shouldn’t. Also, some people may wonder why you are using link shorteners when all links count for 23 characters anyway.

Why is it 23 characters?

Apparently Twitter’s original built-in link shortener used 23 characters. So when Mastodon removed the need for shorteners, they emphasised this by only counting 23 characters for all links.

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How to post a poll on Mastodon

It’s really easy:

  1. Log in through your server’s website or on an app
  2. Start a new post
  3. Click the poll icon, this usually looks like a bar chart 📊 (on some apps there may be no poll icon visible, but you can click the attachment icon and then select poll as an attachment)
  4. Write your question in the main part of the post
  5. Add up to four responses, and describe each option (you can use emoji too). Some servers running customised code may allow more than four responses.
  6. Set the duration, between 5 mins and 7 days
  7. Click Publish to post the poll!

Allowing multiple responses on polls

There’s a slightly hidden option when you’re posting a poll where you can allow people to choose more than one response. To switch on multiple responses:

  1. Log in through your server’s website
  2. Create the poll via the web interface as described above, but don’t post it yet
  3. Click on a circle next to one of the options, the circles will all change into rounded squares, and the poll will now allow multiple responses

If you want to go back to single response, click on a square to change it back to circles before you post.

Some third party apps also allow you to activate multiple responses for a poll.

⚠️ Warning about editing polls

You can edit polls the same way you edit posts, just go to ⋯ on the post and select Edit. However, when you edit the poll’s options or change its response type, it will automatically reset the poll’s results back to zero without any warning! (Editing the main text above the poll doesn’t reset it though.)

This behaviour is presumably to prevent abuse of the poll system, but the lack of warning can really catch people out (it certainly caught me out! 😅 ). For those comfortable using Github, there’s an open issue about this here ⧉.

I can’t find the poll button on my app!

Some third party apps have the poll button hidden away under the attachment button. Click attach, and then instead of choosing an image or video or audio file, choose a poll.

Some people have more than four options on their polls! How is this possible?

Mastodon is just one kind of server on the wider Fediverse. This means that many of the accounts you see on your timeline are on servers that have tweaked their Mastodon software to allow additional featured (such as more poll options), or are on totally different kinds of server altogether. You can escape the limits of standard Mastodon servers by moving to a different kind of Fediverse server.

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How do I follow someone on Mastodon? How do I unfollow them?

You can follow someone on Mastodon by clicking on the Follow button on their profile page. You can go to someone’s profile page by clicking on their name.

You can unfollow them by clicking the same button again. The button may have a different label after you’ve followed them (Unfollow, Following etc), but it will be in the same place on the screen.

I know someone has an account on Mastodon etc and I’ve tried searching for their account, but it doesn’t show up in the search results. How do I follow them?

If you’re trying to get someone’s profile page to appear and nothing else works, you can use their account address to make their profile appear. Copy and paste their account address into the search box, and this will force your server to show you their profile page.

If you don’t know their account address but you have some other means to communicate with them, try asking them directly. They can find their account address on their profile page, it’s just below their display name. There’s more info on the account addresses page.

If you’re just wanting to discover new accounts that you haven’t heard of before, use the suggestions on the account discovery page.

Is there a limit on how many accounts I can follow on Mastodon?

Yes and no.

If you have fewer than 7500 followers, you can only follow up to 7500 accounts.

If you have more than 7500 followers, you can follow accounts equal to that amount. For example, if you had 10,000 followers you could follow 10,000 accounts.

The technical reasons for these limits are discussed in this issue on Github ⧉.

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How do I delete a post on Mastodon?

To delete one of your posts:

  1. Go to the post you want to delete
  2. Click the ⋯ icon
  3. Select “Delete”

This should delete the post straight away on your own server. Most other servers where the post is visible will delete it too, though in some cases there may be a delay in the deletion happening (as the other server may have a queue of tasks to work through).

In a small number of cases a deletion may not happen on the other server, for example if the other server is not working properly. If you’re concerned about how widely a post may be seen, you can restrict its visibility when you post it.

What does “Delete and re-draft” mean?

There are actually two delete options on Mastodon, Delete or Delete and re-draft. The first just deletes the message, but the second deletes the message and sends a copy of it to the post writing box so you can make changes and repost it. However, since the introduction of post editing on Mastodon this second option has been largely obsolete. The only time you would be likely to want to use re-drafting is if you want to change the visibility of a post, as this cannot be done through editing.

