Mastodon is a distributed and federated social network, with microblogging features similar to Twitter but administered as a decentralized federation of independently operated servers running free software. Each user is a member of a specific Mastodon server, known as an “instance” of the software, but can connect and communicate with users on other instances as well. Users post short messages called “toots” for others to see, subject to the adjustable privacy settings of the user and their particular instance. The Mastodon mascot is a brown or grey Proboscidean sometimes depicted using a tablet or smartphone.

The service seeks to distinguish itself from Twitter through its orientation towards independently operated small communities and hence a community-based, rather than top-down, moderation. Like Twitter, Mastodon supports direct, private messages between users, but unlike “tweets” posted on Twitter, Mastodon’s “toots” can be either: private to the user, private to the user’s followers, public on a specific instance, or public across a network of instances. The network of federated Mastodon instances forms one part of the Fediverse, a federated network that includes servers running any social network software that uses either OStatus and, since version 1.6, also the newer ActivityPub standard.”

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