Mastodon Gains 200,000 New Users After Musk Completes Twitter Takeover

Mastodon Gains 200,000 New Users After Musk Completes Twitter Takeover

The decentralized social media platform is now seeing more active users than ever before.

I’ve been with PCMag since October 2017, covering a wide range of topics, including consumer electronics, cybersecurity, social media, networking, and gaming. Prior to working at PCMag, I was a foreign correspondent in Beijing for over five years, covering the tech scene in Asia.

Mastodon Gains 200,000 New Users After Musk Completes Twitter Takeover Image


Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover has been a boon for Mastodon. The rival social media platform has added nearly 200,000 new users since Musk completed his acquisition of Twitter a week ago.

“199,430 is the number of new users across different Mastodon servers since October 27, along with 437 new servers,” Mastodon Founder Eugen Rochko reported (Opens in a new window) on Wednesday night. “This bring(s) last day’s total to 608,837 active users, which is without precedent the highest it’s ever been for Mastodon and the fediverse."

The numbers represent an increase from about 250,000 monthly active users in mid-April when Mastodon noted an uptick in new users after Musk announced plans to buy Twitter.

Mastodon’s current user count is still small compared to Twitter, which had 237.8 million monetizable daily active users as of July. Nevertheless, the influx of new activity to Mastodon shows some users are looking for alternatives to Twitter as Elon Musk prepares to make major changes to the platform, including charging $8 per month for the verified blue checkmark.

Mastodon functions like Twitter, allowing you to publish up to 500-character posts. But one key difference is how it operates as a decentralized social network through thousands of independent servers that each have their own rules. Hence, Mastodon has drawn comparisons to today’s email ecosystem, where you have numerous providers all communicating over standardized messaging protocols. Mastodon’s fediverse, made up of numerous independent servers, operates in a similar way.

Elon Musk Begins Layoffs at Twitter

The social media company’s 7,500 employees have been bracing for job cuts since Mr. Musk took it over last week.

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Twitter’s headquarters in San Francisco. About half the company’s 7,500 workers appeared set to lose their jobs.

Twitter’s headquarters in San Francisco. About half the company’s 7,500 workers appeared set to lose their jobs. Credit. Jim Wilson/The New York Times

SAN FRANCISCO — Elon Musk began laying off Twitter employees on Friday, culling the social media service’s 7,500-person work force a little over a week after completing his blockbuster buyout.

Twitter employees were notified in a companywide email that the layoffs were set to begin, according to a copy of the message seen by The New York Times. Workers were instructed to go home and not go to the offices on Friday as the cuts proceeded. The message, which came from a generic address and was signed “Twitter,” did not detail the total number of layoffs.

“In an effort to place Twitter on a healthy path, we will go through the difficult process of reducing our global work force,” the email said. “We recognize that this will impact a number of individuals who have made valuable contributions to Twitter, but this action is unfortunately necessary to ensure the company’s success moving forward.”

About half of Twitter’s workers appeared set to lose their jobs, according to previous internal messages and an investor, though the final count may take time to become clear. As the email landed in employee inboxes on Thursday evening, workers posted salute emojis and heart emojis in Slack, the messaging service. Later in the evening, some employees said they had lost access to the company’s systems, a possible prelude to being laid off.

Early Friday morning, the company began to notify some employees that they had been laid off. The emails, some of which were seen by The Times, varied by an employee’s region or country. One New York-based worker received an email saying their job had been “impacted” but that they would remain employed through a separation date in early February.

“During this time, you will be on a Non-Working Notice period and your access to Twitter systems will be deactivated,” read the email, which was also signed “Twitter.” Employees would receive details on severance “within a week.”

In Dublin, home to Twitter’s European headquarters, some employees on Friday morning were cut off from the internal computer system and received an email about the job cuts. “These decisions never come easy,” it said, “and it is with regret that we write to inform you that your role at Twitter has been identified as potentially impacted or at risk of redundancy.” Decisions were being made, the note said, depending on the country where a person lives and that more information would be shared “as soon as possible.”

Changes at Elon Musk’s Twitter

A swift overhaul. Elon Musk has moved quickly to revamp Twitter since he completed his $44 billion buyout of the social media company in October, warning of a bleak financial picture and a need for new products. Here’s a look at some of the changes so far:

Going private. As part of Mr. Musk’s acquisition of Twitter, he is delisting the company’s stock and taking it out of the hands of public shareholders. Making Twitter a private company gives Mr. Musk some advantages, including not having to make quarterly financial disclosures. Private companies are also subject to less regulatory scrutiny.

Layoffs. Just over a week after closing the deal, Mr. Musk eliminated nearly half of Twitter’s work force, or about 3,700 jobs. The layoffs hit many divisions across the company, including the engineering and machine learning units, the teams that manage content moderation, and the sales and advertising departments.

Verification subscriptions. Twitter began charging customers $7.99 a month to receive a coveted verification check mark on their profiles. But the subscription service was paused after some users exploited it to create havoc on the platform by pretending to be high-profile brands and sending disruptive tweets.

Content moderation. Shortly after closing the deal to buy Twitter, Mr. Musk said that the company would form a content moderation council to decide what kinds of posts to keep up and what to take down. But advertisers have paused their spending on Twitter over fears that Mr. Musk will loosen content rules on the platform.

