Formerly: Private Timeline Search for Mastodon

Searchtodon was an experiment, read the retrospective.

The service is no longer operating and all data has been deleted.

All information below is outdated, but reflect the latest state of the experiment.

Previously On…

Ltd. Columbo looks searchingly over the camera’s left shoulder

I have seen thing somewhere in my timeline… now, where was it again?”

Searchtodon lets you find (almost) everything* that you have seen before in your home timeline, not just the hashtags.

Searchtodon is currently in beta. Get started here.

* Searchtodon respects your followers’ noindex, #nobot & #nosearch flags and does not index their posts.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is this? — Searchtodon follows a user’s Mastodon home timeline and creates a full-text index from its posts and boosts. It does not index content from any account marked with noindex, #nobot or #nosearch. It does not index direct/private posts. It is also an experiment
  2. I thought Mastodon didn’t have search on purpose? — Public search across all posts, yes, and Searchtodon does not change that, as it only indexes a person’s home timeline and lets only that person search it.
  3. Doesn’t search lead to harassment? — Global search definitely helps with harassment, local search, like Searchtodon, probably not. But this is an experiment that is evolved with feedback from the Mastodon community. For example, Mastodon founder Eugen Rochko is on record saying “If text search is ever implemented, it should be limited to your home timeline/mentions only.” — Searchtodon is exactly that. — In addition, Searchtodon does not allow anyone from the chaos.social defederation list use the service.
  4. What if I don’t want you to store my posts for others to search, even if I allow them to follow me? — If you have the noindex flag set on your account, or the tags #nobot or #nosearch on your account description, Searchtodon will not store your posts. — Searchtodon also honours post deletions: there might be technical glitches that make Searchtodon miss a delete notification, but in the normal case, deletes are handled proactively. Searchtodon also honours your instance’s robots.txt file. If it includes ^Disallow /$, then any posts from that instance are not indexed.
  5. Why do you need all these permissions if you just want to read my home timeline? — Searchtodon uses Elk as its UI, which is a fully-fledged Mastodon web client. It’d be more work to disable all the features than to just let you use it fully. It’s pretty cool, give it a try.
  6. Why is this a separate app from Mastodon? Why didn’t you build this into Mastodon itself? — This is a hobby project and we chose technology that was fun for us to use. If this leads to enough interest, we are sure Mastodon will offer this as a built-in solution before long.
  7. What technologies have you built this with?Elk, CouchDB + Nouveau, Node.js & masto.js.
  8. Where is the search data stored and processed? — At the moment, all data is stored and processed in DigitalOcean’s Frankfurt, Germany data center. If this project becomes a more serious endeavour, backup copies might be held in other EU locations, but not outside the EU.
  9. What is your affiliation with Mastodon and the people who make it? — None whatsoever.
  10. I have questions or concerns, where can I get in touch?@searchtodon@toot.berlin.
  11. Please delete all the data you have about me. — Sure thing, just contact @searchtodon@toot.berlin.

This is an Experiment

Searchtodon aims to explore these three premises:

  1. User experience: can private search for Mastodon be done in a functional way and will folks find this useful?
  2. Operational feasibility: index data costs storage, search costs compute, etc. Even if the Searchtodon stack is slightly different from Mastodon, it plays in the same ballpark. In case premise #1 comes back positive, we can learn what additional resources will instance operators need to provide private search.
  3. Community (most important): is private search for Mastodon actually something that can be done in a way that gels with the community rather than against it? — The folks behind Searchtodon do not wanna fight anyone and if there is enough negative signal, we’ll shut it down. — Open questions include: how to handle reporting, defederation after the fact of instance-to-instance trust, are noindex, #nobot & #nosearch good enough account markers or will the Mastodon community have to invent more mechanics around delegating trust from a user’s timeline to tools operating on their timeline?

One premise we already established during our private beta phase is that this is very likely not a worthwhile commercial endeavour, comparing effort, operating costs and likely pricing folks would accept, so this is run as a hobby project with no guarantees for now.

If you have any comments. questions or concerns, do let us know: @searchtodon@toot.berlin.