Here's why Indians are joining open-source social network Mastodon in large numbers
There's a new social network in town. And, it is creating ripples.
Mastodon is a "free and open-source project" that is Indian cyberspace's latest obsession. The network, named after an extinct elephant-like mammal (reflected in its logo), was launched almost two years ago.
Developed by a German coder, Mastodon positions itself as a “decentralised alternative to commercial platforms”. This means that no single entity (server or company) owns the data on the site.
Mastodon allows users to post text, images, videos, and links, and also follow other people. Everything you post on the platform is "community-owned and ad-free", it claims.
Because of its inherent similarities with Twitter, the platform is currently being touted as an alternative to the micro-blogging platform.
Late-last year, Wired magazine wrote of Mastodon, "It is like Twitter, but without all the bad people."
These bad actors include bots, trolls, white supremacists, and all other cyber bullies.
Mastodon is clean and clutter-free, and the social network has gained immense popularity in the country over the past 24-36 hours. Local search interest has spiked significantly November 6 onward, according to Google Trends.
Twitter India's recent suspension of Supreme Court lawyer Sanjay Hegde's account and the platform's alleged lack of transparency is being seen as an immediate trigger.
Hashtag campaigns and boycotts from desi Twitter users for the reinstatement of Hegde's account have fallen on deaf ears.
Hence, users are taking to Mastodon, which they find "happier".
Mastodon's strong policy of not allowing hate speech or "excessive advertising" (as outlined in its Code of Conduct) and quick action against trolling is drawing users to it.
There are no country-specific numbers available yet, but the platform claims 2.2 million users globally and close to 16.5 billion posts since 2017.
On Mastodon, tweets are 'toots' and retweets are 'boosts'. Each toot can be 500-character long compared to a tweet's 280-character limit.
While several desi users claim to be "switching" to the network, and leaving Twitter "for good", others reckon that Mastodon could be a passing fad, like several other apps and services before. (Sarahah, Prisma, Blue Whale... from recent memory)
But, Twitter's non-action on pressing issues like hate speech, political propaganda and bullying could, in fact, further Mastodon adoption.
The two parties are already engaged in some banter.
So, is Mastodon a real Twitter alternative? Can it be the harbinger of a safer social media environment? Only time will tell.
(Edited by Evelyn Ratnakumar)