A group calling itself “Mask Group” has purchased three of the largest mastodon instances.
Mastodon users, especially people on those servers, should be very concerned.
There are some things you need to consider about mastodon to understand why this is very concerning.
- Large Mastodon instances are expensive to run.
- Mastodon is not a good platform for large advertisers for a number of reasons.
This means that by buying a large mastodon instance you are signing up for a very large ongoing cost in a system whose current state is adverse to profit generation for the owners. If we assume the purchasers are not complete idiots there are 2 solutions to this problem.
Follow the Microsoft playbook of “embrace and extend”.
People don’t like switching servers. If you buy all the big servers you have a functionally captive audience. Disabling the ability to move your account to another server is easy, and gives you an actually captive audience. They won’t want to loose all the connections they finally just built up again after moving to Mastodon.
If you control the servers that millions of Mastodon users rely on and can’t easily escape, you can also show ads to millions of Mastodon users. You can also start doing all the uncomfortable tracking that many of us came here to get away from.
Massively Disrupt Mastodon itself
Elon has made it clear that he really, really doesn’t want anyone migrating to Mastodon. Your account will be suspended if you dare to mention mastodon.com.
“tens of thousands of dollars a month” for each of a handful of servers is a rounding error to someone as rich as Elon Musk. He probably earns that much in interest in the duration of a sneeze.
What if Elon, or anyone else keeps buying up the largest instances, waits until they have a simple majority of the mastodon user base, and then simply shuts them off?
People can’t migrate their accounts, and millions of people loose confidence in Mastodon. Especially if the people behind “Mask Group” are never exposed. You can’t blame Elon, or anyone else. It was just some “mysterious group”.
Seriously. These purchases are nonsensical unless combined with plans that only hurt us. Combine that with an entity calling itself “Mask Group” and you don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to connect the dots. They put it right there for all to see.
Servers Currently Affected
What’s the answer?
Small servers with people who you either know, or who are organized around an idea or world-view that works for you.
Once a server exceeds the number of people a human can reasonably “know” (Dunbar’s Number) a number of problems emerge.
Some people feel Anonymous. Penny Arcade explained this problem well:
They can’t be a community of like-minded people, because they’re too big to be a unified group.
They’re also really difficult to moderate because you always have some problematic elements who don’t adhered to your server rules because they don’t care or don’t feel they apply to them. See also issue number 1.
If your server is bought by Mask Group you should run away before you can’t.
If your server is large and you’d like to be with people of a similar mind, move. If you like the chaos of a large one… stay, but keep an eye on who’s running it.
Stux has promised not to sell mstdn.social but I find it hard to believe that a concrete offer of a billion dollars wouldn’t sway him. That’s beyond life-changing money for most humans. That being said, it’s unlikely anyone would really offer them $1B for a million users. So, if you want a big server, I’d stick with theirs.