The founder of Mastodon has said he has rejected approaches from more than five US-based investors, as the Twitter rival grows in popularity after Elon Musk’s chaotic debut as a social media owner.
Eugen Rochko, who launched the open-source social network in 2016, told the Financial Times he had received the offers from Silicon Valley private equity firms to put “hundreds of thousands of dollars” into the product.
The popularity of Mastodon has surged since the $44bn acquisition of Twitter by Musk in October. Rochko said last week that Mastodon had jumped from 300,000 monthly active users to 2.5 million after the Twitter deal, which has seen Musk reinstate banned accounts such as Donald Trump’s and temporarily suspend journalists at publications including the New York Times and Washington Post.
Rochko, a German software developer, told the FT his platform’s status as a non-profit organisation was “untouchable” and its independence was part of its appeal to users. Mastodon has more than 9,200 patrons on Patreon, the online membership service, who are contributing more than £28,000 a month to the platform between them.
“Mastodon will not turn into everything you hate about Twitter,” he said. “The fact that it can be sold to a controversial billionaire, the fact that it can be shut down, go bankrupt and so on. It’s the difference in paradigms [between the platforms].”
Mastodon was dragged into Musk’s controversial approach to moderation on Twitter this month, after its own Twitter account was suspended for sharing a link to the Mastodon account of @elonjet, an account that Musk had suspended for showing the location of his private jet. Musk also briefly banned all links to Mastodon and suspended users who tweeted their Mastodon usernames.
In a blog post, Rochko wrote: “This is a stark reminder that centralised platforms can impose arbitrary and unfair limits on what you can and can’t say … At Mastodon, we believe that there doesn’t have to be a middleman between you and your audience and that journalists and government institutions especially should not have to rely on a private platform to reach the public.”
Mastodon is made up of “instances”, or decentralised servers. Two of the most popular instances are run by Rochko, with many smaller ones operated by hobbyists. Once a user has joined an instance, they can communicate with users on others.