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?
Create the poll via the web interface as described above, but don’t post it yet
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?
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).
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.
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.
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 tab in Explore or Search. It is based on how many people on that server follow the account and boost its posts, and server admins can optionally add suggestions manually too.
If you don’t want your account suggested to others:
log in through your server’s website
Go to Edit Profile > Suggest account to others
Make sure the box is unticked and click Save changes. (If you want your account suggested, tick the box and save instead.)
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.
Go to ⚙️ Preferences > Filters (On the mobile website you have to click ⚙️ and then ☰ and then Filters, on the computer desktop website the Filters link will be on the left side of the Preferences page.)
Click the Add new filter button
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.
Content Warnings (CWs) are optional Fediverse features which hide the content of a post behind a warning message. The post can be revealed by clicking on the warning.
Content warnings are for 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.
You can add a content warning while writing a post by clicking on “CW” or “warning” or ⚠️ or other similar icons at the bottom of the editing window. Remember to write a warning that gives people a clear idea of what to expect within the post itself, without them having to actually open it. Try to very briefly say why they might not want to open it right that minute.
What if I want to open lots of CWs at once?
On Mastodon, 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 the thread.
If you don’t want to see any CWs at all, you can make Mastodon open all CW posts by default by going to Preferences > Always expand posts marked with content warnings, tick the box and click Save changes.
Is it compulsory to use CWs?
No one is forced to use CWs, but it is considered polite and considerate to do so. Imagine going into a restaurant and shouting loudly at others about your political opinions, you could do it but others may not appreciate it. In extreme cases you might be asked to leave.
CWs are also an accessibility feature, as they allow people 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 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 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.
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:
Log in through your server’s website
Go to Preferences > Other > Opt out of search engine indexing
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.
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.
Click on your profile image to go to your profile page
Click on Edit profile
Click on the Privacy and reach tab
UN-tick the box marked Automatically accept new followers
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.
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!
To block or mute someone on Mastodon:
Either click ⋯ on one of their posts, or go to their profile and click the ⋯ or︙ button at the top
Select Mute, Block or Block domain, depending on what you want
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. 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.
Domain blocks are the most extreme option, and they will block not only that account but all accounts using the same server, and remove any follows from that server. You probably don’t need to do this. The only times this is advisable is if a server is full of nasty people and the server administrator is refusing to do anything about it, or if the server is actually owned by the person you want to block.
How do I keep track of who I’ve muted and blocked?
To view lists of all of your blocks and mutes:
Log in through your server’s website
Go to your profile page and click ︙
Select Muted Users, Blocked Users or Blocked Domains
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 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.
Open your Mastodon app or log in through your server’s website
Go to the profile of the person whose boosts you want to hide
Click on the ︙or ⋯ button at the top and select Hide boosts from… (or Hide reblogs on some apps)
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?
Log onto your server’s website
Click ⚙️ Preferences
Click Notifications (on the mobile website click ☰ and then Notifications)
Tick the box marked “Block direct messages from people you don’t follow”
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.
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.
You can delete your Mastodon account at any time. There’s no cool-off period, the deletion happens as soon as you confirm it.
Log in through your server’s website
Go to Preferences > Account > Delete account
Click Proceed here and follow the instructions. It will ask you for your password to confirm the deletion.
⚠️ After you confirm deletion, it will delete your account straight away and 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.
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.
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.
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 on some apps) shows all the public posts made by all the people on your server. On larger servers this can be a so-called firehose that 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.
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 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:
Log in through your server’s website
Go to ⚙️ Preferences
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.
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.
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.
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.
Choose the settings you want for your invitation links and then click Generate.
Some servers close themselves to new sign-ups if they get too full, but 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.
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.
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.
On the official apps, you can see your past favourites and bookmarks on apps by clicking on your profile picture to go to your profile page, then click on the “Favourites” (Star) or “Bookmarks” (Bookmark) icons.
On your server’s website, you can see your past favourites and bookmarks by clicking on the “Favourites” or “Bookmarks” icons at the right side of the screen.
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.
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.
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:
Go to one of your posts that you want to edit
Click the ⋯ icon at the bottom of the post
Make the changes you want
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.
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.
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.
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 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 defaults. Ask your server admin if you have problems with uploads. Note that if your server is unusually busy (for example if there are unprecedented numbers of new users signing up all at once) then file uploads may slow down or stop for a while.
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 file itself on the official apps. For video clips, remember to describe both the audio and video, so that both deaf and blind people are able to find out what’s going on.
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 visibility of a post on Mastodon depends on its visibility setting. These settings decide which other accounts have permission to see your post.
On Mastodon there are four types of post visibility. You can set the visibility of a post by clicking the icon that represents it in the row below the message editing window. It’s usually a 🌐, 🔒, 👥 or @ icon. You can set the default visibility by logging in through the website and going to Preferences > Other > Posting privacy, then set what you want as default in the menu and click Save changes.
Some more details about each setting:
Public – Anyone can see it, even people who aren’t on the Fediverse, 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 🌐.
