I’ve been looking for alternative social media for the past while, and came across two platforms: diaspora* and Mastodon. Both are designed to be decentralized social networks and are free software.
I’ve been using diaspora* for just a little less than a year, and I have to say that I’m impressed. It borrows ideas from other networks, and it works well on my desktop. However, the mobile interface is still a little rough; it seems like it’s mostly geared towards desktop usage. There’s also a way to message other users, but it feels a little primitive.
The community behind diaspora* seems diverse. It was pleasant for me to find that I wasn’t the only LDS, conservative-libertarian, FOSS lover. I mainly use diaspora* for my GNU/Linux news and as a notification for current events, in which it does well. However as a network to connect with friends, it’s slightly lacking as it is hard to get others on board. One of my concerns in switching to this platform was inappropriate content. Thankfully, this is not a problem because the terms of service prohibit this (for the server I’m on at least). One of the design ideas I’m a fan of is the idea of “aspects”. With aspects, you can fine tune who sees what post, and share with different aspects.
I’ve been using Mastodon for less then a month. Mastodon seems designed to directly compete with Twitter. It boasts a higher word count than Twitter and instead of sending “tweets” you send “toots” (Admit it, you laughed). The user interface seems very mobile oriented and the dark theme is easy on the eyes, but the interface isn’t nearly that impressive on the desktop. It supports pictures, as well as private and public toots. The mobile application also supports translation.
Mobile clients for Mastodon seem very polished and are what make the Mastodon expericence impressive. However it lacks in some features. There is no instant messaging function, at least that I found. There is also a horizontial scrollbar that appears when using the site, even with a decent screen resolution.
All in all
Diaspora* feels much more desktop oriented, and has most features I need, but Mastodon’s polished mobile interface is definitely a win. If you want to simply migrate from Twitter and are a heavy mobile user, I would recommend Mastodon. Otherwise, you may be better off with with diaspora* on a desktop.