Mastodon – will it join the ranks of extinct social networks?
The big news in social media circles these last few weeks has been the rise of Mastodon. With Twitter’s ongoing abuse issues and Facebook’s unsettling ubiquity, the chance for a fresh-start on a new social network was always going to be an appealing one.
Mastodon consists of separate, local instances to which you can register – typically geographical or interest-based. This means there’s less chance of trolling; you’d have to purposefully sign up to an insular group of people in order to hijack a conversation. The federated timeline shows ‘Toots’ from multiple instances, giving it more of a Twitter feel. The other benefits; 500 characters over 140, and an explicit ‘no Nazis’ policy, something which Twitter is sorely lacking at the moment.
However, it’s not all rosy; the instances are completely separate, which can lead to some trouble ensuring your handle is unique. It’s easiest to think of it like email – you can register your name on Gmail, but that doesn’t stop someone else registering it on Hotmail. Coupled with the lack of verification, it can get really complicated, really fast, as William Shatner recently discovered to his peril.
As we await news of the domination or extinction of Mastodon, we’ve taken a look at some of the ghosts of social networks past:
The invite-only site was all the rage in 2014. It’s unique ad-free proposition and sleek design marked it out as a premium social media platform and its adoption by the LGBTQ community following the Facebook ‘real name’ fiasco gained it additional attention. Unfortunately, there’s selective, and there’s empty; Ello won’t release figures about their user base, but a survey in October 2014 suggested that 36% of Ello users have never posted to the platform.
In an era before Facebook’s UK expansion, Bebo was briefly king. Operating somewhere in-between early Facebook’s limited profile options and Myspace’s HTML free-for-all, at one point the social networking site had 10.7 million UK users. In 2008, AOL purchased Bebo from its original owners, Michael and Xochi Birch, in what the BBC later designated ‘one of the worst deals ever made in the dotcom era’. By 2013, Bebo had voluntarily filed for bankruptcy, before eventually being bought back by the Birches for a fraction of what they sold it for. Bebo now exists as a platform to help streamers monetize their videos.
Initially restricting users to 50 friends, the photo-sharing and journal app Path wanted their users to focus on ‘high-quality’ connections such as friends and family, helping to ensure they felt comfortable sharing more private information than on other networks. Unfortunately, that information was less private than anyone knew, and in early 2012 Path publicly apologized for accessing iPhone user’s contacts without authorization. Path was eventually acquired by Korean messaging service Daum Kakao in 2015.
Somewhere, out there, Tom is still working at that whiteboard. Until 2009, Myspace was the biggest social media network in the world, but as Facebook expanded, Myspace was faced with a massively declining user base. Despite several redesigns, being purchased by no less than Justin Timberlake and re-positioning itself as a music discovery network, the site remains a ghost of its former self. Your profile now exists in name only; any friend comments and the ability to blast visitors to your page with a sweet Taking Back Sunday B-side have gone – only the emo photos of 2006 remain.