Bear in mind that both delete options delete the post, and any shares will be lost, links will break and replies will be orphaned. If you just want to make changes to the content, editing is a much better option.

Can I set old posts to self-delete automatically?

Yes! Click here to see instructions on how to delete posts after a certain time period.

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Finding people to follow on Pixelfed

To find people to follow on Pixelfed, you can use most of the same techniques and directories that Mastodon etc. users use.

Pixelfed is not just about Pixelfed accounts! You can also follow non-Pixelfed accounts from elsewhere on the Fediverse like Mastodon etc. To follow a non-Pixelfed account, paste its Fediverse address into the search box within Pixelfed. The account’s profile will then appear in the search results and you can click Follow to follow it.

After you follow them, non-Pixelfed posts will start appearing in your timeline but they will look just like Pixelfed posts, and you can interact with them in exactly the same way. The process is so seamless you probably won’t notice they’re from another type of server.

By default, Pixelfed only shows posts that include an attached image. If you want to see text-only posts as well, log into your Pixelfed account and go to Settings > Timelines > Show text-only posts, tick the box and click Submit.

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How to prevent your account being suggested to others in Mastodon

On Mastodon, there’s a feature that automatically suggests accounts to follow when people first join a server, and when they click on the For You or People tab in Explore or Search. These suggestions are based on how many people on that server follow the account and boost its posts, and server admins can optionally add suggestions manually too.

What if I don’t want my account suggested to others?

You can set whether your account is suggested to others or not.

  1. Log in through your server’s website or the web app.
  2. Click on ⚙️ Preferences
  3. Click on Profile (or ☰ and Profile if you’re on the mobile website)
  4. Click on the Privacy & Reach tab at the top
  5. Go to the box marked Feature profile and posts in discovery algorithms, and UN-tick the box if you do NOT want to be suggested.

Wait a minute… “Feature profile and posts in discovery algorithms”? I thought Mastodon didn’t use algorithms?

The name in this section is a bit misleading. These are not the kind of complex, hidden, dubiously motivated algorithms that cause problems on Facebook, Twitter etc. The “algorithm” in this case is a simple open source mathematical formula that looks at which accounts are most followed and most boosted.

Technically even the simplest mathematical process is an algorithm, but in this case it might as well just say “Most followed & most boosted accounts”.

The “For You” tab… is it using my personal data to generate suggestions?

No, it doesn’t use personal data. The For You tab gives the same suggestions to everyone on your server, but it hides accounts you are already following which is why it says “For You”. The tab has been renamed “People” on upcoming versions of Mastodon to make this clearer.

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Filtering your Mastodon timeline to automatically hide posts containing certain words, phrases, hashtags, links or emoji

On Mastodon, you can set your timeline to automatically hide or block posts featuring certain words, phrases, hashtags or emoji. You can choose to block them completely, or hide them behind a warning that you can open manually.

This isn’t just about offensive posts, it can be filtering for any reason at all. Some people use filters to hide Wordle posts for example. Your filters are private, and they will apply in the apps as well as on the website. No one will know you have filtered their posts.

To add a filter:

  1. Log in through your server’s website or the web app
  2. Go to ⚙️ Preferences > Filters (On the mobile website click ⚙️ and then ☰ and then Filters, on the desktop website click ⚙️ Preferences and then the Filters link on the left side of the Preferences page)
  3. Click the Add new filter button
  4. Choose the settings you want, then click Save new filter

Some tips which might help with creating filters:

  • The Title section at the start of a filter is just a name you want to give the filter so you remember what it does. It isn’t the actual words the filter uses.
  • You can add the filtered words, phrases or emoji in the Keywords section at the bottom. They aren’t case sensitive.
  • The filter will look for these keywords in entire posts, including the actual content, hashtags, account addresses, alt text descriptions or web addresses mentioned in posts.
  • Filters work retrospectively, so posts made before the filter was created will also be filtered.
  • You can add more words and phrases to the same filter by clicking the + Add keyword link at the bottom of the page. The filter will be triggered if any of the words or phrases are present.
  • You don’t need to include # on filtered hashtags, these will automatically be blocked if they contain a filter’s keyword.
  • You can make filters temporary by setting the Expire after section. By default this is set to “never” which means the filter is permanent.
  • The Filter contexts section lets you apply the filter to specific parts of Mastodon. If you want it applied everywhere, tick all the boxes.
  • If you have the Whole word option on the filter ticked, it means the filter only applies to posts containing exactly that word. If you UN-tick this option, the filter will also apply to posts that have that word with other letters or numbers next to it without spaces, for example within another word, or a different form of the same word.
  • You can edit or delete filters at any time by going back to the Filters section in ⚙️ Preferences.

