Medium launches a ‘premium’ Mastodon instance as a membership perk

Today, Medium announced that publishing platform Medium is opening the first version of Mastodon,, to its members.

Last month, Medium first outlined its plans for Fediverse — the collection of interconnected servers that run a host of open-source decentralized applications, including Twitter alternative Mastodon and others. She said she wanted to make access to a feature included in her Medium membership, providing a place for authors and readers to discuss content posted on her platform.

The company explained at the time that this would make for an interesting local feed – a reference to how Mastodon users can view a feed dedicated to conversations that occur only on their instance (the server), as well as those that occur more broadly across federated servers ( Those servers that the local server knows about and connects to).

Additionally, Medium said it will address some of the onboarding challenges associated with joining a mastodon by making it easier to find people and topics that match their interests as part of its onboarding flow.

This is an area that others are starting to tackle as well, aiming to take advantage of the potential of the decentralized web. Last week, for example, magazine app Flipboard announced that it would launch its own version on to address similar concerns. The new Mozilla-powered Mastodon mobile app also features an in-house experience that aims to streamline registration by sharing suggestions on who to follow from various categories.

But while there are some similarities to other Fediverse plays, Medium is the first major tech company to offer users a “premium” Mastodon experience — meaning access to the instance isn’t as free as elsewhere when you sign up directly. Instead, interested users will have to purchase a Medium membership, which is currently $5 per month or $50 per year with its annual plan.

The company believes that the uniqueness and community it will nurture will have immediate value. Already, 5,000 people from his waiting list have been quietly included in the instance and he’s expecting a community in “six-figures” size sometime later this year.

Image credits: mode

“We want Medium to be the best place to read and write on the Internet,” Medium CEO Tony Stubblebine told TechCrunch. “We want to do that with a single subscription — I think people are tired of having dozens of subscriptions. And I think we’ve also found that ad-driven models have their own kind of corrupting effect,” he continues. “I think this is why so much social media ends up being toxic — because people focus on engagement rather than substance. So, in order to get the best place to read and write, you have to build everything around an economic model of substance. To us, that means opt-in,” adds Stubblebine.

In addition, the exec notes that the example will be among those run by an experienced technology company. This means that the instance will run on its own infrastructure and will have its own Trust & Safety team to manage moderation. (Today there is only one person dedicated to this task, but this could be expanded over time.)

Stubblebine notes, too, that this example’s domain name — — could have a tie.

“You have to share the domain with your Fediverse username. Having a short domain is valuable,” he says.

Image credits: mode

Betting on a federal future

Coincidentally, Medium is announcing the opening of its Fediverse on the same day that Twitter was facing another partial outage.

However, the move also comes at a time when there appears to be a broader shift in the direction of Mastodon – and not just because Twitter has become untrustworthy.

Under Elon Musk’s ownership, there are questions about Twitter’s future — the company has lost advertisers and is indebted to creditors. But there are also questions about the future of centralized social media.

This is further evidenced by the fact that Medium itself was created by Twitter founder Evan Williams. (Williams exited Medium as CEO last year, but remains chairman of the board.) Another Twitter and Medium co-founder, Biz Stone, also sits on Medium’s board.

Meanwhile, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey supports Bluesky, another decentralized social concept but uses a different protocol than Mastodon. Its future, given its reliance on Twitter funding, appears questionable.

Stubblebine addresses the strangeness of having so many Twitter founders now involved in building corporate alternatives, but says Medium’s impact on Twitter’s fate isn’t a huge consideration.

“We didn’t go into this year thinking we wanted to compete with Twitter or that it was even possible,” says Stubblebine. “But it seems clear to me that there is an exodus from Twitter – and enough immigration to create an alternative. We’re not particularly concerned about whether or not Twitter lives or dies. We see it more as there will be something new and perhaps live alongside Twitter or maybe replace it entirely. But regardless, it’s going to be important. And regardless, this new thing is a mastodon, he adds.

Medium plans to improve the Mastodon experience as it grows, hoping to provide a place for writers to find new readers for their stories and enable conversations, and then roll out more features in due course.

It’s not the first company to try to take some of the discussions Twitter has been having to its outside community in the wake of Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter. In addition to Flipboard and its Mastodon example, Substack late last year targeted Twitter with the launch of its in-app discussions feature as well.

Meanwhile, Tumblr owner Matt Mullenweg confirmed to TechCrunch that he’s testing the ActivityPub protocol that powers Mastodon and other Fediverse-connected apps, as well as others, like Bluesky and Nostr.

The medium itself, by comparison, doesn’t integrate with ActivityPub — it doesn’t think Fediverse blog sharing is the future; Its focus is instead on proving a place for authors to build a community.

Stubblebine also says he’s not worried that offering a premium instance will ruin the potential of what has been, until now, a free and open source social network.

However, he admits there has been some opposition from the broader community about Medium going the premium route.

“Most rejections are based on fear — sometimes it’s expressed as a fear of capitalism, but when you get deeper into it, it’s always a fear of monopoly. That’s one of the things I think is exciting about the Fediverse — there’s really no hope for anyone to monopolize it. So It only leads to healthier business ideas,” he explains. “This is just a business idea that’s going to be one of many in Fediverse… I think it’s new, so it’s probably a little unsettling. But in practice, there’s no way out that way,” says Stubblebine.

“I think there’s this disintegration of social media going on right now,” he continues. And what that gives us is the opportunity to be more opinionated. For me, that’s exciting — I don’t want to be a town square for the whole world. I want to be a town square for people who like reading and writing — and a certain kind of reading and writing — and thoughtful reading and writing. “.

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