Eugene Roshko The idea and construction of Mastodon was born during another Twitter dip six years ago. Mastodon was the brainchild of a high school student who was already an open source developer and was interested in creating software.
This was the final project.It is now called Zeon Federated and is no longer in operation. He also created and sold a collateral management platform for artists to manage commissions.
Mastodon’s success has been somewhat surprising to its creator. Roshko wasn’t a powerful social media user. He isn’t prone to sharing too much about himself. Roshko connected to our videochat from an undisclosed place when we spoke. He never used Instagram. Roshko seems quite the opposite of growth hackers who see audience building or revenue as an end all in themselves.
We spoke with Rochko over the early days and surge in users of Mastodon this week, as well as how advertising may affect its future.
TechCrunch – You may have noticed significant growth over the last six weeks. Is the growth rate stable, increasing or decreasing since Elon Musk took control? How many servers and users do you have right now?
Eugene Roshko:It is clear that there was a significant spike in activity around the news that Elon Musk had purchased Twitter. Another spike was seen when Musk fired most employees at Twitter. Although the rate has fallen, it is still much higher now than it was before October. Mastodon now has over 2.5 million active users monthly across 8,600 servers.
We don’t track the growth rate but app downloads on iOS or Android are around 4,000 each day. We saw the highest spike when Musk fired employees. We had 149,000 Android downloads and 235,000 iOS. The iOS app has been downloaded 1.8 million times in the last 90 days. Android gives different numbers, but the Android app’s installed audience was 53,000 devices in October. It currently stands at 907,000 devices.
I don’t know if mobile is more popular than desktop, so I can’t tell you. We didn’t create dashboards to do that.
“Moderation is not suitable for automation. Simple cases are so easy that even if someone is doing it, it takes only a few seconds. Automation cannot help if the situation is complicated. It requires a human to read the context of the situation and make the call.” Eugene Roshko
TC: You say “we”, but how many mastodons are there?
Roshko: I’m the only full-time employee, and the rest—five people—are on contract at the moment. I am currently looking to expand the team full-time and working on job listings. It’s a slow process. I wish I could do this faster. It’s a new frontier for an organization that has been a one-person venture for six years. It’s been great so far, but now we need more people.
TC: Is Patreon your only vehicle that you have been financing?
Roshko:Patreon is our main platform. To save money on Patreon fees, we have also created a dedicated sponsorship platform where companies can sponsor us. The European Commission also granted us a public grant to help fund feature work. It’s Patreon.
TC: So it comes mainly from about 8,500 backers…
Roshko:Yes, this brings in $31,000 per month. This number has risen by a lot in the past month, from $7,000 last month to $31,000. This is why we should consider hiring new employees.
This is the scary part about running a donation-based non-profit. I’m responsible if donations stop. But if you hire others and they stop, you suddenly become responsible for other peoples’ livelihoods. This was the reason people were unable to get hired before now.
I believe now there’s some buffer. We want to get a few people in on it.
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