Mastodon takes on Twitter/X by bringing ‘lists’ to mobile

3 min read
Mastodon takes on Twitter/X by bringing 'lists' to mobile

Mastodon, the open source, decentralized alternative to Twitter/X, is adding a feature to its app that will help make the transition smoother for newcomers: Lists. The company today announced the Mastodon app for Android is adding the much-in-demand feature, which allows users to create custom lists around specific topics or interests. An update for iOS is expected to follow, though the company did not commit to a time frame.

Previously, Mastodon users could only access the Lists feature via the web, which made it difficult to keep up with topics the same way you could on Twitter, which has since been rebranded as X. Mastodon’s user interface is also a bit more cumbersome on the web, as you could only add and remove people from lists either by editing the list itself or from their user profile. But, in typical Mastodon fashion, the latter only worked if the user was on the same server (or “instance” in Mastodon parlance) as your own account.

Other third-party apps from indie developers and small startups stepped in to address the lack of lists on mobile. For example, apps like Tusky, Metatext, Ivory, Mammoth and more, now support lists on mobile more elegantly. However, Mastodon’s own first-party mobile app didn’t offer access to lists until now. But mobile development at Mastodon has sped up since the hiring of additional developers last year, allowing Mastodon to play catch-up with Twitter/X. That effort has also included a significant update released in September designed to make Mastodon easier to use by former Twitter users and overhauled search.

In today’s announcement, the company explains that lists do more than allow you to curate topics around your interests — they also provide a way to declutter your home feed by limiting some accounts to lists, where you can engage with them “on your own terms.” This could be helpful for subjects or interests you only want to track on occasion, as opposed to seeing every time you log on.

Mastodon suggested more features were in the works for iOS and web, as well, though didn’t give an indication as to when Lists would arrive on the App Store version of its mobile app.

The company has stayed in the running as a potential alternative to X as users look for other platforms to serve their microblogging needs. After becoming dissatisfied with changes to the app formerly known as Twitter under Elon Musk’s ownership, Mastodon has boosted its following. But it’s not the only one benefiting; the chaos at X also led to an explosion of alt-Twitters, including one from Meta known as Instagram Threads, and Bluesky, an app built on a competitive decentralized social networking protocol that spun out from Twitter under Jack Dorsey’s reign.

However, some startups haven’t fared as well — the ongoing “stickiness” factor for X already led to the shutdown of Pebble (formerly known as T2), one of the early companies to try to clone Twitter alongside Spill, Post, Spoutible and others.

Mastodon, however, has hung in there with some 1.7 million monthly active users as of this month. The company earlier in October noted it had more users than it thought, as a network connectivity error caused it to undercount its user base. The adjustment included a gain of 2.34 million registered users across an additional 727 servers that had not been counted previously.

The company is not a traditional startup, as it operates as a nonprofit funded by donations, Patreon subscriptions, government grants and, more recently, merchandise sales. Despite its small size and team, it’s managed to onboard several publishers, creators and users since Musk’s Twitter takeover, while also gaining integrations from other publishing startups, like Flipboard and Medium.

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