Getting started with Mastodon
If you go to a social media site like Twitter, you set up an account and just start using it. Mastodon is like Twitter in as lot of ways but very different in how it works. One key difference is Mastodon is a protocol for building social media sites rather than being the site.
Because Mastodon is a protocol, there are many sites using it. It is possible to interact with any of them using a Mastodon client. They are all compatible with eachother because of the protocol. This setup has become known as the Fediverse. It's even possible for you to set up your own Mastodon server or build your own client.
For many of us looking for a way to get started and explore, this is a little bit confusing.
If you're not looking to build a Mastodon server or a client, it is possible to get started with a few simple steps:
- pick a server to join
- create an account
- pick a client
Pick a server to join
There are many options, and this can get a bit weird because each server can have a different scope, rules and moderation. Some of the core servers are an excellent place to start.
The most noticeable impact of your choice at the start is this is where your account will live. Your profile URL will have the server name in it. For example, my profile URL is
https://mastodon.online/@ruarfffbecause I went with
You will also be subject to the rules of the server you join. This may become quite important to you, depending on who's running it. As any social media site has rules and can suspend or remove accounts for various reasons, the same is true here. The server you join may have rules you don't like or even cease to exist if the owner decides to remove it. Fortunately, it is possible to migrate your account to another server if you need to.
Pick a client
Because Mastodon is a protocol, anyone can build a client for it. The client can turn the Fediverse into a more conventional social media experience. They can aggregate various servers, allowing you to follow users on different servers and interact with them.
If you are a desktop user, consider Elk. This gives a similar experience to Twitter if that's what you're after.
You set up an account on Elk using your Mastodon profile. If you haven't already set up a Mastodon account on a server, Elk will guide you through that process.
On mobile, there are a few options.
For Android, one option is Tusky.
For iOS, there's Ivory but it's unfortunately not free. Ivory is the one I'm using and it's pretty good.
There's a lot more you can do but this is all you need to get started. Not sure I'll ever do it but it's pretty cool you can go and build your own Mastodon server and client if you want to.