Starting on Mastodon or Pixelfed or in the Fediverse: the no-bullshit intro guide!

Imagining the Fediverse as a set of interconnected floating islands

If anyone here is watching the Twitter debacle and heard of alternatives like Mastodon, Pixelfed, or Peertube but don't know where to start or even what the hell is a Fediverse, you're at the right place!

Here's a super short, no-bullshit guide!

First: what are those names?

  • Mastodon → Twitter-like
  • Pixelfed → Instagram-like
  • Peertube → Youtube-like

What's the Fediverse?

It's a merge of Federated + Universe. It means that all these services (and many more) are interconnected and can talk to each others. Just like how your emails on Gmail can reach people on Yahoo or Outlook. Imagine being able to follow an Instagram account from your Twitter feed. Or following a Youtube channel on Instagram. And being able to Like or Reply without having to create an account on each service. That's what the Fediverse is.

What else is cool about it??

  • No ads
  • No algorithm trying to exploit your attention for commercial gain
  • Nobody is trying to sell your data
  • Most people are super chill and relaxed and just there to have nice conversation

Cool! How do I get started?

Now, what make these services great also make it a bit tricky to create your account. You need to pick a home server first, just like you would pick Gmail, iCloud, Outlook or Yahoo for your email provider. The difference is that 99,9% of servers are owned and maintained by volunteers or non-profit groups. Enjoy the chill non-commercial vibe! ☺️

Ok so how to pick a good server? (Don't worry too much: you'll be able to migrate later if you change your mind)

  1. What kind of experience (UI) do you want?
    • Something that feels like Twitter? Go with Mastodon.
    • Something like Instagram? Go with Pixelfed.
    • See the list above to know which platform to pick.
    • If you're unsure, start with Mastodon, it's probably the most polished experience and you can always change your mind later.
  2. Registrations open?
    • Some servers don't allow newcomers. Some will require you to answer a few questions first to know about you (and prove you're not a robot or spammer)
  3. Rules and moderation
    • Each server in the Fediverse (often called "instance") is moderated by it's admin (the person who created the server and pays the electricity). The admin has veto power on what's allowed or not on the instance. (though some servers are administrated by co-op or NGO)
    • Make sure you read the rules. Some server allow for nudity or porn, some don't. Some server are very strict about harassment while some are less protective. Some are very flexible, as long as post are correctly identified with content warnings. In the end, it's up to you to decide what you're comfortable or not.
  4. Trust the admin
    • Since the admin is paying the cost of the server and is in charge of constant maintenance, go with someone who look trustworthy. Yes, that's pretty vague, but trust your feelings on that! 😉
    • Ask your friends who are already on Mastodon if their instance are stable or constantly problematic and ask them for an invite!
  5. Number of members
    • Some servers have 500 000 members. Some have just 1 or 2.
    • The more people there are, the slower the website/app will be.
    • More people also mean more content for the admin to moderate. Too many people usually mean that the admin won't have time for moderation.
    • I would recommend going for an instance of 20 to 5 000 people.
  6. Language and Topics of interest
    • Some servers are based on countries or regions.
    • At the very least, pick one that you speak the language!
    • Some have a specific topic of interest, like art, potery, video games, etc.
    • This is the lest important criteria, but if you have a choice, go with something you like.

Sounds complicated, but really, don't overthink it. Mastodon makes it easy to migrate your account if you want to move to a different server later, while still keeping all your followers.

Ok but how to I find those servers??

Super easy! People made websites just for that!

Option 1) Go to instances.social and answer a few questions. They will provide a list of servers that match your criteria. By default, it won't tell you if the server allows new registrations, but you can click on Advanced mode below the filters to have a view with more details, including a "registration" column. Visit a few, read the rules, check some posts to see if the vibe looks good, than create your account.

Click on Advanced Mode after your search

Option 2) There's fediverse.observer which allow you to find servers using a world map, letting you find a server in your town or region. First select the platform (Mastodon, Pixelfed, etc). You can also use their list to filter by language and openness, but in my experience the website gets quite slow when doing that.

Option 3) Use one of the websites listed in the Twitter section below.

I have my account, now what?

The first thing you should do is write an introduction post using the hashtag . This will give you a lot of visibility. In your intro post, put hashtags of stuff you like, so people can find you.

How do I find people to follow?

Search for stuff you like by using hashtags like or whatever. You can also visit the Local time-line or the Federated/Global time-line and start following random people who seems interesting.

How do I find my Twitter friends on Mastodon

Multiple websites let you do that. This one is nice, but there's also this one and that one. And some I haven't tried like this one and that one.

They also show you which servers your friends use, which might help to find your own, but remember to check that the rules and moderation looks ok, that the server is not already full of people, and that the administrator looks trustworthy.

What's next?

That's it! Go talk to people!

If you want to learn more, here are some other guides:

Can I share or repost this guide elsewhere?

Totally! Feel free to share, repost, etc. If you copy the text elsewhere, it would be nice to link back to here. (Licence: CC BY-SA)

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