How Does Mastodon Make Money?

Mastodon logo seen on blurry blue background

Mastodon, the open-source social media platform that is quickly becoming a major player in the world of online communication, may have you wondering how it’s actually making money to keep the lights on and the servers running. After all, it’s free to use and there aren’t any ads, fees, or VC funding either like with other popular platforms.

So how does Mastodon make money? Let’s explore.

How Mastodon Works

Mastodon is an open-source, decentralized social networking platform that works similarly to Twitter. It allows users to post messages of up to 1500 characters and also follow other users. Unlike Twitter, however, Mastodon has no central server, so anyone can set up their own instance on Mastodon or join any existing one.

The platform is built on a distributed model, meaning digital messages are sent out through the network of servers instead of being stored centrally in one place. To make it easier for users, each instance can federate with any other ones so that all posts can be seen regardless of the server they were created on.

How Does Mastodon Make Money?

While there are no ads, direct fees, or VC funding like with other popular platforms, Mastodon does make money in several ways.

screenshot of Mastodon's sponsor page

The first source of income comes from donations from people who believe in and support what the company is doing. Monthly donations come from both individuals and businesses alike, allowing Mastodon to maintain its operations without having to rely on outside investors. This is a great way for users and brands to show their support for the platform while also helping fund its continued development.

Mastodon’s website has a donation page that intending donors can use to contribute based on its three sponsorship tiers: Rosegold tier, Gold tier, and Platinum tier. Sponsors get their names and logo listed on the Mastodon website, a backlink, and a couple of other perks based on their sponsorship tier.

To reemphasize its independence, Mastodon displays a caveat to its sponsors that “sponsorship does not equal influence.” And that “Mastodon is fully independent.” This ensures that intending sponsors know they cannot dictate how the platform evolves.

2. Patreon Support

screenshot of Mastodon's patreon page

The second source of income comes from Patreon, a crowdfunding platform that allows users to become “patrons” of projects they support. Mastodon’s Patreon page allows users to pledge monthly donations in exchange for perks such as “[a]ccess to the development discussions Discord” and the teams’ gratitude.

It also has premium tiers in which patrons can pledge larger amounts for additional perks such as being featured on its sponsors’ list and getting a link back to the website of their choice.

These two sources of income combined give Mastodon enough financial stability so that it can continue providing a quality service without needing to charge users outright or fill their feeds with ads like many other social media sites do.

3. Other Value-Added Services

screenshot of Masto host page

In addition to its two main sources of income, Mastodon also generates revenue from offering value-added services like the Fediverse subscription, Community fees, Cloud storage, Elastic search fee, etc.

Server administrators purchase these services to make their version of Mastodon more reliable and secure, while users benefit from a better overall experience. To purchase these services, server administrators raise money through donations from members of the community or through crowdfunding campaigns.

The Mastodon Difference

It’s clear why people are choosing Mastodon over more traditional social media sites—not only is it free, but it also offers a wide range of features without cluttering up your feed with intrusive ads or requiring you to pay for usage fees as some other platforms do.

With its three main sources of income—direct sponsorship, Patreon support, and other value-added services—Mastodon can keep up its operations while still providing users with an enjoyable experience.

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