Mastodon passes the 10 million account milestone

Upstart Twitter rival Mastodon will officially hit 10,000,000 new accounts on Sunday evening (March 19th, 2023).

Mastodon, for those who do not know, is an open-source, decentralized federation of servers called the Fediverse by the Mastodon community. It was developed by a young German programmer, Eugen Rochko and first announced in October 2016.

Mastodon is owned by a German not-for-profit. It cannot be sold, and even if there were some way around this, the protocols that support the federation of servers are open source. In fact, Meta’s rumoured new Twitter replacement will use the same open-source protocols, called ActivityPub, that support Mastodon.

It’s been a bit of a novelty since 2016, attracting users who joined, but largely didn’t remain active.

In 2022, that changed when Elon Musk bought Twitter, and the number of new accounts spiked – growing by almost 1,000 per hour in the weeks after the purchase. The number of new accounts did subside to hundreds per hour but there were often temporary spikes when Musk did or said something offensive or controversial.

Recently, new accounts have been averaging 1,700 to 2,000 per hour, at almost 50,000 per day.

Why this sudden surge? Inquiries in the community haven’t yet uncovered a reason or even a theory. One possible cause has been ruled out for the most part – it’s not likely that these new users are “bots.”

Musk and others have always maintained that a significant amount of Twitter traffic, and of user accounts, were automated “bots.”  But new members on Mastodon are, by default, asked why they want to join – which is a very effective means of filtering out automated traffic.

In addition, the community is quite vigilant when they see repetitive automated style traffic.  Even our relatively small server has had one user frozen because their traffic appeared to be spam like, so the tools are in place.

Mastodon has no advertising and no algorithm to manipulate users or influence who sees what traffic. Bots and spam traffic cannot be used to inflate numbers. Even the million follower superstars of Twitter would be back to square one on Mastodon, building traffic not by reputation or by numbers alone, but solely by the quality of their interactions.

So, it’s most likely this new growth is simply a reflection of an interest in something different.

For those who are interested, IT World Canada has it’s own Fediverse server called TechNews.Social. Readers of IT World Canada or any of its associated publications are welcome to come and check out Mastodon at no charge.

If you do join, you can find me as @[email protected]

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Jim Love
Jim Love
I've been in IT and business for over 30 years. I worked my way up, literally from the mail room and I've done every job from mail clerk to CEO. Today I'm CIO and Chief Digital Officer of IT World Canada - Canada's leader in ICT publishing and digital marketing.

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