How do I filter posts that contain a particular link?

Add a filter for part of the text in the link (such as the link’s domain name), then make sure you have UN-ticked the box marked Whole word, then save the filter. This will filter anything that contains that text including links.

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How to use Content Warnings (CWs) on Mastodon and the Fediverse

Content Warnings (CWs) are an optional Fediverse feature which hides the content of a post behind a warning message. The post can be revealed by clicking on the warning. Only the person who writes the post can add a CW to it.

What are CWs for?

Content warnings hide any kind of content where the person reading may not want to read it right that minute, but they may want to read later. It could be something serious like upsetting news, or less serious like film spoilers. There’s also a very strong Fediverse tradition that those who are able to should use CWs when talking about emotive topics such as politics or religion. It is also often used for potentially “not safe for work” content such as gore or nudity.

How do I add a CW to my post?

  1. Start writing a new post or edit an existing post
  2. Click on the button at the bottom of the message writing window labelled “CW” or “Warning” or ⚠️ or other similar icons
  3. Write a brief warning giving people a clear idea of what to expect within the post itself, without them having to actually open it
  4. Publish the post

What if I want to open lots of CWs at once?

On Mastodon, if you are using the website or the web app you can make all the CWs in a thread open or close at once by clicking the 👁️ eye icon in the top right corner of a thread. (Note that the eye icon on the official mobile app does something different, it just opens one post at a time.)

I don’t care about warnings, how do I make all posts be visible for me automatically?

If you don’t want to ever see any CWs at all, you can make Mastodon open all CW posts by default:

  1. Log in through the website or the web app
  2. Click ⚙️ Preferences
  3. Scroll down the page and tick the box marked Always expand posts marked with content warnings
  4. Click the Save changes button

Is it compulsory to use CWs?

It depends.

Some servers have specific rules about when to use CWs, while others ask you to use your initiative.

When exactly should I use CWs? What if I see someone not using CWs when they should be?

CWs are an accessibility feature for many people, as they allow those who have traumas triggered by certain topics to read potentially triggering posts when they are mentally prepared to do so. It’s important to emphasise the point that for many people CWs are not about avoiding topics, it’s exactly the opposite: CWs make triggering posts accessible to people who would otherwise have to avoid them, in the same way that text descriptions make images accessible to blind people. They can widen your post’s audience.

Having said that, it is a bad idea to call people out for not using CWs! Some people will have legitimate reasons for not using CWs, for example someone who is currently going through a serious personal trauma, or perhaps is being persecuted or under threat of violence. It is not appropriate to demand CWs from someone who is going through something really horrific in their real world life. They may have much bigger things to worry about than social media, and we should help them deal with these bigger things however we can.

Even if someone should be using CWs, having public arguments about rules is not necessarily the best way to get someone to obey them, especially if they’re new to the Fediverse.

If there’s a post you think should be CWed and there’s no obvious reason why it isn’t, check the rules on your server and then ask your server admin for advice on what to do. They set the rules, and they are ultimately the ones that decide what is allowed on there.

In short, CWs are a balancing act, and require a lot of social skill (that’s why this section is so long!). The existence of CWs brings the Fediverse a tiny bit closer to the complexities of everyday life in the real world, where reading the room is essential to getting on with people. No one is going to get this right all the time, but simply being aware of CWs as an option and using them when you feel appropriate and able will make the Fediverse a much more accessible and pleasant place to be.

How do I add a CW to a post I want to share?

You can’t add CWs to someone else’s post. The reason for this is such a feature could be mis-used to quote the post, which is deliberately not available on Mastodon.

A workaround is to do a reply to the post with a CW telling people to read the post above, and then share your reply.

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Hiding your posts from search engines on Mastodon and the Fediverse

If you use a public visibility setting on a post, it will be visible to everyone, even people who aren’t Fediverse members. This means the post may be indexed by search engines.

You can either make your posts invisible to search engines, or ask search engines not to index your public posts.

Prevent a post being visible to search engines

The surest and safest way to prevent a post ending up on a search engine’s index is to use a non-public visibility setting. Followers-only and Mentioned settings cannot be seen by search engines, so they will not be indexed.

