Mastodon is a free open-source application connected to many independent servers. Each server pays its own fees, allowing for a largely ad-free experience.
Mastodon is a social media application available for iPhone and Android, bringing a new experience through a “decentralized” social network. While that certainly sounds intriguing, there are already several other established social networks, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok, each with a massive user base. However, all of these are somewhat burdened with advertising, spam, and other annoyances.
In the early days of the internet, forums were places where people went to discuss various topics and each had their own rules and systems in place. It was like a collection of independent cafes, each with a unique vibe. Launching Facebook as a platform that connected everyone was a refreshingly timely move, resulting in massive growth in just a few years. Along the way, a few others have succeeded while many have failed, lacking a sufficient growth rate to support the high cost of starting a new network.
A different way to pay bills is part of what makes Mastodon unique. Its free and open source software can be used by any developer to create their own application. There are official Mastodon apps for iOS and Android as well as a progressive web app that allows access with a desktop browser. This makes it a truly cross-platform social networking service that works on Windows, Mac, Linux, and mobile devices. Another unique aspect of Mastodon is that it is decentralized, which means that there is no single entity hosting the servers handling the messages behind the scenes. While Zuckerberg controls Facebook and Musk buys Twitter, Mastodon is made up of several independent companies ‘Bodies,’ or servers, each with their own rules. For example, some are invite-only, others allow adult content, and multiple languages are supported. Most servers disallow ads, but ads are allowed on some. Each has the ability to connect to other servers and share messages with the wider network, although there are also standalone private servers.
How does Mastodon make money?
Advertising and subscription fees have become so entrenched in global consciousness that it’s easy to get suspicious when an app or service is labeled as free. Mastodon is largely ad-free and there are no subscription fees for users. That said, there are still operating expenses. Ongoing development costs should be covered unless the developers donate their time. Storing text, photos and videos for millions of users can be expensive, and internet connection charges for transferring terabytes of data can quickly add up.
This is where a decentralized system comes in. Each server bears its own costs. In many cases, the money needed to run a server is crowd-funded by its members. Mastodonas a decentralized social network, cannot go bankrupt, cannot be sold, and cannot be blocked by governments due to its distributed nature, and that is part of what makes it so unique.
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Source: App Store, Play Store, Mastodon
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