The update to version 4.2.0 released on Thursday not only introduces the longed-for full-text search to Mastodon, but also a whole series of improvements to the web interface. There are also many innovations that are intended to make it easier to get started with the Twitter alternative. The initial registration for the short message service has been significantly revised, writes chief developer Eugen Rochko in a blog entry. Suggestions and tips are intended to ensure that fewer newbies drop out and lose interest. The innovations have been available on the in-house instances mastodon.social and mastodon.online for a few weeks, and more and more instances have installed the update since Thursday.
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Search results with verification
For already active users, the significantly expanded search is likely to be the most visible change. The search is implemented via opt-in. Anyone who wants their own content to appear in other people’s search results must agree to the indexing. The option can be found in the settings under “Public profile” and the sub-item “Data protection and reach”, it only applies to posts that have been shared publicly. If you don’t want this, you can still use the new search, and your own posts can still be found. For profiles that are revealed via the search, a link that may be available for verification is now clearly visible. Searches made are also saved and can therefore be accessed again.
In the “Discover” sub-item there is now a separate area for news, where links to those news articles that have been shared particularly frequently are collected. The way the hashtags collected underneath are displayed has been adjusted for the posts themselves; they are now collected separately at the very end. Article previews have been revised; in replies to posts, a line now makes the connection clearer. Interaction with other instances has also been improved. If you land on a post that you cannot interact with directly, a query will open asking you to enter your own instance, where the post will then open.
One of several Twitter alternatives
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A comprehensive list of the innovations that have now been introduced can be found on GitHub. The previously significantly limited search had been repeatedly criticized, especially after Mastodon’s immense growth following Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter. In the model, the search is an important and helpful tool; anyone who moves from there often misses the function immediately. Depending on the instance, a full-text search has so far only been available for your own posts and posts that you have favorited, bookmarked or mentioned. At the same time, posts shared on Mastodon have always been recorded by search engines – unless the authority prohibits this. The contents were then not untraceable.
Mastodon is currently one of the largest Twitter alternatives with around two million active accounts on more than 12,000 servers. Even more are only active on Meta threads; Bluesky has a million accounts. After explosive growth as a result of the Twitter takeover, the impression around Mastodon has solidified in recent months that high entry barriers make it unnecessarily difficult for many newcomers. Nevertheless, there are always waves in which new accounts are added, especially when there are unpopular changes on X (formerly Twitter). Mastodon is also part of the Fediverse, so users can interact directly with accounts that are active on the Instagram alternative Pixelfed or on Firefish.
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