Getting Mastodon running on a custom domain

This TIL is mainly a rehash of these two articles by Jacob and Andrew:

I decided if I was going to get into Mastodon I wanted it on a domain that I controlled.

Here's my research issue where I first figured this all out.

Both Andrew and Jacob chose as a managed host for their instances. Mastodon is open source and runs on Ruby, PostgreSQL and Redis, but managing those is enough of a hassle that I'd much rather have someone else do it for me.

Since Andrew and Jacob had done the due diligence on this already I just went with the one they are using.

I see this as a pleasantly low-risk vendor, because since I'm pointing my own domain at it I can move elsewhere pretty easily if I need to.

My impressions of it so far have been excellent - especially the speed of their customer support (see later note).

The Mastodon docs have a list of other companies that provide hosted instances like this.

Pay for an account, then set up a CNAME

I paid for a subscription, then added the following configuration to my Cloudflare DNS:

CNAME of fedi pointed to, Proxy states of DNS only provided detailed instructions for this, including making sure to turn off the Cloudflare caching proxy.

This started working within less than a minute - and was live.

Creating an account, promoting it to admin

Once my instance was live I used the default account creation flow to create myself an account.

I then used the interface to find the "Change User Role" option and used that to upgrade my new user account to administrator status.

Having done that I gained access to the interface, where I blocked anyone else from creating an account and changed the site theme to "Mastodon (Light)" (which I like better).

Screenshot of the Mastodon site settings panel

Frustratingly these settings require an email address, which is shown publicly on a page on the site. I used iCloud in Mobile Safari on my phone to create a disposable email address to use here.

Getting a vanity address

I wanted as my ID, but it started out as

To do this, you need to set up some /.well-known/... URLs on your core domain.

I exactly copied how Andrew did this. Here's my commit to my Django blog.

There's one last step here: as explained in Mastodon usernames different from the domain used for installation you need to update the LOCAL_DOMAIN and WEB_DOMAIN settings. These aren't currently available for customers to change, but you can email their support team about it.

I emailed them and they fixed it for me six minutes later! And now both works and is displayed on

Finding people to follow

I started by following and Then I looked at who they were following. Then I tweeted about my new account and started following-back people who followed me.

The iPhone app is really good

I installed the official Mastodon app on my iPhone. It's really good! I signed in by giving it my address, and now it's sending me notifications and generally working exactly how I would want it to.

Created 2022-11-02T18:09:50-07:00, updated 2022-11-20T13:22:04-08:00 · History · Edit