So help me here does mastodon run disparately on a distributed network of servers? i.e. if I spin one up am I helping overall distributed bandwidth? Or is it like a private/public server instance?

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@bigendiansmalls neither
You sign up on a server, and you can follow people from yours and any other server. Each server runs Mastodon for its members

@luppano so there is no 'main' server - sign up on someone's-that's the "local" but can interact with everyone globally - "federated" yes?

Exactly ! 

@bigendiansmalls With some weirdness around how subs count are updated and privacy settings of your toots across two differents instances.

@bigendiansmalls Both-ish I think. The Local Timeline is per-instance. The Federated Timeline is network wide. I don't know yet how that federation handles bandwidth n stuff.

@selfish per instance - so how does one know what that means / who that contains? still trying to wrap my head around the model ...

@bigendiansmalls Good question, maybe as the server admin you can limit signups.

@bigendiansmalls you are helping bandwidth because less people will be transferring data from the main server to see your message if you're on a different server.

@bigendiansmalls The amount of distribution would depend on the # of users on your instance, as in it's not like a 'pool' of users evenly distributed.

@Thracky ahh got it. I read his documentation, starting to make some sense now. Thank you :)

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