Research Outline

Decentralized Social Networks


To determine the progress that decentralized social networks such as Diaspora have made during the last five years. Specific insights include ease of use, KPIs, features, and any significance in the number of users migrating from centralized networks to the decentralized ones. This research will help with keeping up to date on the topic of decentralized social networks.

Early Findings


  • Mastodon is a community-owned and ad-free social network of thousands of communities that is operated by different individuals and organizations to provide an ordered social media experience. The feed is ad-fee, non-algorithmic, and chronological. The user decides what they want to see.
  • Mastodon was first released at the beginning of October 2016 but the service began expanding in late March to early April 2017.
  • As of November 2017, global use grew and artists, entrepreneurs, and writers such as John Scalzi, Chuck Wendig, and John O'Nolan joined.
  • Another increase in popularity was seen in March through April 2018 after there were concerns surrounding user privacy on Facebook.
  • Mastodon, together with several other decentralized social media sites experienced a large increase in membership, gaining about thousands of new members within a few hours in comparison to dozens in the previous days.
  • This was after Tumblr announced that it intended to ban all sensitive content from its site in early December 2018. Many left-leaning Indian users also migrated from Twitter to Mastodon after complaints that Twitter only moderated accounts belonging to lower castes.
  • Users can post short-form messages that can include a maximum of 500 text-based characters. This is an extension from Twitter's 280 character limit.
  • In September 2018, version 2.5 was released and it had redesigned profile pages.
  • At the end of October, version 2.6 came out and included verified profiles and live link previews for videos and images.
  • Since January 2019, users can search for multiple hashtags at the same time rather than a single hashtag.
  • Version 2.7 has more serious capabilities for server moderators and administrators while accessibility issues were improved. This included contrast for users that have sight issues.
  • In April 2019, the ability for users to create polls and vote was included. Also, a new navigation system for managing registration was integrated.
  • Since version 2.8.1 was released in May 2019, images whose contents have warnings are blurred by default instead of being completely hidden.
  • Since the release of version 2.9.0, Mastodon has a single column mode for new users set by default. In the "advanced mode, Mastodon approximates the microblogging user experience of TweetDeck."
  • In August 2020, version 3.2 was released and it included a newly designed audio player with custom thumbnails plus the ability to add a personal note to the profile.