Why Mastodon Is The Last Social Media You'll Need
First off the title may be a bit misleading. However people who have never heard of Mastodon have more than likely never heard of the fediverse. You have to show them the former in order to properly explain the latter. In my opinion anyway.
So Mastodon Then...
Imagine if email and Twitter had a baby. It would be Mastodon. Mastodon is similar to Twitter in that it is a micro-blogging platform where one can follow and be followed by friends or anyone else (depending on privacy settings). Since the platform is called Mastodon and uses a wooly mammoth/elephant as it's mascot your statuses are called toots. This is similar to the sound elephants make.
Mastodon is similar to email because of it's federation. What's that? Well, you may have a Gmail address and your friend may have an Outlook address. You can communicate with your friend using Outlook because Outlook, Gmail, and every other provider all speak the language of email. Mastodon servers also all speak the same language. It's called ActivityPub (more on that later). So just like email you can have an account on one instance (website) and your friend can have an account on another.
Alright, So Why Should I Care?
Good question. Do you remember Myspace? Well, when that lost popularity people had to sign-up for and find their friends on Facebook. Except some of your friends didn't go to Facebook did they? Some went to Twitter. Now you have two accounts to manage and keep up with. This is because users of these platforms are put into a box. You can't find your Twitter friend from Facebook and your friends can't find your Facebook from their Twitter.
Mastodon breaks these boxes apart. Any of your friends can be on any of about 1000 websites, yet it is simple to find and interact with them. Don't worry about signing up right now, we'll get to that.
Since Mastodon isn't run by a large company it has totally different priorities. Companies such as Facebook and Twitter trick their users into staying on or coming back to the platform. By eliminating Chronological timelines they get users to refresh the page or read further down to see if they missed something. This allows the companies to display more ads and collect more data about what you as the user engage with. Have you ever gotten a notification that you have a new message, like etc? You click to find out what it is only to discover nothing waiting for you. This is a tactic to make you come back to the platform in order to monitize you.
So What Is This Fediverse Thing?
You are full of great questions. The fediverse is simply a bunch of websites and services that also speak ActivityPub. Remember I said we would get there. Well here we are. Imagine being able to comment on your favorite YouTube video, blog post, or song from that artist you follow all without leaving Your timeline. As long as the service speaks ActivityPub that is completely possible. We have talked about mastodon, but Peertube, Writefreely and Funkwhale (I don't name these things) are for videos, blogging and music respectivly. There are also other smaller social networks like Friendica (Facebook) and GNU social. However, i don't know enough about them to give any thoughts.
How Can I Get An Account?
That's the easy part. Just visit joinmastodon.org. You will find a server picker where you can select a catagory of interest as well as a language. You can pick general for an instance with no set topic. Shameless plug, I run megadon.net which is a general instance. Take a look at the rules and join there if you wish.