Mastodon

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Mastodon is a free micro-blogging style social network server package. It can be used to setup a social network platform capable of interacting with other federated social network platforms supporting the ActivityPub standard to do for message synchronization between individual servers. It can be used to setup your own server using moderate hardware.

There are hundreds of Mastodon installations on the web, with varying terms, rules and policies, for those who want to join the decentralised social network fediverse without having to setup and run their own server.

Features

Mastodon.jpg
mstdn.io running Mastodon v3.1.4.

Users on a Mastodon server can post messages with message character limits between 500 and 1000 depending on how the administrator of the particular server configured it. Up to four images or a single audio or video file can be attached to each message. Messages can have "content warnings" that will, if set, show instead of the messages contents until the warning is expanded into the actual message. Posts by other users can be "boosted" into your own timeline.

Post can be bookmarked and/or favored.

Users can follow other users. Both local users on the same server and users on remote servers can be followed. Other users can be muted or blocked.

Themes are supported. A light and a dark theme are provided on a standard installation.

Caveats

Many Mastodon servers have very large seemingly arbitrary blacklists of other Mastodon servers. A user on one server may not be able to remote follow or interact with users on a remote server because the server administrator decided to copy-paste some blacklist with the remote server is on.

Message synchronization between Mastodon servers is somewhat inconsistent and to some degree random. Clicking on a remote user may or may not list some or none or all the messages that remote user has shared. All messages remote users post will only consistently show up if some on the local server you are using is following the remote user you are looking at. One bad result of the way the ActivityPub protocol works in practice is that a conversation involving many users will frequently look different depending on what server you are looking at. A original post may have 50 replies on the server where it was posted and appear to only have 5 replies when that same post is viewed on another server.

Public Instances

See Public Fediverse Servers and look for servers labelled Mastodon.

The Server Software

Mastodon has relatively high requirements both in terms of processing power and stack compared to the similar and more light-weight Pleroma social media server.

You will need:

  • PostgreSQL 9.5+
  • Redis 4+
  • Ruby 2.5+
  • Node.js 10.13+

A working SMTP mail server is also required. Lots and lots of RAM is desired and to some degree required. Lots of storage space is also a good idea if you plan on catering to thousands of users.

The source code needed to install and run Mastodon is available at github.com/tootsuite/mastodon.

User-style for websites running Mastodon

Sites running Mastodon and forks change the web browsers scrollbar to almost black on black if you use the dark theme. It is possible to fix that rather user-unfriendly design decision using a web browser plugin like Stylus and the following userstyle:

body::-webkit-scrollbar {
    width: 10px;
}

::-webkit-scrollbar {
    width: 10px;
    height: 12px
}

::-webkit-scrollbar-thumb,
::-webkit-scrollbar-thumb:active,
::-webkit-scrollbar-thumb:hover{
    background: lightblue;
}

::-webkit-scrollbar-track, 
::-webkit-scrollbar-track:active,
::-webkit-scrollbar-track:hover{
    border: 0 #fff;
    border-radius: 0;
    background: gray;
}

::-webkit-scrollbar-corner {
    background: pink;
}

Links

The Mastodon software can be acquired from github.com/tootsuite/mastodon.

There is extensive documentation at docs.joinmastodon.org.

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