Social Media

The Mastodon 403 Forbidden Error (explained)

There’s a different kind of chaos than usual on Twitter right now as many users are looking to migrate to an alternative platform. One that keeps coming up is Mastodon. But a big part of the discussion on whether it’s worth joining focuses on problems people have while trying to join the open source social platform. Many issues are due to Mastodon servers being ill equipped for so many new users joining in such a short period of time. But another issue has come up for people trying to join Mastodon: a 403 forbidden error message.

When you create an account on Mastodon, you have to choose which server to join first. However, that decision doesn’t need to be permanent. You can switch to a different server later if you change your mind.

But for some , trying to create an account on Mastodon’s app resulted in a “403 forbidden” error message. No explanation on what the problem is or how to fix it. And there’s no FAQ page anywhere addressing it, either.

On Mastodon, 403 forbidden errors mean you're trying to join a server that requires an invite.

This issue kept coming up for me. I did a little digging, and I’m happy to say I’ve figured it out.

In general, a 403 error means a server has received your request to execute an action or retrieve data, and that request has been denied. You might sometimes see them accompanied by a message that says “you don’t have permission to access this resource.”

What the Mastodon 403 Forbidden Error Means

One of Mastodon’s features is to make servers accessible by invitation only. So if you happen to pick an invitation-only server when trying to create an account, you will get the 403 forbidden message. Due to the masses of people trying to join, many servers are switching to invite-only to preserve their smaller communities.

If you get Mastodon’s 403 forbidden error, there are three options.

  1. Find a different server to join that isn’t invitation-only (remember, you can change servers later)
  2. Find someone who is already on the server you want to join and ask if they’d be willing to give you an invitation
  3. Create and run your own server.

Unless you want to put the time, effort, and money into running your own Mastodon server, that’s probably not your best option. I was able to join after a friend sent me a server invite, thankfully. With a little time, I can share more information about the platform to those considering whether or not to join.

I hope this was helpful for others struggling to create a Mastodon account! If you have any other issues about Mastodon that you can’t find answers for, leave me a comment. I will do my best to find you an answer.

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