Mastodon aims to be more user-friendly with latest update. Here's what's new

It's now easier for Mastodon users to sign up, sign in, and use the service. Have you tried it yet?
Written by Lance Whitney, Contributor
Mastodon's new interface
Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

As more social networks strive to offer an alternative to an Elon Musk-owned X, aka Twitter, Mastodon has enhanced its platform to make it easier for users to sign up, sign in, and use the service. 

On Tuesday, the company rolled out version 4.2 of its platform with new and improved features aimed at both new and existing users.

Also: Bluesky vs. Twitter vs. Mastodon: If you leave Twitter, where will you go?

To start, Mastodon has simplified the sign-up process. Unlike other social networks, Mastodon acts as a decentralized platform with different servers that you can join. 

Though that offers people freedom and flexibility, it also makes the sign-up process clumsy and confusing. Now, Mastodon's sign-up page offers a clearer choice of picking its default server of Mastodon.social or a specialized server based on different topics.

Mastodon's new sign-up page

If you're not sure which server to pick, going with the default one is always a good option. But selecting a different server takes you to a page where you can choose one based on the various topics, including technology, gaming, LGBTQ+, music, art, books, and food. You can also join more than one server to explore different interests.

Mastodon's different topics and servers

After you sign up, Mastodon takes you through the steps to personalize your account, choose people to follow, create your first post, and share your profile outside of the network. 

Also: How to join a Mastodon server with the official Android app

Thanks to Mastodon's hand-holding, new users should feel more at home and more comfortable getting started.

Mastodon's setup process

The Mastodon interfaces on the website and the mobile apps for iOS/iPadOS and Android are better designed. You can more easily navigate the screens to find accounts to follow, read and create posts, view notifications, follow live feeds, and further tweak your own account. The website boasts a number of changes. Article previews in a post look better, while image previews are no longer cropped.

Next on the list of enhancements is the search tool. Completely redesigned, the search tool now offers more options. Clicking the search field displays a list of quick actions, so you can choose to look for posts, profiles, and hashtags. The ability to search for posts is a new and likely much-requested feature that should satisfy most users. Your recent searches also appear for quick access.

Mastodon's new and improved search

Mastodon has fixed the snafus that occur when you log out of your chosen server. In many cases, following a shared link in a post takes you to a different server or website where you can run into trouble trying to perform certain actions under your account. 

Also: How to find your followers and friends on Mastodon

Previously, Mastodon offered instructions on how to get back to your own server, but even the company acknowledged that those instructions could be confusing. Now, you simply have to start typing the domain of your default server, which then redirects you to your home base.

The upgrades are already available on the default server of Mastodon.social. Other servers will take on the new and improved features as the individual server operators perform the upgrade.

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