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TECHNOLOGY

Who is Eugen Rochko, Mastodon’s owner?

The Twitter-rivalling new kid on the block has had a sudden upsurge in accounts, but what do we know about the creator of the decentralised site?

Update:
Who owns Mastodon?
Thomas TrutschelGetty

Twitter users are well aware of the chaos that can be caused when a company is suddenly taken over by new owners. Since Elon Musk bought Twitter just three weeks ago he has introduced (and removed) a paid verification, fired top executives and issued a 24-hour ultimatum to all staff.

If Twitter’s turmoil is a result of its ownership model than Mastodon, a little-known rival platform, could present an antidote.

Mastodon founder Eugen Rochko said that the platform is “protected” by the decentralised structure, explaining: “The code is free, open-source software, and nobody can change the license or take it back retroactively, and all of the different servers are owned by other people.”

Rochko, a Russian-born German software developer, first began working on the site in 2016 and it has enjoyed a huge flood of new users in recent weeks. The total number of Mastodon accounts has tripled since Musk took over Twitter on 28 October.

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Rochko built Mastodon after computer science degree

The Mastodon founder moved to Germany at the age of 11 and attended the University of Jena to study computer science. During his studies he began working on open-source networking software and launched the Beta Version of Mastodon in 2016.

The platform went live in October 2016, soon after completing his studies, and he began working on it full-time.

Within six months there were 1,000 independent servers on the site, known as instances. By this point the federated social network platform had reached “hundreds of thousands of users” but growth from there was hard.

Using funding from Patreon, OpenCollective and a small grant from the European Commission he set about building the platform alongside hundreds of volunteer GitHub contributors.

The process has accelerated greatly in recent weeks after Musk’s purchase of Twitter and Rochko says that a further 800,000 new Mastodon accounts have been created. This has overwhelmed some of the more popular servers and his team are hard at work to build on the new-found popularity.

“People probably want to hear that it’s been great, all this growth and success,” Rochko said in a recent interview with Wired.

“But I would prefer to be watching from the sidelines. There is more work, there are more fires to put out. It’s incredibly stressful. I’m pulling 14-hour workdays, sleeping very little, and eating very little.”

“All the new feedback is definitely flowing into our impression of what Mastodon is, what it needs, and where it’s going to go.”

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