Isn’t Mastodon just public email?

Vijay Krishna Palepu
2 min readNov 5, 2022

And wasn’t e-mail always a federated system? And why didn’t Gmail and Outlook think of piggybacking email with a social network? Or did they?

I have been trying to grok Mastodon for the last week now. And this one thought has been gnawing at me for a while. Seen those handles yet? Mine is … sure prefixed by an ‘@’. But otherwise, these handles look a lot like email addresses … SMTP addresses to be precise.

Now, I can get into the technical definitions of what a federated system is, email servers etc. But what I really want to talk about is “public” email. And the social aspects of email.

Contact lists in email were a user’s OG social network in the early days of the internet. It was just the digital extension of the age-old social network that folks had in the days of letter-writing and postcards.

But most of those posts or emails or messages were private … between individuals sending and getting the messages. But what if I were to send an email to the “world” or make it publicly accessible. did this recently and it was pitched and set up as a blogging system. “Blog from your email” they said.

But that was never going to evolve into a social network, given that it costs money to use Who wants to pay for an email address that gives you a blogging platform on the side?

But if you took a few free email offerings, like Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook (heck take all the college edu email servers out there) and get them to pump messages to a public stream of posts that anyone on the internet can read. Isn’t that just Mastodon?

So, the big question: would users want to mix their private email with public messages in their Sent folders? Or does it make sense to keep Gmail and Mastodon separate?

— vijay,

#microblogging my way to understanding decentralized social networks



Vijay Krishna Palepu

researcher • software • program analysis . debugging • UCI • blogger • software visualizations • Microsoft • Views my own •