Open source Twitter alternative Mastodon has seen sizable growth following Elon Musk’s Twitter acquisition, topping a new milestone of 1 million monthly active users in just over a week after the deal closed. But one of the many challenges for users coming to Mastodon for the first time is in re-creating their network of friends and followers they had built up over the years on Twitter. A new tool called Movetodon aims to make the transition from Twitter to Mastodon easier by allowing users to easily find and follow their Twitter friends on the open source social network with minimal work.
There are already a few tools to find Twitter friends on Mastodon, like Debirdify, Twitodon and Fedifinder. However, some current tools ask users to connect their Twitter account, scan their network then export that data into a CSV file for import into Mastodon. This is useful if you want to simply import all your Twitter friends who have Mastodon accounts, but doesn’t allow you to easily curate your network if you’d like a fresh start.
Movetodon’s creator, German software developer Tibor Martini, says he used these tools himself and acknowledged they worked for his purposes. But he thought the overall experience was a little lacking.
“For a few days, I used some of the other tools, i.e. Fedifinder and Debirdify, and found them great,” he told TechCrunch, in an email. “They did what was needed — exporting your friends’ accounts from Twitter and importing them to Mastodon. However, the process to do so was not very sophisticated. You had to download a CSV file and import it back into Mastodon,” Martini explained. “Also, some of the tools didn’t have any styling at all so they looked very ‘raw.’ Those aspects made it harder for people who already struggled to find ‘the right’ mastodon instance,” he added.
Martini said he wanted to build a tool that would make it simpler for non-tech-savvy people to find their friends on Mastodon, including if they were accessing the service on mobile.
He started working on the concept for Movetodon at the end of October and then began coding around mid-November.
Though only launched five days ago, Movetodon is already becoming a popular tool for those who are trying to flee Twitter. Martini says his server logs indicate more than 50,000 users have tried Movetodon in just the past week. His post about the service was also reshared on Mastodon nearly 2,000 times and was tweeted about several hundred times.
To take advantage of Movetodon, users have to log in to both apps, Twitter and Mastodon, and authorize Movetodon to get started. The tool then automatically generates a list of friends who are also on Mastodon. In tests, we also found that Movetodon helpfully handled the API limits it encountered by pausing the list generation and displaying a countdown in seconds as to when it would resume.
When the list generation is complete, you’ll be able to follow individual users by clicking a button or you can click to follow them all at once. You can also sort the list by when users joined Mastodon to make the new accounts pop up to the top of the list.
The developer says his tool works by looking at the relevant fields on Twitter where users often share their Mastodon account information — like their bio, user name, location field, URL field or in their pinned tweet. It then used Regex to extract possible Mastodon handles and URLs. With the Mastodon API, it determines if the handle is actually a Mastodon account, or if it’s something else — like an email address. The tool also fetches a list of all your current friends on Mastodon to show you if you already follow each other or not.
The data Movetodon accesses is never stored on its server, and both app connections ask for limited permissions. For instance, on Twitter, Movetodon can only read information, not post or follow. On Mastodon, Movetodon asks for limited write permissions to allow users to follow other people on the platform.
While Martini’s day job is as a team lead for Social Media at the German publisher stern, he says he may continue to develop Movetodon further based on user feedback. For instance, he added the “follow all” button in response to users’ requests. Users are also now asking if they could use the tool to find accounts from their Twitter Lists, as well.
Even if other Twitter alternatives added APIs in the future, Martini doesn’t think he would build tools for them, as he prefers Mastodon. (Movetodon shows he joined the open source social network 2,245 days ago!)
“Personally, I see some advantages at Mastodon: It already has a great user base, is privacy friendly, and has already years of experience in managing and developing the platform,” he says.