Imagine if Gmail were the only email provider anyone used, and that you could only email people with Gmail addresses. If Gmail were to one day drastically change, go out of business, or disappear… Well, you would be out of luck.
Thankfully, email doesn’t actually work like this. One can create an email account with Hotmail and send and receive mail to others on Gmail, Protonmail, etc. You can even set up your own email server and host it yourself, if you are into that.
Mastodon is social network software that works like email. Instead of everyone using one or two social network providers and being locked in (like they are with Twitter and Facebook), they can create a Mastodon account wherever they want to without losing the ability to connect with their friends on other sites.
You can browse some different Mastodon sites (also known as instances) here. There are general purpose sites (such as mastodon.social and mas.to) and sites that cater to specific topics or geographic areas. Personally, I am currently on fosstodon.org, an instance focused on computers and software.
Found this helpful? I will be writing a blog post on Mastodon and similar topics for each week of November. Create an account on any Mastodon site you like and follow me at @firstname.lastname@example.org for updates. (See, the usernames even look like email addresses!)