Instances are points of access to a larger and federated social media platform called the "fediverse". Instances can sometimes use the same or different software, but they all access the same basic social media platform. For example, mastodon.social and awoo.space are both fediverse instances that utilize the Mastodon software explained in this guide. Examples of instances that don't use mastodon software include quitter.no, which uses GNU Social software. Differing software often means different site features per instance. This guide assumes you will be joining, have joined, or are creating an instance that utilizes mastodon's software. Yes, you read that correctly: you can create your own instance! However, creating an instance may require some programming knowledge, and is unfortunately outside the scope of this guide. If you are interested in creating your own instance and need assistance, please see the github, speak with Gargron, or reference this guide. A list of current mastodon instances can be found here.
Something important to consider when joining an instance is that although two different instances may use the same software, not all instances have the same rules about content, moderation policies, etc. Instances are allowed to have their own rules about these topics, as well as their own standards for the way they moderate users. It's important to join (or create!) an instance that is best suited to your needs and interests. And don't worry; you can still follow and talk to users that have made their accounts in a different instance than you. As stated above, instances are federated and you will be able to interact with users outside of your current instance.
Some additional notes about instances:
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