I have written a short blog to explain the difference between Mastodon and Twitter when it comes to its algorithms and ownership. Let’s have a look at the elephant in the room…
Twitter is proprietary software, also known as closed-source, that is owned by Elon Musk. We don’t know much detail in how Twitters algorithms work as only employees of Twitter have access to privileged parts. It’s their “secret sauce” much like the secret formula to Coca Cola.
Mastodon is Free and Open Source Software (FOSS). This source code is made freely available for modification and redistribution. The source code is the collection of algorithms that instructs the computer on how the software should function.
FOSS is where the source code is made freely available for modification and redistribution. This allows anyone to co-produce Mastodon (including anonymously) or start their own fork (a copy of some or all of Mastodon) even if it is discontinued
A well-known example of FOSS is WordPress. We can freely download the WordPress source code from wordpress.org and setup a blog on our own server. Programmers can contribute to WordPress on the GitHub platform, a cloud-based repository to store and manage code changes.
For those less technically minded there is the option to create a free blog on wordpress.com and then pay for higher tiers of functionality and support. At the moment this is how many people use Mastodon whether some servers will offer plans one day is too early to say.
Many WordPress users use other providers besides wordpress.com that have downloaded the source code from wordpress.org and set up their own offerings. This has allowed them to download and/or buy new functionality including themes. E.G. themeforest.com.
Mastodon will take a similar direction as WordPress where there is a complete “free range” of offerings available. Though much like WordPress all Mastodon instances can be connected via their user@domain in the tradition of websites and email.