Mastodon is free and open-source software (FOOS) that anyone can use. Mastodon is a system of federated (linked) microblogging websites. Eugen Rochko wrote the software. He was born in Russia and now lives in Germany.
Here is the historical timeline.
Eugen Rochko started working on Mastodon as a side project while in school studying for his computer science degree from a German University.
A few months after graduating, 24-year-old Rochko released his first version, 0.1.0 of Mastodon, on Oct. 6, 2016. The first instance of the software runs on the server at the website Mastodon.social. It began with 45 users. (Note: The original server maxed out at 200,000 users, but new Mastodon users can join any of the many other interlinked servers).
Mastodon starts to get media attention and is described by some as a “Twitter Killer.”
In April 2017, the administrator, nullkal, created the first Japanese server, mstdn.jp, in his apartment. The news went viral, and the server had tens of thousands of new accounts within a few days.
In May 2018, after new laws were passed in the US, Assembly Four founded switter.at, a Mastodon server for sex workers. It grew quickly to over 400,000 accounts. (Note: The site shut down on Mar. 14, 2022, due to legal pressures.)
Sept. 5, 2018, Mastodon version 2.5 was released. It is the 100th version of the software.
On Oct. 6, 2018, Mastodon celebrated its second anniversary. The network had grown to 1,627,557 registered users, with Mastodon instances running on 3,460 independently-administrated servers.
Mastodon servers are part of the federated network and connect to other servers using ActivityPub, a decentralized social media networking protocol.
Media coverage includes:
- The New York Times
- The Outline
- The Verge
- The Washington Post
Apr. 10, 2019, Mastodon 2.8 released.
Rochko formed Mastodon gGmbH as a German nonprofit organization. The first annual report for Mastondon says he was still living with his parents, working 14 hours per day, and earning about 2,400 Euros per month from Patreon supporters.
Mar. 29, 2021, Mastodon for Android beta version released.
Nov. 3, 2021, Mastodon iOS, iPad beta version released.
Patreon support increased to around $33,000 per month from over 9,000 Patreon supporters. The support pays for six software developers.
Mar. 30, 2022, Mastodon 3.5 released.
Apr. 21, 2022, official iOS and Android apps were released.
The latest stable Mastodon 4.0.2 release was in November 2022.
On Dec. 20, 2022, Twitter suspended the join Mastodon account and blocked anyone on Twitter from sharing Mastodon links. Musk said he wanted to promote free speech by buying Twitter.
Rochko said, “This is a stark reminder that centralized platforms can impose arbitrary and unfair limits on what you can and can’t say. The future of social media doesn’t have to belong to a billionaire; it can be in the hands of its users.”
Mastodon has approximately 2.5 million users compared to 300 million on Twitter. Mastodon is an interesting new way to develop a social media platform. The Mastodon interface is not as user-friendly as it could be. The posts are only organized by a timeline, so there is no way to gain much viral traction. It can be quite good for chatting with a close-knit group of friends and family if you set up a server.
There is a long way to go for Mastodon to be anywhere close to a Twitter Killer. Maybe some of the 3,600+ fired Twitter employees can now join the Mastodon open-source software programming effort.