Ask search engines not to index your posts

Mastodon also has an option to request that search engines don’t index your public posts:

  1. Log in through your server’s website
  2. Go to Preferences > Other > Opt out of search engine indexing
  3. Tick the box and click Save changes

However, bear in mind it’s up to a search engine to decide if it wants to honour this request, and less honest search engines may decide to ignore your request. If you want a post to remain off search engines, it’s much safer to use a non-public setting.

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How to hide your follows and followers in Mastodon

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

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

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

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

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Restricting who can follow you on Mastodon

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

To switch on the follow requests system:

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

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

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

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

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

How do I stop non-followers seeing my posts?

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

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Blocking and muting accounts on Mastodon

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

Is it rude to mute or block people?

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

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

To block or mute someone on Mastodon:

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

Here’s what these options mean:

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

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

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

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

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

To view lists of all of your blocks and mutes:

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

How do I do a temporary mute?

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

How do I mute just someone’s boosts?

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

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

This only works on accounts you follow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you have any problems with the server which can’t be addressed through the reporting system, you can email the administrator (or “admin”) of your server directly.

On Mastodon, you can find the public email address of your server admin on the server’s About page. The same page also lists the server’s rules. To find it, go to your server’s website and click on “Learn More”. You don’t need to be logged in. The email address will be listed in the top half of the About page, just above the list of rules. It is worth reading the rule list as it varies from server to server, and it is usually written in plain language that is easy to understand.

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How to delete your Mastodon account

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

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

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

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

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How to log out of your Mastodon account

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

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

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

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

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

On Mastodon, you can browse other servers’ Local feeds by going to the server’s website and clicking the “Local” link. You don’t need to log in, anyone can look at the feed because Local feeds only show public posts anyway.

What about following another server’s Local timeline?

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

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

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

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

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

Where can I see trending posts and hashtags?

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

Can I create my own custom timelines on Mastodon?

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

How do I view different timelines on Mastodon?

By default you will see your Home timeline.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do I see another server’s Local timeline?

Click here for more info on how to do this.

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

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

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

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Inviting people onto Mastodon and the Fediverse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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 gives the dark mode a much darker background colour than usual.

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Favourites vs. Bookmarks in Mastodon

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

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

How do I browse my favourites and bookmarks?

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

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

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

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

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Why can’t I quote other posts in Mastodon?

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

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


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

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

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

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How do I pin posts on my Mastodon profile?

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

To pin a post on Mastodon:

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do I reorder pinned posts?

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

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

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How do I edit posts in Mastodon?

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are several features to prevent abuse of editing:

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

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

Can I edit my post’s visibility setting?

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

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

⚠️ Warning about editing polls

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

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

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

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

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

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How do I share posts on Mastodon and the Fediverse?

You can share 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.

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

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

Here’s how to use them:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Making your posts accessible for blind or deaf people

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

How do I post GIFs in Mastodon?

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

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

How long can the video or audio attachments be?

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

How do audio files play?

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

How do I set the artwork for audio?

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

The description has disappeared from the audio file!

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

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

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

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

Some more details about each setting:

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

Sending DMs in Mastodon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do I set my default visibility for new posts?

To set the default visibility on new posts:

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

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

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

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

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

Who can see my boosts?

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

When do replies appear in the Home timeline?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interface language

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

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

Filtering timelines by language

You can filter Mastodon timelines by language:

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

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

Posting language

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

To set which language you post in:

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

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

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

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

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

Filtering search results by language

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contributing translations for the Mastodon user interface

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

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Where are the trending posts and hashtags on Mastodon?

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

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

What makes a post trend on Mastodon?

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

What makes a hashtag trend on Mastodon?

Tags trend if many people have used them recently.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is the News section in Explore?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can I view trends on other servers?

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

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How to be notified when your favourite accounts post on Mastodon

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

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

Here’s how to do it:

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

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

Can I do this through apps too?

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

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

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

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

When to post your best content

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

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What kind of accounts can I follow from Mastodon?

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

How do I follow accounts from other kinds of servers?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do a keyword search

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

Follow hashtags

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

Join Groups

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

Word of mouth

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

Browse other people’s follow lists

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

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

Follow FediFollows

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

Browse directories

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

Here are some good Fediverse directories:

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

Follow curators

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

Look at trending posts and hashtags

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

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

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

Install StreetPass for Mastodon on your web browser

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

Search for flag emoji to find accounts in particular countries

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

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

Hang out on the timelines

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

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

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

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

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

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How do I search for stuff on Mastodon? How do I use hashtags?

