8 Tips for Picking the Best Mastodon Server

Mastodon has a learning curve compared to other social media. To sign up, you have to pick a server. Learn what servers are and how you can pick the best one.

Mastodon is the open-source, decentralized social media platform everyone is talking about — especially since Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover.

If you want to join Mastodon and see what all the fuss is about, you might get tangled up in the registration process. Why? Because beyond brainstorming a username and supplying an email address, you also have to pick a server.

What Are Mastodon Servers?

Mastodon is an open-source, decentralized social media platform. Anyone can use Mastodon code to create a server for free. 

Mastodon servers, also called “instances,” are individual communities, each with its own rules and culture. A server can be owned by a person, a group or a professional organization, and the server owner is the one who dictates the community’s guidelines. 

People who join one server can still interact with users on another server. However, the server you choose will impact your overall experience. 

Related Article: What Is Mastodon, the Red-Hot Open Source Twitter Rival

How to Pick a Mastodon Server

Mastodon has more than 7,500 servers, so picking one might seem challenging. However, if you don’t like the first server you join, you can always switch to another.

Here are some tips on how to pick a Mastodon server: 

Write a List of Server Requirements

Before you wade into a sea of Mastodon servers, make a list of your wants and needs. Think about: 

  • The moderation policy: What types of content are allowed, what rules exist for content tags (not safe for work, spoilers), rules around harassment and hate speech, etc. You can look at a server’s about page to find this out.
  • The server age: If the server is brand new, it might disappear, go inactive or fail to find many members. An older, more established server might already have a sizable community and offer stability.
  • How quickly you want to use Mastodon: Some server sign-ups are instant, while others require a manual review process (or an invitation) before you can join.
  • What other servers you want to interact with: You can interact with and follow people from other servers. However, servers can block other servers (for differing political views, vastly different moderation policies, etc.), which is something to keep in mind when choosing which to join.

Consider the Posts You Want to See

Mastodon can be as general or as niche as you want — it all comes down to personal preference. 

Think about the experience you want. Do you want a tight-knit community of digital illustrators who share their projects, constructive criticism, tips and inspiration? You likely won’t get that from joining a general megaserver like mastodon.social

Most current users recommend a middle-of-the-road approach: Look for a midsized community that focuses on a broad interest. A topic wide enough to spark diverse conversations while still maintaining your interests. Think “technology” as opposed to “HP computer repair.”

Why does the community you join matter if you can still see content and follow people from other servers? Because your home server will be the best place to discover new people and content outside of your circle. 

Here’s a breakdown of the three feeds you will see:

  • Home feed: Shows content from the people you follow — whether part of your server or not.
  • Local feed: Shows content from the people on your server.
  • Federated feed: Shows content from people followed by those on your server.

Peruse Mastodon’s Server List

Mastodon offers a partial list of servers to browse through. 

You can filter this list by geographic region, language, registration process (instant or application) and host type (individual or organization). You can also sort by topic, including technology, activism, gaming, journalism, food and more.

All servers on this list have agreed to follow the best practices of the Mastodon Server Covenant, which include: 

  • Active moderation against racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia
  • Daily backups to prevent the erasure of data
  • At least one person (besides the admin) with emergency access to the server infrastructure
  • Commitment to a three-month notice to users in the case of the server shutting down

Two popular server choices on this list are ones operated by the Mastodon organization: mastodon.social and mastodon.online

Use Mastodon’s Server Search Tool

Mastodon offers a server search tool where you can go a tad more in-depth than the list above. 

With this tool, you can search by the language most used on the server or look for words included in the server’s description. You can also filter results by number of total users, active users and characters per “toot” (what Mastodon calls a post). 

The results will offer a breakdown of each server fitting the search criteria, including: 

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