The Elon Musk Effect: Mastodon Downloads Up Nearly 4 Million Percent as Users Flee Twitter

Elon Musk has purchased Twitter. Now, millions of users across the world are heading for greener pastures. Self-hosted social networking service Mastodon, for instance, has been downloaded 650,739 times this week.

As we’ve written before, Elon Musk is a king maker; but as it turns out, he doesn’t always benefit from his own coronations.

Following the ‘Technoking’ of Tesla’s controversial $44 billion Twitter acquisition, millions of users have fled the platform in protest. Their top destination? Mastodon, a self-hosted social networking service first launched in 2016.

So, we did a little digging. We analyzed Mastodon’s historical performance to put their viral moment into context. Here’s what we found (click the links to jump to the relevant sections):

Mastodon Surpassed 1.5M Downloads in 2022

This chart depicts daily global downloads for the iOS (red) and Android (purple) versions of Mastodon between January 1st, 2022 and November 7th, 2022.

As you can see, Mastodon wasn’t exactly killing it before the Twitter acquisition. For the first four months of the year, the iOS and Android apps rarely combined for more than a few dozen downloads per day.

Things began to change in late April when Musk first struck a deal with Twitter. Mastodon hit a single-day record of 61,164 downloads on April 27th, 2022, before settling in at roughly 1,000 - 2,000 downloads per day throughout June, July, August, and September.

However, Mastodon really hit its stride in the wake of Musk’s official takeover in late October. In the period between October 31st and November 7th — amid rumors of imminent, sweeping changes at Twitter — Mastodon was downloaded 650,739 times, bringing the 2022 tally up to 1,517,224.

Mastodon Daily Downloads Up Nearly 4 Million Percent Since January 1st

Astonishingly, Mastodon’s daily downloads have increased 3,926,830% in 2022. While the app generated approximately 157,077 downloads on November 6th, it pulled in just 4 downloads on January 1st. Still, it’s doubtful the app will be able to sustain that performance long term.

So where has Mastodon seen the most success? Currently Germany, the United States, and Mexico are the countries driving the app’s growth.

Users in these countries have accounted for 54% (645,299) of the platform’s iOS downloads and 56% (187,258) of its Android downloads. Users in Belgium, the Netherlands, and South Korea have also been receptive to the app.

As of this writing, Mastodon ranks 5th and 6th in Germany's iOS and Android top charts for Social Networking apps; 11th and 16th in the United States; 8th and 13th in Mexico, 7th and 3rd in Belgium; 3rd and 3rd in the Netherlands; and 176th and 183rd in South Korea.

Nevertheless, Twitter Is Still Going Strong, With 219,970,670 Downloads in 2022

Now, despite Mastodon's impressive winning streak, Twitter isn’t exactly struggling. It’s been downloaded nearly 220 million times this year, including 5,214,164 times since Halloween. Users may be testing the waters for alternatives, but so far they’re just dipping a few toes.

Final Thoughts

It’s hard to say what the future holds for Mastodon. If you feel like you’ve seen this movie before, it’s likely because you have!

Apps like Gab, GETTR, Truth Social, and Parler have all attempted to establish themselves as counterpoints to Twitter. Like Mastodon, each leveraged “newsworthy” moments to build solid user bases before more or less receding into the background. Donald Trump’s Truth Social is the most successful of the bunch; but even so, with a smidge more than four million downloads, it’s not exactly a stunning success.

So, if Mastodon wants to establish itself as a legitimate Twitter alternative, it needs to avoid the mistakes of its counterparts. While fashioning itself as a refuge for Musk critics might juice downloads, they’ll need more than that if they want to build a robust community.

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