It has been over a decade since Twitter was launched in 2006. Since then its popularity has been fluctuating steadily. The company has also been struggling to keep up with the changing demands of the social media, whether it is about introducing new and innovative features or about making its platform more user-friendly. After having to compete with the increasingly changing trends in the web space, Twitter has another thing to worry about– Mastodon.

No, we’re not talking about the prehistoric elephant-like mammoth, but about a newbie social media platform that seems like Twitter but in reality is way better. Ask the millennials and they’ll tell you tales of Mastodon’s hip and upbeat features.

However, if you find yourself lacking behind in understanding the latest addition in the Gen-X lexicon, we have simplified the topic for you:

What is Mastodon?
Mastodon is a free, open-source social networking platform that sprung around in October last year. Instead of having centralised servers that a specific to a company, Mastodon has ‘instances’, which are essentially group based on different servers. This gives you the liberty to pick your own instance.

Is it associated with Mastodon– the band?
No, this Mastodon is a social media platform and is not associated with the American heavy metal band.

Is it like Twitter?
It looks a lot like Twitter but in reality, it’s way more complicated and advanced that the micro-blogging website. For starters, Twitter comes with a 140-character limit, whereas Mastodon gives you 500-characters to convey your thoughts (which is basically a nice chunky paragraph).

Do we tweet on Mastodon?
No, instead we ‘toot’ on Mastodon. And for the curious souls, retweets are not retoots but boosts.

What about the handles?
Mastodon is not for the ones who like to keep it simple, which is true for the handles as well. Handles on Mastodon begin with ‘@’ and are preceded by the name of the instance.

How do I sign in?
The original instance is closed due to the increasing number of people who were trying to register. But you can select one of the 237 instances and register yourself there. You can check out the list here.

How do I find my friends?
Remember the first day of school when you had no clue who you’re going to sit with and who you’re going to talk to? Finding friends on Mastodon is somewhat like that, except that you can search for your Twitter friends using a simple tool.

Is it safe?
Absolutely. Like most social media platforms, Mastodon comes with a strong set of moderation policies. You can check them out here.

How can I use it on my phone?
There are many clients that host Mastodon, but you can try Amaroq for iOS and Tusky for Android.

Is it paid?
No, but you can pay for it.