Twitter is in turmoil, with new CEO Elon Musk’s plan to charge $8 / £8 / AU$9 for blue ticks causing an exodus of users in search of the best Twitter alternatives.
The Mastodon has seen a rise in new users, for example, with many of the unhappy Twitterati deciding that it represents the closest fit in terms of form and function. But while there are similarities, there are also differences – as I discovered after spending the past week on this.
If you haven’t tried Mastodon yet, think of it like Twitter, but segregated into different communities, called servers, that you can participate in. However, you can still follow your friends even if they are on a different server in your timeline. This sounds simple enough, but in reality it’s a little more complicated.
Eugen Rocheko (opens in new tab)creator and developer of Mastodon, has already surprised himself with over a million new users joining the service in the last week, but if he wants to continue growing user numbers at this level, he needs to simplify the way one joins a server.
Signing up is currently a headache
I’ve been a mastodon user (opens in new tab) since 2017, but I’ve been using it more in the last month, as its simplicity in posting and reading content is certainly welcome, and being able to organize your timeline according to your interests, without trolls or irrelevant ads popping up, is certainly refreshing.
However, the only glaring issue I’ve encountered so far is that when you’re creating a new account, you’re overwhelmed with sometimes somewhat confusing choices, like a screen asking you to join different servers. If you already have an account, you need to find the server you created your account on, and finding new users is particularly difficult, as it is difficult to list available servers.
It’s a confusing subject – and it makes a bad first impression if you’re a casual user who just wants to try out the platform. Some people might feel confused about what a ‘server’ really means in this case.
I also only managed to access via the web – Mastodon’s android and iOS apps (opens in new tab), released in 2021, both refuse to recognize my correct credentials. To be fair, this could be due to the amount of new and existing users trying to do the same right now, but it’s still frustrating.
Whatever the case, we hope Rochko is looking into a solution to this, as well as considering apps for macOS and Windows in the future.
However, this is much early days for the platform – Facebook, Twitter and even MySpace all had growing pains in the beginning, and it was thanks to its users that these issues were resolved.
What I’ve seen so far is certainly encouraging, and it’s a foundation that could be the start of something special for people looking to leave Twitter.
However, at the moment it is simply too complicated at the application stage. If Rochko doesn’t redesign the integration process soon, Mastodon could be too big a leap for the casual user.