Mammoth, an app from the Mozilla-backed startup focused on building a more consumer-friendly entry point to the world of decentralized social media, is out today with its next big upgrade: Mammoth 2. The third-party Mastodon client had already focused on various pain points for joining the open source Twitter/X competitor, including better onboarding and its own “For You” feed, and with Mammoth 2, the app is introducing other features that will make Mastodon easier to use, including personalized follow suggestions, curated “smart lists” that help you track topics of interests, and integration with trusted sources for news, to give the app more of a Twitter-like feel.
According to Mammoth co-founder Bart Decrem, the update comes at a time when the world of social media is about to see a sizable shift.
“We’re betting that 2024 is going to be an exciting year for social media apps,” he says. “The Twitter drama never ends…it’s sort of a slow implosion of that platform. It’s slower than one expects because it’s got such staying power and distribution power…but it’s going to keep on crumbling. And that means we’re seeing a fracturing of social media, as we have been,” Decrem explains.
He believes that means there’s more opportunity for decentralized social media, including the world of Mastodon, particularly because Instagram Threads has pledged to support the ActivityPub protocol that powers the Mastodon network and other “federated” social apps.
“I suspect that ActivityPub is really going to happen in the first half of 2024,” he adds, noting that regulatory pressure and the ongoing discontent with Twitter/X will help to advance Mastodon’s reach.
With Mammoth 2, the startup aims to offer an alternative not only to X, but also to Threads. While Instagram head Adam Mosseri has spoken of how Threads doesn’t want to amplify news on its platform, many former X users are looking to reproduce the same watercooler feel they had on Twitter, which was a popular place for breaking news. (And still may be, at least for today.)
The updated app will introduce a number of features designed to appeal to former X users, including personalized suggestions of accounts to follow, to help you rebuild your network on Mastodon, as well as curated “smart lists” that help you find the interesting conversations taking place on Mastodon. These include lists like Chris Messina’s “Makers On Mastodon,” which identifies developers building apps and tools, Matthias Pfefferle’s “Indieweb Devs,” Tim Chambers’ “Activists on Mastodon,” and Debora Giannini’s lists of all things Apple and Mastodon in Italy, among others.
Mammoth will also integrate with Flipboard’s editorial news desks, the social magazine app’s effort to curate news across topics from around the web via accounts like News, Tech, Culture, and Science. And it’s partners with Newsmast, another curator of news and communities on Mastodon, as well as with Press.coop, which imports the feeds from popular news websites into Mastodon. These integrations allow Mammoth 2 to create a number of other “smart lists” including those for News, World News, Business, Tech, Environment, and Nature.
“We have 30 of these [smart lists] and you just click on those and you follow them. It’s the fastest way to get started,” says Decrem. Plus, the lists form the basis of the app’s “For You” feed. However, unlike Threads’ or X’s algorithmic feed, users can enter the app’s settings to custom their own feed by turning on or off the various signals that drive it, like the smart lists or posts from “friends of friends,” those “trending among follows,” Mammoth’s own editorial picks, and more.
The company is also adding a way to support its efforts with the launch of Mammoth 2, which now includes an in-app subscription option of $2.99 per month or $19.99 per year. The subscription today unlocks alternative app icons, but doesn’t paywall other key features. Instead, it’s more of a way users can support the app’s development, rather than a subscription filled with features. However, subscribers will be the first to get to try new features, will get priority access for bug reports and tech support, and will be invited to attend virtual “board meetings” where they get to participate in Mammoth’s development.
“We’re going to do quarterly board meetings where you come on Zoom call, and we tell you what’s going on with the company and how much money we’ve raised and all that kind of stuff,” Decrem says.
Mammoth 2 will also open source the app’s source code using the GPL this week, alongside the app’s update.
The startup today is still small in comparison to Threads, which has nearly 100 million monthly active users, or X’s 500 million, as it only has some 50,000 apps installs and “tens of thousands” of active users. However, the startup believes it’s still early days for the decentralized social web.
“The way I think about it is the game hasn’t started. The numbers don’t matter,” says Decrem. The hope is that Mammoth will eventually grow to millions of users, with some portion of them subscribing. To aid in that effort, the company is looking to build an Android client in the first half of next year. It’s also considering raising additional funds in the next six months to further fuel its efforts.
“The honest reality is if we get to a couple of million downloads, a couple of million users, and then a fraction of them subscribing, then we can keep the lights on,” says Decrem.
Correction, 12/7/23, 2:37 PM ET: The in-app subscription is $2.99/mo, not $1.99/mo as earlier stated. The article has been updated with the accurate price.