It’s not a bug, it’s a mastodon
The implosion of Twitter and the explosion of Mastodon change the entire digital ecosystem and illuminate the clash between two opposing cultures.
To put it briefly: Mastodon is not A social network. Mastodon is not like Twitter. Mastodon does not want to be like Twitter.
Mastodon is the answer to the question: What would Twitter have been like if it had been developed by the free software community?
And that question –and its coded answer– dates back to 2016, that is, 6 years before Elon Musk started the #TwitterHell.
The «management» of Musk caused first a trickle, then a rout, and finally, a stampede of users looking for new digital homes.
It is precisely the massive and sudden arrival on Mastodon of users from Twitter that is producing a big bang culture clash.
The #TwitterImmigrants reach the universe of the #Mastodonians and intend to transfer their culture and digital practices there, which are –exactly– those from which the Federation had intended to distance itself when forming its planets.
This culture shock is expressed, for example, in the proliferation of conversations about Twitter (the #BirdSite), in requests for help (#MastodonHelp), and tutorials (#FediTips) for newcomers. Also in the rejection of the inherited practices of a digital life developed under the umbrella of the commercial internet, dominated by the technological giants (#BigSocial).
As it is a federated network in which each instance (they do not call it a server because a server can host several instances) decides with which others it communicates and which it rejects, it is foreseeable that in Mastodon archipelagos will continue to form and islands will multiply.
Mastodon is not A social network. Mastodon is not like Twitter. Mastodon does not want to be like Twitter.
Going back to the points at the beginning, it should be noted that Mastodon should not necessarily be the natural destination for those who emigrate from Twitter. It need not be. It is not the alternative. It’s not the next phase of Twitter. It’s not the new Twitter.
However, those users who are willing to overcome the obstacle course that joining Mastodon represents and learn its techniques and its culture (unlearning part of the inherited ones) will find themselves in an environment that, to the old internet rockers, brings us the memories of Usenet communities, the beginnings of the Web and, of course, the blogging revolution.
Finally, Mastodon — with its purposeful complexity, designed to be antiviral — is also the main gateway to a universe of platforms based on open protocols that go far beyond microblogging. In the Fediverse there are the open source «versions» of YouTube (#PeerTube), Instagram (#PixelFed), Reddit (#Lemmy), and many other projects that show that the internet can be different from the network in which we have been past the last thirty years.
It is clear that the Fediverse has taken the lead over the Metaverse, but — precisely — a server federation architecture could be the way to manage the enormous computational load that the construction and habitability of the next virtual world will require.
Jose Luis Orihuela is a professor, speaker and author, born in Argentina and living in Spain. He is a faculty member of the School of Communication, University of Navarra (Pamplona). Visiting scholar and speaker in 26 countries. Writer and blogger focused on the impact of the internet on media, communication and culture. His latest books are: Manual breve de Mastodon (2023), Culturas digitales (2021), Los medios después de internet (2015), Mundo Twitter (2011), 80 claves sobre el futuro del periodismo (2011) and La revolución de los blogs (2006). Publishing in eCuaderno since 2002 (ecuaderno.com), in Twitter since 2007 (@jlori) and in Mastodon since 2022 (mastodon.social/@jlori).