The free microblogging software Mastodon has given rise to a new entirely decentralized social network which looks very similar to Twitter. Created in the fall of 2016, it still only has a small number of users, but interest is growing fast because of its innovative features.
This free software is accessible via any browser or dedicated mobile app (Android or iOS). Mastodon can therefore be downloaded then installed on a server in order to set up a first channel of communication (also called an instance), which is a point of entry to a more global network called the Fediverse. Anyone can therefore create their own themed instance, bearing in mind that it is possible to communicate with any other internet user using Mastodon as long as they are also connected to the Fediverse.
In user interface terms, the software is similar to Tweetdeck, the well-known Twitter dashboard application. On one page you see a timeline, notifications, search box, and a local newsfeed fitting with the activity of the instance with which the user is registered, or even a global newsfeed, grouping together all the users connected to the Fediverse.
Twitter's tweets of no more than 140 characters are replaced by "toots" which have a maximum of 500 characters each. As with Twitter, you can include emojis or photos/videos. Each post can be configured for confidentiality (public, private or direct message) and content warnings (the body of the post is hidden).
At the time of writing, just over 60,000 users were listed on a few dozen instances.