Mastodon, an alternative to Twitter that intends to remain so

Mastodon, an alternative to Twitter that intends to remain so

Twitter competitor Mastodon has rejected more than five venture capital investment offers from Silicon Valley in recent months after its founder pledged to preserve the booming social network’s nonprofit status. .

The microblogging site, created in 2016 by German developer Eugen Rochko, saw its user numbers explode after Elon Musk took over Twitter for $44 billion in October 2022, as concern grew. as for the management of the social network by the American billionaire.

Eugen Rochko revealed to FinancialTimes have received proposals from at least five investors in the United States wishing to invest “hundreds of thousands of dollars” to support the rapid growth of its platform.

But its non-profit status is “non-negotiable”, specifies Eugen Rochko, before adding that the independence and modes of moderation of its platform are essential assets. Eugen Rochko summarizes:

“Mastodon won’t turn into whatever you hate on Twitter. The fact that it could be bought by a controversial billionaire, the fact that it could be closed or go bankrupt, etc. It’s all the difference of paradigms [entre les plateformes].”

In December, Twitter temporarily suspended the accounts of Mastodon and several journalists who had published information about Elon Musk’s private jet flights. Twitter also raised a possible ban on links to competing social media platforms, including Mastodon, before backtracking.

2.5 million active users

Eugen Rochko then replied on his blog that it was the “scathing reminder that centralized platforms can arbitrarily impose unfair limits on what can or cannot be said”. Before adding that the number of monthly active users on Mastodon fell from 300,000 to 2.5 million between October and November [2022].

Mastodon’s daily downloads jumped from 6,000 on Oct. 27, the day Elon Musk took over Twitter, to a peak of 243,000 on Nov. 18, according to data from analytics firm Sensor Tower. Other smaller rival platforms [que Twitter]like Tumblr, have also seen a resurgence in popularity.

Federation of decentralized servers

If Mastodon displays similarities with Twitter, it differs from it by its many decentralized servers [ou instances], operating under independent moderation rules. Users join a server, but can communicate with communities registered on other instances thanks to this so-called “federated” network [appelé en français le “fédiverse”].

Eugen Rochko is Mastodon’s sole shareholder and paid himself a monthly fee of 2,400 euros last year, according to his 2021 annual report – a figure he says has since increased by 500 euros.

The platform should continue to be funded by donations. She has more than [9 400] donors on the crowdfunding site Patreon, thanks to which she receives more than [31 300 euros] per month. For comparison, between June and December 2021, the network had recorded just over 55,000 euros in revenue.

Waves of registrations

According to Sensor Tower, the first wave of signups slowed to about 6,000 daily downloads on Dec. 9, but rebounded to 64,000 daily downloads after Dec. 18, when Elon Musk restricted links on Twitter pointing to other social networks.

new users [de Mastodon] face some difficulties: the differences in moderation between servers are sometimes confusing and some servers have struggled to cope with the influx of traffic. According to Josh Cowls, researcher at the Oxford Internet Institute [de l’université d’Oxford]Mastodon could become a network “satellite” from Twitter,”seeing its activity increase every time Twitter is down or a post from Elon Musk causes an uproar”.

The ambition displayed by Eugen Rochko is that in the long term Mastodon replaces Twitter and other commercial social networks. “The road will be long, but we have never been in such a good position.”