Why Everyone’s Tweeting About the Mastodon in the Room

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Elon Musk — also known as the world’s richest man — is either single-handedly running Twitter Inc. into the ground, or saving it from a bloated workforce that operated a money-burning hellscape. 

Whichever side you fall on, and if you’re on Twitter you have to take a side, there’s no doubt he’s had thousands of users rushing to find an alternative. So far, the surrogate receiving the most attention is Mastodon, a German social network that until a month ago few had even heard of. 

In the time it took for Musk to officially take control of Twitter in late October until Sunday, 1 million more people had flocked to the Mastodon network, driving active users above 1.7 million. 

Nearly tripling its numbers is a huge boost for the community started by Eugen Rochko back in 2016, when he was living with his parents while finishing university, where he studied computer science. But it doesn’t begin to compare to the 200 million users that Twitter claims, much less the 3.7 billion Meta Platforms Inc. has across its suite of sites that include Facebook and Instagram. Rochko, who started the open-source project out of a prescient fear that Twitter would one day be owned by a billionaire, remains chief executive officer of the company set up to run the venture. He got by on just 55,300 euros ($57,000 ) in revenue last year, largely from donors and Patreon subscribers.

Data from Google Trends show a massive uptick in searches for the term “Mastodon.” Curiosity about the Berlin-based site first jumped in late April after Musk announced plans to take Twitter private for $44 billion. Then, after Musk fought to avoid going through with the deal and it became apparent that the transaction would get completed last month, interest reached a crescendo. 

“While we obviously aren’t looking at a mass exodus of people leaving one of the most popular social media sites on the planet, the data clearly [show] that…


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