Mastodon Decentralized Social Media

Mastodon is an open-source microblogging software platform developed by the Mastodon GmbH non-profit based in Berlin, founded by Eugen Rochko. Have you ever thought about hosting your own microblogging platform similar to Twitter for your brand, organization, or community? Now with Mastodon you can.

What is Mastodon?

Mastodon logo

Between Oct & Nov 2022, Mastodon rapidly grew to 2.5 million monthly active users, from just 300,000 users one month prior. Mastodon instances can be self-hosted by anyone but, unless configured otherwise, federate with other Mastodon servers in the Fediverse over the ActivityPub protocol. This means that Mastodon users can discover hashtagged posts & trending topics, direct message, and reply to users on a different instance than their home instance. In fact, Mastodon users can even follow users on other ActivityPub apps, such as Pixelfed (self-hosted Instagram alternative) and WriteFreely (self-hosted Medium alternative).

Mastodon instances can be general in nature, or coalesce around a specific interest or community. Interests can be as broad as a geographical location, narrower like for an industry or cause, or as specific as a certain brand or media outlet. Depending on your specific use case, Mastodon can augment a social media presence on Twitter, or discussion forums such as Discourse that are popularly used for product communities.

Mastodon can be accessed from a web browser, as a Progressive Web App (PWA), using the official Mastodon mobile app for iOS and Android, or third-party clients such as Tusky or Fedilab.

Mastodon Technical Consulting & Training

Mastodon Mobile App ScreenshotAs independent Mastodon consultants, our team can help your company or organization set up and customize a Mastodon instance for your product community, news publication, or team collaboration. We’ll provide you with Mastodon training resources to help your community managers effectively administer, moderate, and grow your Mastodon community. The registration policy, in addition to the level of federation with other Mastodon instances can be customized. The most permissive setting, suitable for brand & product communities and news outlets, is open registration with full federation. As a medium between open and closed registration, you can also require new users to apply for membership through a registration form,  and be manually approved by an administrator.

The most restrictive setting, for internal collaboration, is closed registration (accounts can only be created by an administrator) with Limited Federation Mode so your users’ posts do not automatically appear on the timelines of other Mastodon instances. For such use cases, Mastodon can also be run on an Intranet behind a firewall and/or use an authentication scheme such as OpenID Connect for single sign on (SSO) using your organization’s existing directory.

Running a reliable and scalable Mastodon instance

This includes planning whether Mastodon’s stack (PostgreSQL, Ruby on Rails, Puma, Nginx) should run on a single node (acceptable for small communities where high-availability is not critical), or a set of application and database servers behind a load balancer (recommended for high-traffic, production Mastodon instances).  Although Mastodon can be hosted in any environment including on-premise, leveraging the capabilities of a public cloud is the most common choice. Cloud-native features including the following can improve the performance & reliability of your Mastodon instance:

  • Anycast DNS, such as Amazon Route 53 or Google Cloud DNS
  • Managed load balancers, such as Amazon ALB or Google Cloud Load Balancing
  • Object storage, such as Amazon S3 or Google Cloud Storage
  • Content delivery network (CDN), such as CloudFront, Cloudflare, or Google Cloud CDN
  • SMTP email delivery, such as Amazon SES or Twilio SendGrid
  • Virtual machines (VMs) that scale on-demand or with auto-scaling groups
  • Managed databases, such as Amazon RDS or Google Cloud Databases

One of the most common reasons for a Mastodon server to go down is because the media files (images/videos) are stored locally, and the available disk space is exceeded causing the server to crash. As Mastodon admins quickly realized during the mass exodus from Twitter to Mastodon during Oct and Nov 2022, the volume of traffic, users, and content uploaded can grow more quickly than one might initially expect. For this reason, we typically recommend configuring Mastodon’s support for proxying requests to serve media from object storage.

The reasons for a slow Mastodon instance might include tuning required for the Puma and Nginx servers, or an insufficiently large PostgreSQL cluster behind pgBouncer to accommodate all the connections from the application servers.

Our Mastodon consultants can address these technical issues for an existing Mastodon instance, or plan a greenfield deployment of Mastodon that is architected on the backend to support the expected amount of web traffic and users.

Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us to discuss your Mastodon project on any cloud, including the hyperscale clouds (AWS, Azure, Google Cloud) or niche cloud providers (Oracle Cloud, DigitalOcean, Akamai, or Hetzner). We can help you avoid the common pitfalls of implementing Mastodon, and ensure that your Mastodon infrastructure is built on a solid foundation that will support your instance’s growth and popularity.