Other possible changes. As Mr. Musk and his advisers look for ways to generate more revenue at the company, they are said to have discussed adding paid direct messages, which would let users send private messages to high-profile users. The company has also filed registration paperwork to pave the way for it to process payments.

Mr. Musk completed his $44 billion purchase of Twitter on Oct. 27 and immediately fired its chief executive and other top managers. More executives have since resigned or were let go, while managers were asked to draw up lists of high- and low-performing employees, likely with an eye toward job cuts. Mr. Musk also brought in more than 50 engineers and employees from his other companies, including the electric carmaker Tesla, to review the layoff lists of Twitter workers and the social platform’s technology.

The world’s richest man faces pressure to make Twitter work financially. The deal was the largest leveraged buyout of a technology company in history. The billionaire also loaded about $13 billion in debt on Twitter for the acquisition and is on the hook to pay about $1 billion a year in interest payments. But Twitter has often lost money, and its cash flow is not robust. Mr. Musk may benefit from cutting costs so the company is less expensive to operate.

Mr. Musk and Twitter did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Twitter’s layoffs are unlikely to be the largest in the tech industry by total number. The computer manufacturer HP cut 24,600 of its employees, about 7.5 percent, in 2008. It later cut tens of thousands more, reaching about 30 percent of its work force.

More recently, other tech companies have slashed jobs. On Thursday, Lyft said it would lay off 13 percent, or about 650, of its 5,000 employees. Stripe, a payment processing platform, said it would cut 14 percent of its jobs, or roughly 1,100.

Jesse Lehrich, a founder of Accountable Tech, an industry advocacy organization, said the layoffs amounted to an arbitrary purge just days before the midterm elections on Tuesday.

“There is nothing visionary or innovative about summarily firing” workers by email, he said, especially people who have “specialized expertise and deep institutional knowledge” and before Mr. Musk “even seems to have a basic grasp of the business.”

While federal and California laws require companies to provide advance notice of mass layoffs, it was not clear whether Mr. Musk had done so. A spokesman for California’s Employment Development Department said on Thursday evening that it had received no such notices from Twitter, which is based in San Francisco and is expected to report mass layoffs to the agency.

On Thursday, a class-action lawsuit was filed in a federal court in San Francisco on behalf of employees who say they were not given the requisite notice.

Under the terms of his deal to acquire Twitter, Mr. Musk agreed to keep employee compensation and benefits the same for one year. Twitter workers are typically paid at least two months’ salary and the cash value of equity they were scheduled to receive within three months of a layoff date, according to an internal benefits summary seen by The Times.

Rumors of impending layoffs had been swirling at the company. On Wednesday, employees took note of a Slack message that suggested 3,738 people could be laid off. The message noted that changes could still be made to the list, according to a copy seen by The Times.

On Wednesday evening, some employees circulated a “Layoff Guide” with tips on corporate surveillance and employment rights. One worker created software to help colleagues download important emails and documents. He was later fired, he said.

More on Elon Musk’s Twitter Takeover

  • An Established Pattern: Firing people. Talking of bankruptcy. Telling workers to be “hard core.” Twitter isn’t the first company that witnessed Elon Musk use those tactics.
  • A Looming Battle: With a series of tweets in which he accused Apple of threatening to pull Twitter from its App Store, Mr. Musk set the stage for a clash with the world’s most valuable public company.
  • Unpaid Bills: Mr. Musk and his advisers have scrutinized all types of costs at Twitter, instructing staff to review, renegotiate and in some cases not pay outside vendors at all.
  • A ‘War for Talent’: Seeing misinformation as a possibly expensive liability, several companies are angling to hire former Twitter employees with the expertise to keep it in check.

On Thursday, workers got other signals that their workplace was changing. Twitter’s “Days of Rest,” which are monthly days off so employees can rest and recharge, were removed from their calendars, two people with knowledge of the matter said. Some workers also noticed that the employee directory had been taken offline, according to internal chats seen by The Times.

“Has the red wedding started?” one employee wrote on Slack, a reference to a massacre scene in “Game of Thrones.” Nine minutes later, the company sent the email informing workers of the layoffs. Employees who will keep their jobs would receive a message saying so on their corporate accounts, the message said, while employees being laid off would be notified on their personal accounts.

At Twitter’s headquarters in San Francisco late Thursday, some employees milled about in one of the building lobbies, still wearing their corporate badges that grant them access to the premises. Some had drinks in hand from a bar attached to Twitter’s office and refreshed their phones for news about cuts.

Parker Lyons, a Twitter employee, tweeted a photo of a woman in a fetal position after the email hit. “8:59am notification,” he tweeted, referring to the latest time that layoff notifications were set to arrive on Friday.

By keeping workers out of Twitter’s offices on Friday, those who are laid off will be blocked from taking any items from the company. “To help ensure the safety of each employee as well as Twitter systems and customer data, our offices will be temporarily closed and all badge access will be suspended,” the email said.

This also means that many Twitter employees are likely to find out about their job status from their homes.

“We acknowledge this is an incredibly challenging experience to go through, whether or not you are impacted,” the email continued. “We are grateful for your contributions to Twitter and for your patience as we move through this process.”

Some other Twitter employees learned via email that they had not been laid off. That email said that the company’s offices would reopen Monday, and that there would be more information to share next week.

Mr. Musk “is looking forward to communicating with everyone about his vision for the company soon,” it read.