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2020-05-05

Stop joining mastodon.social

Do you even understand federation?

No, really. Do you actually understand why the Mastodon network exists, and what it stands for, or are you just LARPing? If you’re going to just cross-post from Twitter, why are you even on Mastodon?

Okay, so Mastodon is a “federated network”. What does that mean? You have a bunch of instances, each having their own userbase, and each instance federates with other instances, forming a distributed network. Got that? Cool. Now let’s get to the problem with mastodon.social.

mastodon.social is the instance run by the lead developer. Why does everybody flock to it? I’m really not sure, but if I were to hazard a guess, I’d say it’s because people don’t really understand federation. “Oh, big instance? I should probably join that.” Herd mentality? I dunno.

And what happens when every damn user joins just one instance? It becomes more Twitter, that’s what. The federation is gone. Nearly all activity is generated from just one instance. Here are some numbers:

  • Total number of users on Mastodon: ~2.2 million.
  • Number of users on mastodon.social: 529923

Surprisingly, there’s an instance even bigger than mastodon.social—pawoo.net. I have no idea why it’s so big and it’s primarily Japanese. Its user count is over 620k. So mastodon.social and pawoo.net put together form over 1 million users, that’s more than 50% of the entire Mastodon populace. That’s nuts.1

And you’re only enabling this centralization by joining mastodon.social! Really, what even is there on mastodon.social? Have you even seen its local timeline? Probably not. Join an instance with more flavor. Are you into, say, the BSDs? Join bsd.network. Free software? fosstodon.org. Or host your own for yourself and your friends.

If you really do care about decentralization and freedom, and aren’t just memeing to look cool on Twitter, then move your account to another instance.2


  1. https://rosenzweig.io/blog/the-federation-fallacy.html 

  2. Go to /settings/migration from your instance’s web page. 

Questions or comments? Send an email to ~icyphox/x@lists.sr.ht—my public inbox.


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