6 April 2020

I’ve been using the Mastodon micro-blogging platform for a while now – increasingly choosing not to use or post on Twitter and committing myself to a democracy-friendly path.

I’ve become used to ‘meeting’ interesting people way outside my normal e-contact groups, and I have definitely reduced contact with the people I would normally engage with.

I’ve also become used to interacting on a platform which has far (far!) fewer users than Twitter. I’ve made the assumption that there’s a short and medium-term cost to my own influence, and potentially to the commercial success of Afallen, by turning my back on one of the most visible and active micro-blogging platforms on the planet, because I believe that it’s the ethical thing to do.

But….something strange is happening in the Fediverse. Mastodon has suddenly seen a huge surge in registrations.

Probably the largest instance (if you need a primer on the basics, this might help) of Mastodon is Mastodon.Social. There’s a Mastodon account which tracks the number of registered users on that instance.

For months, the weekly number of new registered users was around 2,000 or so see the stats from 19 March, for example. And the total for the last week? 14,550.

graph of new registered users

I’m prepared for any number of explanations for this, ranging from a sudden raising of awareness about the platform in a particular country or language; to an awareness from spam-bots that it represents a new way to reach an audience.

However there’s a tiny bit of me that’s hopeful that it represents a real, meaningful increase in awareness and activity for the platform. The science behind social networks demonstrates that size begets size. So any increase in ‘real’ users on Mastodon is to be celebrated.

I’ve posed the question to the Fediverse about the reason for the surge, so it may turn out to be a statistical blip, or a bunch of bots. But for the time being…I’m dreaming of a step change in awareness about this amazing, hate-free, democracy-supporting platform.