- Elon Musk’s chaotic reign on Twitter has proven to be a boost for the younger competitors.
- The use of several Twitter alternatives has skyrocketed in recent months.
- With tricky user interfaces, security issues, and an uneven beta launch, success can be fleeting.
Never before have there been so many possible alternatives to Twitter, even if none come close to a true alternative to the platform.
Long before Elon Musk, Twitter users bemoaned the service yet remained hooked. A potent mix of news, opinion, comedy, disturbing drama, and unpredictable drama made it stick around for a decade. And it’s easy to use, which is the hallmark of American-born social media companies. Whatever the benefits of a decentralized network like Mastodon, its ease of use is not.
“There’s a usability hitch,” said David Carr, senior director of insights at LikeWeb, who has been tracking Mastodon’s path. “You have to pick a server, and really, people don’t like making decisions. It’s more like, ‘Just tell me what to do. ‘”
However, Mastodon and other potential new competitors have grown on Twitter, especially since Musk officially took control of Twitter at the end of October, according to data compiled by Insider. Daily use of Mastodon, Hive Social, and Counter Social has skyrocketed over the past two months. Meanwhile, at least half a dozen other Twitter-like platforms have recently launched in beta or are set to launch early next year, including Post.News, Spoutible, Mozilla.Social, and Bluesky, which was founded by one of the co-founders of Twitter and Twitter. . Former CEO Jack Dorsey.
If there was ever a time for a text-based platform to threaten Twitter’s hold on its user base, now is the time. Investors looking to back new social media companies, not just Twitter, but Instagram and Facebook, are losing some of their edge. With antitrust authorities limiting Big Tech’s mergers and acquisitions, these startups likely won’t have a chance to grow on their own.
Most importantly, people seem ready and willing to try something new. With good optimization and features, any of these platforms could be your next Twitter. Or it could fade away, and instead be the next club. There are already signs of trouble for many of these new offerings: downloads have been dropping recently, suggesting interest may have already begun to wane.
See below for a full look at some of the new platforms available so far for use and their performance since Musk acquired Twitter.
Mastodon was founded in 2016 in Germany by Eugen Rochko, so the only really new part of the platform is the attention it’s getting as an alternative to Twitter. It is a text-based social platform, a “micro-blogging” site, or home to standalone servers, or “instances”. New users have to find and accept a server to join, along with a few more steps before they can post and use the platform.
In early November, the hashtag TwitterMigration had been trending mastodon for days as Twitter users created accounts amid Musk’s chaotic takeover. After the billionaire issued his first round of mass layoffs, the former Twitter employees set up their own server on Mastodon, Macaw.Social.
Just in November, Mastodon’s web traffic jumped 1,000% year-over-year on just 200 of its most popular servers, according to Similar data. The platform has around 1,000 servers set up, but some of them only host one user. iOS app downloads have increased more than 4,000% since Oct. 24, with the number of daily active users increasing by 6,000% to more than 1 million, according to Apptopia data. However, downloads have started to decline over the past month, dropping by 52%. Despite this, daily users have remained stable, at 1.4 million, which is a significant increase from his usage before Musk’s takeover of Twitter, which typically hovered around 20,000 daily users.
Hive was first launched in 2019 by Raluca Pop, who is now 24 years old. Unlike Mastodon, Hive is a centralized platform and its user interface is more straightforward and similar to the process of setting up Twitter or Instagram, as all it takes to get an account and start posting is some basic information. It’s easiest to describe the app as a cross between Twitter and Instagram, with a focus on photos, text, and similar features like reposts, comments, and likes, with the easy addition of adding music and colorful themes.
Like Mastodon, the service has seen exponential growth since Musk acquired Twitter. iOS app downloads have grown 290,000% to 1.5 million since October 24, with daily users increasing 660,000% to 321,000, according to Apptopia data. A major user security issue was exposed at the end of November, and is at least partially responsible for Hive’s 88% drop in downloads over the past month. However, it has maintained more than 500,000 daily users.
Launched in 2020, Counter Social was started by the “Clown” who identifies himself as “Hackers”. The platform doesn’t try to be all things to all people – it blocks entire countries from accessing it, like Russia, China and Iran. It has a unique interface that defaults to a dashboard that displays a few columns of similar posts in the form of TweetDeck. It’s constantly updated, providing a more kinetic feel than other social platforms, and there’s an available $4.99 per month upgrade that unlocks a number of features, including live network news broadcasts, emergency radio traffic, temporary file sharing, voice calling, and various additional privacy features.
The platform has received less public and media attention than Mastodon or Hive, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t also grown in the wake of Musk’s acquisition of Twitter. It has reached 110,000 downloads for its iOS app, an increase of 4,500% since the end of October, with daily users increasing 2,500% to about 18,000, according to Apptopia. Monthly usage is still up at 44%, although last month’s downloads, like Mastodon and Hive, were down 83%.
Post only launched in November, earlier than planned because as founder and former CEO of Waze, Noam Bardeen wanted to capitalize on the moment Musk created for people actively looking for alternatives to Twitter. He may have succeeded. Post is still in beta, and now has more than 300,000 active users and more than 600,000 people on a waiting list to join, according to Bardeen. It also received an undisclosed amount of funding from the VC Andreessen Horowitz Fund and Scott Galloway, a New York University professor and media personality.
Bluesky (expected to be launched in 2023)
Born in 2019 as a Twitter research project and still under the direction of Jack Dorsey, Bluesky is now being built completely independently of the platform he founded. Dorsey shared few details about Bluesky, other than that it was designed as a decentralized social network protocol. In October, shortly before Musk took control of Twitter, Bluesky began allowing queued subscriptions, saying the beta would “launch soon.”
Spoutible (expected to launch in 2023)
Spoutible comes from Bot Sentinel, a tool created by Christopher Pozzi, that identifies, tracks, and flags Twitter bots or accounts that engage in targeted or coordinated online attacks and misinformation campaigns. Announced at the beginning of December, Spoutible has been described as a new social platform that allows users to “peep” while avoiding harassment and other similar issues. A beta version of the platform is expected in late January.
Mozilla.Social (expected to be launched in 2023)
The latest Twitter alternative to be announced comes from Mozilla, the organization that runs the Firefox browser. Mozilla said just this week that it plans to launch its own publicly available version in Fediverse. Fediverse, as a federation and universe carrier, is essentially a collection of independent, interconnected servers that interact and offer their own software packages. Mastodon is also part of the Fediverse, for example. “An open, decentralized and global social service that puts people’s needs first is not only possible, but absolutely necessary,” Mozilla said. Mozilla.Social is expected in early 2023.
Do you work for a social media company or are you someone else with the foresight to share? Contact Kali Hays at firstname.lastname@example.org, on the secure messaging app Signal at 949-280-0267, or via Twitter DM at @hayskali. Communicate using a non-work device.
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