While Instagram Threads is making headlines for adding a chronological Following feed to its Twitter-like app, another popular Mastodon client is doing the opposite — it’s adding a new algorithmic For You feed instead. Mammoth, one of the apps co-founded by a former Twitter app developer and now backed by Mozilla, says it will begin to test a personalized feed in its own third-party client for the decentralized social network known as Mastodon, a competitor of sorts for Twitter’s user base.
The addition is notable because of the complaints surrounding Mastodon, which some have found too difficult to use.
As an open source, decentralized social network, Mastodon isn’t a centralized platform like Twitter, but rather software that anyone can install on their own servers. Those servers connect — or federate — with one another in a system that’s known as the “fediverse.” But for newcomers, it can be difficult to get started on Mastodon as they initially have to choose a server and then figure out how to find people to follow — even if they’re on different servers. This, too, can be challenging as there are quirks involved with the following mechanism that don’t exist on centralized social networks.
Mammoth’s original premise was to make the fediverse easier to use by offering a simplified user interface that walks a user through the setup process, including their profile creation.
It also tackles the problem of who to follow on Mastodon by presenting an interface for finding suggested users across categories — something Twitter also did in its early days. Now, it’s taking a page from Twitter and other competitors, like Threads, by introducing an algorithmic and personalized For You feed that will showcase the people and posts it thinks a user will want to engage with.
The company describes the new For You feed as “curated lists of interesting, diverse Mastodon accounts” that will allow Mammoth users to stumble upon content and accounts they may not have otherwise found. This, in turn, will help users improve their own home feeds as they find and follow new accounts they like.
The feature improves upon the original For You feed, launched in May, which looked only for posts and boosts from a list of 100 or so Mastodon accounts. But it wasn’t personalized.
The new For You feed now won’t just showcase a range of popular, but diverse, accounts, but will customize its suggestions based on the user’s own “friends of friends” network. That means the content from public accounts that friends of friends follow will be surfaced in the new For You feed.
The feature, now in beta, is an example of how even a decentralized social network like Mastodon could end up looking a lot like a centralized network, such as Twitter (now rebranded as X), despite their very different underpinnings and infrastructure. The end user may not be able to tell the difference.
Mammoth is testing the new feed in its TestFlight with just 100 users for the time being but plans to make the new feed a part of its next significant update, Mammoth 2. This release will also include other familiar features Mammoth has been developing, like quote posts and Follow Suggestions, in addition to the new For You feed.
“For Mammoth 2, we are polishing all the code and features we’ve been developing, and really trying to deliver a consumer-grade Mastodon experience –both at the app and [user interface] level — but more importantly, helping users find interesting people and conversations,” explains Mammoth co-founder Bart Decrem.
“We see a really big opportunity to build “Mastodon — but really, decentralized social networking — for the rest of us,” he adds.