April 24, 2024

As Twitter destroys its brand by renaming X, Mastodon’s usage numbers are rising again

As Twitter ditches its iconic branding in favor of owner Elon Musk’s favorite letter “X,” open-source rival Mastodon is seeing a surge in usage. According to new job from Mastodon founder and CEO Eugen Rochko, the number of monthly active users for his Twitter selection has been steadily increasing over the past few months and has now reached 2.1 million – or, as Rochko put it, “not far from our last peak.”

Previously, the number of monthly active users of Mastodon was peak at 2.5 million between October and November, which was shortly after Elon Musk officially took over Twitter. Previously, Mastodon was a much smaller network, with about 300,000 monthly active users, the founder said.

The fate of Mastodon’s growth often seems tied to Twitter’s moves – or rather, its missteps. After the acquisition of Twitter, for example, there was a bit of a Twitter exodus as longtime users rebelled against Musk’s early-enacted changes to their favorite microblogging site, from widespread layoffs to erratic moves that affected Twitter’s platform, policy and product strategies, including the mishandled relaunch of Twitter’s subscription, Twitter Blue, which devalued anyone with a credit card to open through verification. That decision is still negatively affecting the experience of Twitter, as the company recently admitted that it had a verified spammer problem, which requires a change in Twitter DMs.

While some Twitter users fled Mastodon after Musk’s takeover, not all of them stuck with it, and, as a result, Mastodon’s monthly active users dropped from a peak of 2.5 million monthly users to 1.7 million as of the beginning of this month. Others may have moved on to the Twitter alternatives that have emerged, including Bluesky, T2, Spill, Post, and more. And some may have just dropped Twitter for good or reduced their posting significantly, resulting in a drop in Twitter traffic.

It’s not immediately clear whether Mastodon is once again capitalizing on Musk’s missteps with Twitter or whether it’s being buoyed by renewed interest in ActivityPub, the decentralized social networking protocol that powers the Mastodon network and other apps. Twitter Meta’s recently launched rival Instagram Threads is committed to integrating with ActivityPub, potentially raising awareness around Mastodon and decentralized social networking in general.

Then again, Twitter users could simply be frustrated with Musk’s recent move to enact rate limiting that reduced the number of tweets users and subscribers could view—a very strange product decision that prevents users from viewing content on the platform, now known as X since today’s rebrand. Musk claimed that Twitter needed to change the rate limits to deal with a significant increase in bots and spam. But while most social networks have some form of rate limiting in place for the same reason, they usually don’t extend those limits to end users, preventing them from viewing the site’s content (and, of course, the ads.)

This may also be a factor in the renewed active growth of Mastodon users.

Or perhaps, it is a combination of these two things and more, including the momentum created by the address of the polished Mastodon third-party clients that made using the social network less complicated and more pleasant. That includes apps built by former third-party Twitter app makers, such as Tapbots’ Mastodon Ivory client, the TweetDeck-inspired Woolly, and Mammoth, a Mastodon client from the developer of the Twitter app Aviary, but now led by a new developer following Mozilla’s investment.

Like other Mastodon applications Ice Cubes and the no-frills Radiant client also debuted, while Mastodon’s official mobile app got a refresh of its own earlier this month, aimed at addressing various pain points and adding more customization options. At launch, Mastodon then had 1.4 million monthly active users and Rochko noted that posting activity tripled over the weekend – a change likely attributable to Twitter’s new limits on viewable tweets.

Mastodon is also benefiting from interest from other tech companies, including WordPress, which has acquired a plugin that allows WordPress blogs to feed into Mastodon; Medium, which launched its own Mastodon server; and Flipboard which integrated the network into its social reading app, launched its own server and is working to integrate with ActivityPub.

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