Moving from Twitter to Mastodon

Before you begin

I’ve already written introductory posts to Mastodon in english and in dutch. I suggest reading them first to get a grip on what Mastodon is and isn’t. This post will focus on migrating from Twitter to Mastodon.

Last Update: 12/11/2022

General resources

Finding people you follow on Twitter on Mastodon

Since Mastodon is decentralized (it is a patchwork of independently operatedservers, not a single one), it might be a bit harder to find the accounts of people you follow on Twitter on Mastodon. You can’t just enter their name in the search field and find them – they will only show up in the results of your server has made contact with them before.

So check your friend’s Twitter profile and bio for references. You are looking for accounts in the form of @[email protected], for example @[email protected]. That’s Mastodon’s way of saying that I (@jbaert) have an account at the mastodon.social server (@mastodon.social).

Once you have someone’s full handle, log in and paste it in the search bar of your Mastodon web client or app. Once the account shows up under the “accounts” tab, open it and follow it. Voila! After a short moment, all their posts will appear on your timeline.

Some tools have also been developed that try to find people on Mastodon based on your Twitter follow list. These tools search for info in profile and bio, or try to make guesses.

Both of these tools require you to login with your Twitter account to fetch your info. I’ve used them both and have detected no wrongdoings or weird things. They are a great way to quickly find some interesting people!

Also check out FediDirectory, a hand-curated list of cool accounts to follow.

Changing Mastodon servers

There may be many reasons why you would want to change servers. Maybe you don’t agree with the moderation policy anymore, you think the server is not performing well (although that might very well be temporarily), or you just feel like switching.

Mastodon doesn’t hold you or your data hostage! The correct way to switch is explained by developer Eugen in this post.

  1. Sign up on NEW server
  2. On NEW server: Go to Account -> Moving FROM another account
  3. Enter old account’s handle
  4. On OLD server: Go to Account -> Moving TO another account
  5. Enter new account’s handle and submit

Your followers should automatically transfer as well, though this can take a while. As always: give it time.
Update: These instructions are more thorough.

I forgot my password, and Mastodon doesn’t recognize my username … huh?

This is a common pitfall: only the server you registered the account at can help you with this problem. There is no single knows-it-all Mastodon server. It’s a decentralized system, remember?

A lot of people get confused because at first glance, for example mastodon.social and mastodon.lol look very similar visually (of course, they are both running Mastodon!), but make no mistake: these are seperate servers, and making an account on one of them doesn’t automatically give you an account on the other one. So make sure you check the URL before trying to log in! It’s easy to get confused.

Why do I have multiple timelines?

Mastodon offers you three timelines by default:

  • Home: Posts from people you follow, and the things they boost (=retweet)
  • Local: Posts from everyone on the same server as you
  • Federated: Posts from the whole Mastodon universe that your server just picked up

You can create your own lists to add more timelines! I for example keep a list of all Belgian Mastodon users I know. Mastodon lists are private, and there is no way to publicly share them (at this moment in time).
Another handy tip if your a power users: go to preferences, and select “enable advanced web interface” to get a Tweetdeck-like experience.

Does Mastodon have lists?

Yes, Mastodon has lists to collect people you follow, but they are private-only at the moment. You cannot share them (yet).

Does Mastodon have DM’s?

Yes, Mastodon has some sort of private messaging system, but it works very differently from the DM’s in Twitter. It’s implemented as a private conversation that looks like a post. More info here. They are not end-to-end encrypted and should not be used for sensitive information. Use Signal for private communcation.

How can I get verified?

There is no verification system in Mastodon similar to Twitter’s (problematic and arbitrary) “blue ticks”. This means that identity has to be proven externally. People you see with a checkmark in their Mastodon name simply placed it there as an emoji – it has no meaning, other than being a joke. You could just as well place a monkey or poop emoji there.

If you want to prove your identity on Mastodon, you can do it by listing websites in your profile that are under your control. There is a way to formally verify these links by including a piece of HTML code on the page you’re linking to. The Mastodon docs have more information.

Export your Twitter data

Just in case Twitter ever goes down, it’s nice to have a local backup of all the tweets and content you wrote over the years. You can request a big zip file with all that information on the Twitter website.

  • Click More in the main navigation menu to the left of your timeline.
  • Select Settings and privacy.
  • Select Account under Settings.
  • Click Your Twitter data under Data and permissions.

Download that zip file and store it somewhere safe. It’s a good idea to do this for other services (like Google) too. If you want to, you can convert all this data to something more manageable later.

Mastodon is not Twitter

Although they are both microblogging platforms, there are subtle and less subtle differences in the ways both platforms work and operate. You might have to take a while to adapt to a new way of doing things.

  • No recommendation engine or promotion for viral tweets: giving someone a star (=likes) just communicates to the author that you appreciated the post.
  • Every instance is run by volunteers. There might be outages, slowness or hiccups. Be patient.
  • Reverse chronological timeline only: no ads, just the posts of people you follow, with the most recent ones at the top.
  • Use boosts (=retweets) liberally: Boosts are important for the discoverability of Mastodon users. If you like something and want to spread it to your followers, boost the post!
  • No quoting, by design. Explained here and here.
  • Use Content Warnings
  • Use image descriptions to help people with disabilities

None of these rules are set in stone, but you will notice that Mastodon becomes more enjoyable if you change your mindset. This post also has a great summary of differences.

Crossposting

There are tools that can post tweets to Mastodon and vice versa. The most used one is the Mastodon-Twitter Crossposter, developed by the awesome Renato Lond. You log in with your Twitter account, your Mastodon account, and start configuring. Some things to keep in mind:

  • Not all content is interchangeable: Retweets or Quote Tweets lose their meaning on Mastodon and intrinsically link to features on Twitter (accounts, t.co links, …). My advice is to not forward retweets or quote tweets.
  • The crossposter has gained a lot of users over the last weeks: crossposts might not be instant. Ther’s a handy dashboard for this.
  • Consider using the option to only forward things you explicitly mark for crossposting, maybe with a little hashtag. I only forward tweets I explicitly mark with “#xp” (for crosspost). Those are tweets I know that work on their own.
  • Update (12/11): Renato has decided not to allow public retweets or quote tweets anymore in the crossposter. You can still forward them as unlisted or private.

Another crossposter tool that you can self-host is this Mastodon-Bot by Yogthos. I used it for a while, but development seems to have stalled.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.