If you are searching for something on Mastodon and the Fediverse, you will get different search results depending on which server your account is on. This is because each server sees a slightly different view of the Fediverse.
In general, your server can see the following content:
- All accounts on your server
- All posts made by accounts on your server
- All posts shared by at least one account on your server
- All accounts that at have at least one follower on your server
- All posts made by accounts that have at least one follower on your server
- All posts shared by an account that has at least one follower on your server
- All posts from groups that have at least one follower on your server
- All posts that have been searched for by their original page’s web address
- All accounts that have been searched for by their account address
- All posts pushed to your server by a relay server (if your server uses relays)
How do I make my server notice more posts and accounts?
If a post isn’t visible from your server but you know it exists, you can manually force your server to notice it by copying and pasting the post’s web address from its original page on its home server into the search box on your server. This will make the post appear within your server so you can interact with it and search for it just like any other post.
If you want your server to notice a lot more posts and accounts, ask your server admin if they have considered using a relay service. Modern relay services can be for specific topics, and scripts can be used to backfill missing posts from profiles and conversations.
Why doesn’t my server just notice all posts and accounts from all servers?
Fediverse servers are selective about what they see, because keeping a complete copy of all posts from all other servers regardless of whether they’re needed would be incredibly expensive and wasteful.
The point of Mastodon and the Fediverse is to create a social network where anyone can make their own server, so that the network remains in the ownership of the people and communities that use it. This is possible partly because of the structure, but also partly because the running costs of servers is comparatively low. Fediverse server prices at hosting companies start from about US$8 a month, inculding full tech support that covers all the technical stuff.
If servers had to notice all content from all other servers, they would become incredibly expensive to run, and only megacorporations like Google or Meta/Facebook would have enough money to do so.
Can a server stop noticing posts and accounts?
Yes, if the server’s admin decides to defederate from another server. When a server defederates from another server, it can no longer see posts or accounts from the defederated server.
Alternatively, a server admin may instead decide to suspend a specific account on another server, which will make that account and its posts no longer visible on the admin’s server.
Are there any exceptions to these rules?
If you’re a member of a PeerTube server, it works very differently to most Fediverse servers. When a PeerTube server notices a channel or account from another PeerTube server, it also notices all the videos ever published by that channel or account. This is known as backfilling and at the moment it only happens fully on PeerTube, but there are plans for it to happen more widely.