One of the best things about Mastodon is the sheer number of apps available for it. The official Mastodon app is fine, but there’s also Ivory, Mona, Fedilab, Ice Cubes, Elk, Mastoot, and many others. This openness is part of the whole appeal of the ActivityPub-powered social networking ecosystem, and it has already led to some solid new ideas. (I’ve personally been a very happy Ivory user for a while now.)
Mammoth won some fans earlier this year with a really nicely designed Mastodon client, and then added a “For You” feed that makes Mammoth a little more automatically personalized. Now, with the launch of Mammoth 2 for Mac, iPhone, and iPad, the app is going even deeper into curation and personalization: it’s launching a series of “Smart Lists” filled with good posts, a set of suggested people and accounts to follow, and more.
Smart Lists are a lot like what Twitter lists used to be: users curate groups of people by topic or interest or whatever else, and others can subscribe to those lists. Mammoth has a couple dozen of them so far — everything from “Space” and “Nature” to “Indieweb” and “Queertech” — each of which is curated by a specific Mammoth user. I’ve been beta-testing the app the last few days, and the lists are handy, if not exactly earth-shattering. Most lists are filled with websites and well-known posters, so they’re more like a starting point than a long-term solution.
Over time, Mammoth co-founder Bart Decrem says he hopes to pair this human curation with more automated curating, even post by post, with the help of AI. “I would be sort of astonished if we weren’t using AI to help organize and make smart lists,” he says. But he’s also aware that AI begets more AI, and he doesn’t want to bring in bots trying to game the system or incentivize people to flood their posts with hashtags. “I think what Mastodon should stand for is: in a world full of stuff that you don’t know where it came from, I know where this came from.”
Decrem says one of Mammoth’s goals continues to be making it easier to get started on Mastodon. The default process has improved over time, but it’s still a lot of work to pick a server, sign up, find people, and get your timeline tuned just the way you like. It’s too much for some people. “You need to give people interesting content within, like, a minute,” Decrem says. “They have to be doing interesting stuff with it.” He’s intrigued by some of the ways Threads surfaces people you don’t follow to keep your timeline lively — and then makes it easy to follow those people.
The new app is free, but you can also pay $3 a month or $20 a year for some extra app icons, early access to new stuff, and a voice in Mammoth’s product roadmap. Mostly Decrem hopes it’s a way to support the stuff you like: “the superpower of Mastodon and the fediverse is that it’s a community, right?” In a gesture back to that community, Mammoth is also open-sourcing its app and pledging to be transparent in everything it builds.
Mammoth won’t just be a Mastodon app forever. Decrem is very excited about the possibility of Threads embracing ActivityPub, for instance, and sees lots of ways Mammoth can do better than the Threads algorithm so many users hate. In general, he says he sees the app as a way to explore the entire fediverse, whether it’s on Mastodon or Pixelfed or anywhere else. Mammoth’s job is to curate and personalize all those feeds and make sure there’s always something good to scroll.