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

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

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

If you want your post to be more easily found in searches, opt into full text searches but also include relevant hashtags if you can. Remember to use CamelCase on hashtags that contain multiple words.

Although hashtags are no longer required to appear in search results, hashtags are still important in making posts visible, because many people follow hashtags and many people search for them. Hashtags are really good for actively indicating a topic being discussed, instead of a word just used accidentally or incidentally.

What exactly are hashtags? How do I use them?

Hashtags are words or phrases with a # (hash symbol) at the start, such as #Weather. It’s a good idea to include relevant tags in your posts to make it easier for people to discover them. If a hashtag has multiple words you should write the tag without spaces but with the first letter of each word capitalised, such as #PremierLeagueFootball. Capitalising the first letters of words makes a hashtag easy to read and accessible to blind people using screen reader apps.

You can include as many hashtags as you want, but they must be relevant. If you include irrelevant tags in your posts it is spamming, and your account may be blocked or suspended by admins.

What order are search results shown in?

Chronological, with newest posts at the top.

How do I search just my own posts?

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

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

Are there any special operators for filtering searches on Mastodon?

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

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

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

Wait, what’s an “operator”?

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

Can I use several operators in the same search?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wait… I can search for emoji?

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

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

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

Advanced search based on full text keywords and special operators requires the server to be running a special add-on called “Elasticsearch”. Ask your admin about this, it’s possible they haven’t installed it, or they possibly lack the resources to install it as it does cost extra.

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

I thought Mastodon only allowed searches with hashtags?

Until very recently, Mastodon searches were entirely based around hashtags. However, since version 4.2.0 (released in September 2023) Mastodon also allows full text searches where you just type what you want and it searches the entire texts of posts for matches.

HOWEVER… for privacy reasons the full text search system is opt-in, so you can only get search results for people who have opted into their posts being included in full text searches.

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How to use and customise profile pages on Mastodon

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

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

How do I find my profile page?

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

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

Fill in your profile’s text

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

Upload a profile picture and banner

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

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

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

Fill in your Mastodon profile’s Extra Fields

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

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

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

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

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

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

To edit Extra Fields through the official apps:

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

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

Verifying your account

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

@ username @ server

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other types of Fediverse addresses will also work on Mastodon

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

Why do Fediverse addresses look like email addresses?

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

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

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

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

Why can’t I just find accounts by searching?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which websites can I log in from?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Official Mastodon apps

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

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

Third party Mastodon apps

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

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

Mastodon websites and web apps

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

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

Third party web interfaces

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

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

Command line and TUI apps

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

Retro computer apps

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

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

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

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

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

The security of your Mastodon account works like this:

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

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Don’t join a big server on Mastodon!

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

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

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

Mastodon.social is not anything special

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

If you want your server to be busier

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are the differences between servers?

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

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

What’s to stop a server shutting down?

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

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

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

Do I need to join more than one server?

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

Should I join the biggest server?

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

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

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

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

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Are there any other guides to Mastodon and the Fediverse?

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

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

You mean this?

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

It’s the Fediverse logo!

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

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

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

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What other kinds of servers are on the Fediverse?

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

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

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

Funkwhale ⧉ – Music and podcast storage and sharing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No.

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

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

I thought “decentralised” meant blockchain/web3?

No.

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

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

So, what is a true decentralised social network?

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

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

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

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

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Why is the Fediverse on so many separate servers?

The Fediverse is decentralised for many reasons:

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

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Who gets to start their own server?

Anyone. You don’t need tech skills, and you don’t need much money either.

If you use a managed hosting service, the price starts from around 8 euros or 8 dollars a month and the service will handle all the technical stuff.

Once your server is set up, you can follow people on other servers and they can follow you. You don’t have to do this though, it’s much easier to just join someone else’s server, but it’s there as an option. Many people enjoy growing their own server.

You can find out more info on running your own Fediverse server over on my other site GrowYourOwn.Services ⧉ and there’s a long-form Mastodon server tutorial ⧉ there too.

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

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

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

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

What kind of rules are typical on servers?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What about the apps? Who owns them?

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

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

I thought apps and social networks were the same thing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But some people do have multiple accounts? Why?

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

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What is Mastodon? What is the Fediverse?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who owns Mastodon? Who owns the Fediverse?

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

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