I'm a recent Mastodon user, having created my account a few months ago. Since then, I've been actively using it every day, especially because much of the tech industry has shifted from Twitter to Mastodon following Elon Musk's takeover of Twitter. I follow many influential figures from the tech world on this platform. In the peak hype cycle of Mastodon, I was super excited about it. But my initial enthusiasm for Mastodon has been short-lived. There are days when I don’t even open Mastodon. While I remain hopeful that Mastodon is here for the long haul, I do have some concerns about potential challenges that could impact its future.
One major concern I have with Mastodon is its slow user experience. Compared to platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, Mastodon's performance is noticeably sluggish. Opening a post, loading comments, media takes a significant amount of time, and even checking someone's profile for their posts is frustratingly slow. As someone who is accustomed to the speed and fluidity of other social media platforms, using Mastodon can be quite clunky and bothersome. Surprisingly, I haven't come across much criticism regarding this issue, which perplexes me. Nevertheless, it's crucial that this matter is addressed promptly to enhance the overall user experience on Mastodon.
This slow performance might be due to the scalability issues with Mastodon. Perhaps in the period before 2022, when the user base was smaller, Mastodon managed to scale and perform adequately. However, it's evident that Mastodon's design may not be well-suited for efficient scalability. This raises significant apprehension about the platform's future, especially if it struggles to handle the influx of new users wanting to join the network. Addressing scalability is crucial to ensure Mastodon's continued success as more users show interest in the platform.
One significant issue with Mastodon pertains to its business model. While relying on donations to run all servers may have been a viable starting point, it poses challenges as the service matures and attracts more users over the years. As of now, Mastodon does not incorporate advertising, leaving uncertainty about a sustainable business model that could cover the expenses of serving millions of people. To ensure a more stable future, Mastodon needs the ability to hire additional staff and scale up its infrastructure. Presently, with over two million users, having less than 25 employees and depending solely on donations presents a considerable risk for the platform's long-term viability. Exploring alternative revenue streams or financial models becomes crucial to support the platform's growth and ensure its continuity.
Another concerning aspect, for which we haven't witnessed significant repercussions yet, is the issue of content moderation on Mastodon. While the platform does have content rules, policies, and terms of service in place, it lacks a robust content moderation team to effectively address misinformation, ensure user safety, and handle instances of harassment. Content moderation is a fundamental requirement for any social network, and it appears that Mastodon has not yet developed a comprehensive plan to tackle this crucial aspect adequately. Addressing this gap becomes imperative to foster a safer and more responsible online environment for its users.
The final concern regarding Mastodon revolves around its use of ActivityPub, the protocol employed for decentralised servers to interact with one another. While ActivityPub is a W3C standard, its current implementation exhibits some significant limitations. The recent launch of Bluesky, featuring a new protocol called AT Protocol, highlighted the areas where ActivityPub could be improved. For instance, AT Protocol allows users to move their content seamlessly when switching servers, a functionality not available with ActivityPub. Moreover, the concept of pluggable algorithms for generating personalised feeds in AT Protocol could be one of the most innovative solutions to enhance content visibility for creators, keeping the app engaging by introducing fresh content and also ensures that quality content reaches a broader audience. Addressing these aspects is critical if we aim to keep users engaged on Mastodon and prevent them from growing bored with its content. These advancements in Bluesky's protocol underscore the need for further development and enhancement of ActivityPub to ensure Mastodon keeps pace with emerging standards and features in the decentralised social media landscape.
While I remain a staunch advocate of decentralised networks, my primary focus goes beyond just Mastodon's success. I firmly believe in the importance of improving ActivityPub to empower all future social networks. Whether it's Mastodon, Threads, or any new platform that emerges, my ultimate goal is to see social networks evolve into more decentralised and superior entities compared to the current state of Mastodon. Emphasising the development and enhancement of ActivityPub will pave the way for a future where social media platforms operate in a decentralised and improved manner, fostering a more inclusive and dynamic online community.