2 min read

Slumping towards tomorrow's Fediverse?

Writing at Techdirt, Mike Masnick has a point when he complains about journalists writing misleading stories about the growth of the Fediverse.

Fediverse is the name used to describe a loose collection of servers used for independent web publishing and other services. The best known Fediverse application would be Mastodon, a kinder, gentler alternative to Twitter.

There is lazy, sloppy and downright wrong news coverage about the Fediverse. Look around and you’ll find stories saying it is failing, declining or even slumping.

Masnick points to a few in his post.

Social media alternative

Yes, Mastodon numbers may be lower than the peak that occurred as people rushed from Twitter looking for a social media alternative.

Not all the Twitter refugees stayed around.

And yes, as Masnick points out, and his chart eloquently shows, Mastodon numbers are far higher than they were before Elon Musk acquired Twitter.

It is correct to note the impressive growth as user numbers climbed over three months from 600k to 2.6 million. That’s despite briefly hitting a higher peak.


Yet both arguments here lack context. Twitter has 1.3 billion accounts. Not all are active. The Techdirt story says there are 368 million active users per month.

Which means Twitter dwarfs Mastodon. It has 140 times as many active users. There are 500 Twitter accounts for every Mastodon account.

Draw a chart of Twitter active users against Mastodon active users and the latter would be a straight line along the X axis.

When measured in absolute numbers, the change in Mastodon users over the three months in question would be little more than statistical noise in the Twitter active user numbers. They are a rounding error; comparatively insignificant.1

Thriving Fediverse

Mastodon is tiny.

That’s not to say it won’t thrive or that Twitter has nothing to worry about.

It took over a decade for Twitter’s numbers to build. If Mastodon continues to grow at the same pace as its last three or four months it could accelerate past Twitter in a few years.

There’s evidence Twitter user numbers are falling.

Mastodon doesn’t have to be bigger than Twitter to be important. It doesn’t have a commercial imperative to be big. If the fediverse can continue providing useful services it will always have an audience.

The media misreporting is annoying, but what is more annoying is to write about Twitter and Mastodon as if they are somehow locked in a head-to-head contest. That's simply not the case. To imply otherwise is also misleading.

As an aside, it would be interesting to know what, if any, change there has been in, say, Linkedin active user numbers over this period. ↩︎