Followers-only – Only your followers can see these, normally indicated by a lock 🔒 or people 👥 icon. If you use this setting, it’s a good idea to switch on follower requests, otherwise anyone could follow you to see your followers-only posts. You can do this by logging in on your server’s website, going to Edit profile > Require follow requests, tick the box and click Save changes.
Mentioned – Only people you @ within the message can see this kind of post, it’s normally indicated by an @ symbol. This is the Mastodon equivalent of DMs. IMPORTANT: Only mention people if you want them to see the message. If you want to talk about an account without them seeing the message, don’t @ them.
Sending DMs in Mastodon
You can send DMs by setting a post’s visibility to Mentioned, then @ the people you want to receive the DM. If you log in through the website, there’s a Direct messages option in the menu which lets you see all your mentioned posts in an inbox.
If you @ someone in a DM, they will be able to see it
⚠️ In all modes including DMs, if you @ someone in a post, they will see that post! Be really careful who you @ in a post because it’s the same thing as sending them a message.
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 websites and the third party apps, but not on the official apps. For some weird reason the developers of the official Mastodon apps decided to leave it out. If you’re comfortable using Github, you can let the developers know you want it added on the iOS version ⧉ and the Android version ⧉.
Setting your default post visibility
You can set which visibility is your default by logging in on your server’s website and going to Preferences > Other > Posting Privacy, choose the default you want and click Save changes. This is only a default, you can still override it for individual posts by clicking the visibility icon.
Is it possible to edit post visibility?
You cannot edit the visibility of a post after you’ve published it, so make sure you choose the correct visibility before posting! 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
When do Unlisted posts appear in the Home timeline?
Unlisted has a slightly complicated behaviour pattern in the Home timeline, and this isn’t officially documented for some reason. Here’s how it works:
Unlisted posts and replies from people you follow WILL appear in your Home timeline, unless they are a reply to someone you don’t follow. If they’re a reply to someone you don’t follow, they WILL NOT appear in your Home timeline.
Or if you want a complete list:
Unlisted posts (not replies) from people you follow WILL appear in your Home timeline
Unlisted posts and replies boosted by people you follow WILL appear in your Home timeline
Unlisted replies between two people you follow WILL appear in your Home timeline. This also includes a person you follow replying to themselves, for example if they are posting a thread.
Unlisted replies between a person you follow and another person you don’t follow WILL NOT appear in your Home timeline
What about visibility in searches? How do I set the searchability of posts?
By default, posts can only be searched for if they are public and have a hashtag in them.
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.
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.
The interface language is the language used on menus, buttons, labels, forms etc when you are logged in. To choose your Mastodon interface language:
Log in through your server’s website
Go to Preferences > Interface language, pick the language you want and click Save changes
Filtering timelines by language
You can filter Mastodon timelines by language:
Log in through your server’s website
Go to Preferences > Other > Filter languages
Tick the boxes for languages you want to see and click Save changes
To switch the language filter off (so that you see all languages), make sure all the boxes are UN-ticked and click Save changes
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.
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:
Log in through your server’s website
Go to Preferences > Other > Posting language
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:
Write the post but don’t publish it yet
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.
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.
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.
Go to the profile of the person you want to be notified about
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.
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.
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.
Also, the following process is so seamless that you probably won’t even notice you are following accounts outside Mastodon! They will look just like any other account on your timeline, and you will appear the same way to them. Fediverse servers always display content in their own style, regardless of the style used on the server the content came from.
If you’re using Masto through the website, you can see what an account really looks like by going to the account’s profile page, clicking ︙ and then “Show original page”. This will open the account’s public profile page on its home server.
Following a non-Mastodon Fediverse account is easy, it’s exactly the same process as following a Mastodon account: if you can already see their profile just click Follow, or if you have their account address paste it into the search box and it will display their profile.
Usually it means the account has follow requests switched on, so they have to manually approve all follows. You can tell if an account has this switched on because it will have a padlock next to their name on their profile page.
Alternatively, it may be that your server is just really, really busy and has put your follow in a queue to deal with it later. If this is the case, just leave it pending and the follow will happen eventually.
A third possibility is there’s a bug somewhere, as a broken follow sometimes triggers the “Pending” message even when there’s no follow request or busy server.
Don’t assume someone is rejecting your follow just because it says “pending”. Leave it pending for a while to give it time to work through any possible queues. If it still says pending after a few days, contact the person directly and ask them if they are aware this is happening.
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.)
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.
When you follow an account, that account will often share interesting posts from others, and pretty soon you’ll be following some of 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.
For technical reasons, when you currently look at a follow or follower list it only shows followers from your server. However, there will also be a link to the profile’s original page where you can browse the complete lists.
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 ⧉.
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 🙂)
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.
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.
You can search for posts 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 post more visible in search results? Do I still need to use hashtags?
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 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 to the bottom of this page to see them all.
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.
