What is this »federation« thing?
There is no single Mastodon instance / server / provider, but multiple instances: Similar to e-mail Mastodon is a network consisting of over 200 servers, where users can register an account. Although your account exists on one server only, your posts will be federated (transmitted) to all the other known Mastodon servers. In contrary your Mastodon "home server" will also receive posts from other servers.
What is the »Fediverse« and what does it have to do with GNUSocial?
Mastodon is compatible to the GNUSocial network, the so-called "Fediverse". Your Mastodon server is able to interact with all GNUSocial instances.
Is there account verification?
Since Mastodon is a decentralized network, there is no central organization which checks identities. Therefore accounts cannot be verified. Some users add green checkmarks to their usernames just for fun.
Are accounts distributed over instances?
Your user account only lives at the server you chose, when you registered. That may be mastodon.social, social.tchncs.de or one of the other available Mastodon servers. If you intend to move your accounts to another server or change your username, you can just choose the export function from the Mastodon settings. On the new profile, choose the import. Unfortunately your followers will have to follow your new account manually. The import / export only affects your own contacts.
What is the difference between local timeline and federated timeline?
The local timeline shows public posts from other users at your Mastodon instance. The federated timeline shows federated public posts from all known instances.
Why use Mastodon?
- Decentralized architecture driven by the community: There is no owner of the Mastodon network. Nobody can simply shut it down. You are independent from major companies.
- Free Open Source Software: Mastodon is free Open Source Software. You can have a look at the source code and contribute, if you are missing functionality or want to fix a bug.
- No advertising: Concentrate on the content.