Last week, Mastodon finally launched its free, official Android app, making it easier than ever to use the open-source Twitter alternative on Android devices. Mastodon’s timing couldn’t be better, as Twitter’s board just approved Elon Musk’s $US44 ($61) billion bid to buy Twitter.
The sudden impending buyout has split the Twitter user base. Some users embrace Musk’s vision of a more “open-source” Twitter algorithm and the promise of features like editing Tweets. Others are rightly concerned Musk’s ownership will undo hard-won moderation policies the billionaire often criticises — and worried about the precedent the acquisition sets. Should one person be able to buy a massive company on a whim just to change its operating policies to suit their preferences?
Whatever your opinion, the fact is many Twitter users are taking the acquisition as a sign that it’s time to try alternative online spaces — like Mastodon.
Mastodon is a lot like Twitter: Users post microblogs to their timeline, follow each other, and share each other’s posts. There are hashtags, you can shoutout someone else with an “@,” and view recent or trending posts. The new Android Mastodon app even looks remarkably similar to the Twitter app. However, rather than one big, global user base tweeting at each other, Mastodon is a decentralized platform with numerous smaller communities, sort of like subreddits or public Discord servers. Each one is its own self-contained “mini Twitter” where users log in and connect over similar interests. Some communities are regional, while others are based on specific topics like tech, gaming, art, and more.
The smaller community focus makes it easier to curate your Mastodon experience — but note each community has its own guidelines and rules you’ll need to follow. You should also expect a much quieter experience on Mastodon than Twitter. While Mastodon says it has nearly 4.5 million users, you’ll only see messages from the users within the community you’re logged into at the time. That could make it easier to have meaningful conversations and find relevant content, but you’re not going to cultivate a massive audience, and some groups may be inactive.
You can read more about Mastodon and how to use it in our beginner’s guide to Mastodon, or download the new Android app from the Google Play Store and dive right in. Mastodon is also available on iOS, web browsers, or as a progressive web app on desktop.