(NOTE: If this article seems too long and you just want a quick answer to which server type you should use: Mastodon is probably the easiest server type to use at the moment. Start on Mastodon and explore other types when you’re more confident.)
The Fediverse is a massive network of tens of thousands of independent social media servers. The servers talk to each other so that their members can interact and follow people on other servers.
The most common kind of Fediverse server is Mastodon, but it’s not the only kind. Some of the other kinds are fairly similar and are mainly about text conversations, while others are totally different and focused on sharing photos, posting videos or even hosting a livestream.
However, thanks to open technical standards ⧉, even if you’re on a different kind of server there’s usually some way you can interact. Many of the accounts you see on Mastodon’s timelines aren’t actually on Mastodon servers at all, but the process of interaction is so seamless that you don’t notice any difference.
You can follow accounts on other server types from Mastodon, and you’ll see posts from those accounts appear in your Mastodon timeline. You can also reply to their posts, which will appear as comments next to the content on their own server.
It gets a bit more complicated going in the other direction, as some server types are more about publishing content than having conversations.
Here’s a quick summary of the different server types listed so far on fedi.garden and how they interact with Mastodon:
|Glitch Mastodon, Hometown Mastodon||Unofficial variations of Mastodon, they work pretty much exactly like official Mastodon but have some extra features that aren’t on official Mastodon such as much larger character limits.|
|Calckey||General social network with text posts and attachments, plus lots of fun features like emoji reactions, large character limits, desktop widgets, multiple windows etc. Calckey accounts can follow and interact with Mastodon accounts, Mastodon accounts can follow and interact with Calckey accounts.|
|Pixelfed||Instagram-style photo sharing. Pixelfed accounts can follow and interact with Mastodon accounts, Mastodon accounts can follow and interact with Pixelfed accounts.|
|PeerTube||YouTube-style video sharing and livestreaming. PeerTube accounts can be followed from Mastodon, but not the other way around. PeerTube accounts can reply to comments left below videos by Mastodon accounts. When a video is published or a livestream starts, it will appear as a post on Mastodon timelines for all of the account’s followers on Mastodon. People on Mastodon can comment on a video by replying to the timeline post.|
For example, if you mainly just want to publish videos on the Fediverse and don’t care about starting text based discussions, PeerTube would probably be the best type of server to join. It will let you publish high quality videos, and people on Mastodon will be able to follow your account and interact with your videos.
On the other hand, if you mainly want to take part in text discussions and watch videos (but not publish them) then Mastodon would be a better option, as you’ll have the discussion features of Mastodon plus the ability to follow PeerTube accounts.