This is the best explainer of Mastodon I’ve found. Aptly, it’s by the creator, Eugen Rochko. Here’s an excerpt:
One of Mastodon’s fundamental differences to Twitter is federation. To bring that word into context, the United States of America are a federation. In a more technical context: E-mail is federation. It means that users are spread throughout different, independent communities, yet remain unified in their ability to interact with each other. You can send an e-mail from GMail to Outlook, from Outlook to someone’s private e-mail inbox. Mastodon’s federation is similar: users from different sites (let’s call them “instances”) establish connections between these sites by following each other and sending each other messages like on any other social network.
What does federation mean for the user?
- You can have the username your desire, as long as you can find an instance where it is available
- You can pick an instance run by someone you trust and whose content policies you agree with, or run one yourself with some technical knowledge
- Users are spread out, so individual instances are smaller, and as such communities are easier to build and moderate
- No monopolies, if one instance ever shuts down, you don’t have to convince your friends to switch to a different social network, you just let them know to follow your new account on a different instance
I’ve never used Facebook and stopped using Twitter six months ago. Still cruise by Google+ a couple of times a day but spending more time at Mastodon.Technology these days. You can search for @firstname.lastname@example.org