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. You can use several of these within the same search, just combine them with the keywords you want to search for:
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)
is:sensitive – Only shows posts marked as sensitive
from:user – Only shows posts by that particular user
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
Can I use negative operators to exclude certain kinds of posts?
Yes. Just add a – (hyphen or minus sign) before the term, for example to exclude posts with polls from results you would include the operator -has:poll
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.
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.
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:
Click on your profile image to go to your profile page
Click Edit profile, then go to the Extra Fields section of the page
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.
Click Save changes
To edit Extra Fields through the official apps:
Click on your profile image to go to your profile page
Click Edit Profile or Edit Info
Scroll down to the About section and click on the + button or Add Row to add a field
You can edit an existing field by tapping on its title or contents to edit them
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.
What if I can’t fit everything I want on my 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Go to your server’s website
Click the Sign in button
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?
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.)
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:
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.
Make sure you are typing the password correctly. Passwords are case sensitive, so you need to make sure each letter’s case is correct.
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,
If you’re still having trouble logging in on Mastodon, go to your server’s website and click on the Learn more link (you don’t need to log in to do this). This link will take you to the server’s info page which always includes a public email address for that server’s admin. You can email them for help with getting your password changed.
By the way, if you have a computer 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.
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.
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.
What about safety? How safe are third party apps compared to official apps?
The third party apps listed on this page are as safe as the official apps.
Obviously it’s a bad idea to ever install random apps from sources you don’t trust, but the apps listed on this page are all well-established and are also 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.
The experience of following an account is absolutely identical, whether you’re on the same server or not. You don’t need to be on the same server as people you follow.
Larger servers usually have a much lower staff-to-member ratio, which means the moderation will be worse than on a smaller server. Also, because there are fewer staff per member, if something breaks it will be a lot harder to get hold of anyone who can fix it.
Smaller servers usually have a friendlier community atmosphere on their Local timelines, while the Local timeline on large servers is an unreadable firehose.
Large servers are much easier for nasty billionaires to buy out, which puts the network as a whole at risk. By staying on medium and small servers, you are helping to protect the network from anyone taking it over.
Mastodon.social is not anything special
A lot of the media still thinks that the “default” server is mastodon.social, but this just isn’t true. Mastodon.social became a very big server mainly because it was the first Mastodon server, but it has no advantages or privileges over any other server. It would be like expecting the first station on a rail network to be somehow better than the other stations.
If you want your server to be busier
If a server is very new, it perhaps can’t see the rest of the Fediverse yet, and this may mean the server seems very quiet and empty. As more people sign up on your server, and as your server’s members follow accounts from other servers, it will gradually start noticing more of the Fediverse and start to feel busier.
However, if you want to speed up this process of discovery, there are ways of doing this:
Ask your server admin if they would consider using relay servers. This will quickly give a server a much wider view of the Fediverse. If they’re nervous about the demand on resources, point out the option for relays based on particular hashtags, or perhaps suggest relays as a temporary discovery measure while people on the server build up their follow lists.
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.
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.)
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.
Yes, there are lots of places you can get more help:
If you prefer physical books, there’s “Mastodon For Dummies” by Chris Minnick and Mike McCallister (ISBN: 978-1-394-19336-3), available from bookshops and libraries. It’s also available as an e-book from services like Kobo or Kindle, and an audiobook from all major audiobook platforms.
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.
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. 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 bringing to the modern social media world.
If a server does something awful like encouraging spam or allowing abuse or whatever, other servers can block it. The worse a server behaves, the more other servers will block it, and the very worst-behaved servers will find themselves completely isolated.
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 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.
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.
The owner of a server sets the rules for that server. Some servers may have joint ownership through a co-operative, and some servers may consult their members for what the rules should be, but usually there is a single owner who simply decides what is appropriate.
If you go to a server’s website and click the “Learn more” link, you will be taken to that server’s info page which includes the server’s rules. It’s worth reading these before joining a server. They’re usually relatively short and written in clear plain language, so it’s not a big task.
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. They are not all the same and it’s best to know the kind of place you are joining.
No one can buy the Fediverse or Mastodon because there is no single thing that could be bought. The Fedi is made up of thousands of independently owned and run servers, which makes it extremely difficult or impossible for anyone to buy the network.
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.
If you make an ordinary phone call, 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. 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.
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, which means even if you’re not on the same type of server, you can still interact as though you were.
How can totally different types of server communicate seamlessly?
This seamless interaction on the Fediverse works between servers of both the same type and different types. Each server type presents interactions as if they happened on that server, so from the user’s point of view they don’t see anything unusual about posts from other types of server.
For example, someone on a Mastodon server (which is Twitter-like) can follow an account on a PeerTube server (which is YouTube-like). When the account on a PeerTube server publishes a video, the person following that account from a Mastodon server will see the video appear in their timeline as if it was just a normal a Mastodon post with a video attached. If the person on the Mastodon server replies to the video post, the person on the PeerTube server will see that reply appear as a comment below their video, as if it was someone on their own PeerTube server commenting.
The process is so seamless, most people will probably never notice they are interacting with other servers and other types of server!