Eugen Rochko, the founder and creator of Mastodon, talks about funding and creating the arch-rival of Twitter. The Russia-born German software developer was struck with the idea of creating Mastodon about six years ago when Twitter was suffering another plunge.
Eugen was always interested in open-source software and was working with one earlier.
The concept of Mastodon was conceptualized long before when Rochko built a federated version of a forum during high school. The project was known as Zeon Federated, which is no longer active.
During this time, Rochko also created and sold a platform to manage the escrow for artists. He openly discussed a lot in a recent interview with a prominent online news website.
Highlights of the Interview With Eugen Rochko
Talking about the recent growth of Mastodon, Rochko says they witnessed a huge surge following the news of Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter. The surge ascended further when Musk started firing the Twitter staff.
The Mastodon app is witnessing over 4,000 downloads daily on iOS and Android platforms.
Eugen also told the news website that they don’t chart the growth rate at Mastodon, but they presently have over a million monthly active users across their 8,600+ servers.
When asked about people working at Mastodon, Rochko surprisingly revealed that presently he’s the only full-time employee at Mastodon, and the rest of the five people are contractors. However, he also said he plans to inhibit a full-time team and work on a job listing for the same.
Coming to funding, Rochko admitted that Patreon is the primary source of funding. Mastodon also has a sponsorship platform that allows businesses to offer sponsorship without spending Patreon fees.
Mastodon also received a grant from the European Commission to finance and develop some features on the platform. However, Rochko maintained that the primary finance vehicle for Mastodon today is Patreon.
Mastodon has raised around USD 31,000 this month from over 8,500 backers on Patreon.
As of the previous month, Mastodon was raising around USD 7,000 from Patreon. Rochko admits that this is the only reason he’s planning to hire new employees, as he thinks now there is some buffer to afford and involve new people.
On asking if Rochko would use the crowdsourced fund to create a for-profit business, he said that money is untouchable for the purpose. He mentioned that he’d raise outside money for a prospect service business, and various VCs are contacting him.
But Rochko doesn’t consider them to be sustainable and says that they’ll rather look for an angel investor or crowdfund for the service business separately.
Mastodon Will Be a Non-profit Platform
Rochko also expressed his willingness to keep the platform nonprofit. However, he added that they’re more leaned towards a split model like Mozilla’s. The core product will remain open source, but the Software-as-a-Service will be a for-profit business.
As for provisioning advertisements on Mastodon, Rochko said that they’re not interested in the same. He believes that users would prefer a platform with no advertisements over one with advertisements.
I can’t give you much on whether mobile is more popular than desktop: I don’t track it. We haven’t built dashboards for that.Eugen Rochko
Rochko also discussed possible business models for Mastodon other than hosting instances. He added that the best model for Mastodon would be an ecosystem with a paid accounts model.
Servers and Moderation
When asked why registrations are closed for the biggest Mastodon server, i.e., Mastodon, social, Rochko said that the main reason for the closed registration is the huge load on the DevOps for scaling up beyond the increased number of users.
Rochko thinks total active user numbers are a better metric to assess the success of a platform over the total user numbers, which go up all the time.
He admitted not having a dedicated DevOps employee and regarded their servers as good.
Rochko says they need to work on moderation. Currently, he has five part-time moderators. Mastodon also doesn’t have any automation for moderating at the moment. Besides, Rochko thinks moderation isn’t automation-friendly work.
Users can submit a report, which the moderator looks through a queue before taking action. While some Mastodon servers do proactive moderation, Rochko finds it uncomfortable as it increases the workload.
Rochko also disclosed that they have over 881,000 users on the platform, with approximately 210,000 active users on any given day.