If anyone here is watching the Twitter debacle and heards of alternatives like Mastodon, Pixelfed, or Peertube but doesn’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!
I also translated this guide in French: Guide sans flafla pour débuter sur Mastodon ou le Fediverse sans stresser
First: what are those names?
Mastodon looks like Twitter and let you share short messages, pictures and videos with like minded folks.
Pixelfed looks like Instagram and let you share pictures and videos.
Peertube looks like Youtube and let you publish videos publicly or privately.
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 other. 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
- No big companies 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 makes these services great will also make it a bit tricky to create your account. Since the Fediverse isn’t controlled by a couple of giant companies, you need to pick a home server first. This is similar to picking a phone company or an email provider like Gmail, iCloud or Outlook for. The difference is that nearly all servers are owned and maintained by volunteers or non-profit groups. Sit down and enjoy the chill non-commercial vibe! ☺️
By the way, you’ll probably see the word « instance » instead of server. It basically means the same thing. (It means there are multiple instances (« copies ») of the same software on multiple servers, as oppose to only one unique Facebook.)
How to pick a good server?
Ok so how to pick a good server? Don’t worry too much: all servers can talk to each others and you’ll be able to talk with your friends even if they are on other server. Worst case, you’ll be able to migrate later if necessary.
Otherwise, here’s some guidance:
- What kind of experience (UI) do you want?
- Something that feels like Twitter? Go with Mastodon.
- Something like Instagram? Go with Pixelfed.
- There’s also Lemmy or Kbin that are similar to Reddit and Calckey and Foundkey that are like Facebook or Tumblr. But those are (currently) in beta and are for users who like more features at the cost of added complexity.
- 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)
- Rules and moderation
- Each server in the Fediverse (often called « instance ») is moderated by its admin (the person who created the server and pays the electricity). The admin has final say on what’s allowed or not on the server. (though some servers are administrated in a democratic way by co-op or NGO)
- Make sure you read the rules. Some servers allow for nudity or porn, some don’t. Some servers are very strict about harassment while some are less protective. Some are very flexible as long as posts are correctly identified with content warnings. Some only accept messages in specific languages. In the end, it’s up to you to decide what you’re comfortable or not.
- Trust the admin
- Since the admin is paying the cost of the server and is in charge of constant maintenance, go with someone who looks reliable and proactive. Yes, that’s pretty vague, but trust your feelings on that! 😉
- Ask your friends who are already on Mastodon if their instance is stable or constantly problematic and ask them for an invite!
- 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 means that the admin won’t have time for moderation.
- I would recommend going for an instance of 20 to 5 000 people.
- Language and Topics of interest
- Some servers are based on countries or regions.
- Some have a specific topic of interest, like art, pottery, video games, etc.
- This is the least 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 https://joinmastodon.org/servers and take a look at the curated list of servers. You can search by language, region and topic of interest.
Option 2) 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, then create your account.
Option 3) There’s fediverse.observer which allows 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 4) 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 #introduction. This will give you a lot of visibility. In your intro post, put hashtags of stuff you like, so people can find you. For example, you could write: I’m a #parent and I love #gardening and #comedyShows
How do I find people to follow?
At first, your feed will be empty so you need to follow people.
- Search for stuff you like by using hashtags like #art #cats #computers #biology or whatever.
- Most server have a Profile Directory (« Browse Profile ») to find people to follow. You can opt-in to be added in that Directory in your profile settings.
- You can also visit the Local time-line or the Federated/Global time-line and start following random people who seem interesting.
How do I find my Twitter friends on Mastodon?
They also show you which servers your friends use, which might help to find your own.
That’s it! Go talk to people!
If you want to learn more, here are some other guides:
If you have questions, ask me in the comments below.
What about mobile apps?
Since the Fediverse isn’t controlled by one company, there isn’t a single app; there are multiple one.
My recommandation is that if you want a very easy experience, start with the official Mastodon mobile app, even though it’s a bit limited. Another option is to simply use your phone’s browser.
For more app suggestions, see: https://uk.pcmag.com/social-media/146910/the-best-mastodon-apps-for-2023
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. (This text is licenced: CC BY-SA)