It’s as if the Thanos finger snap that new Twitter boss Elon Musk performed on Twitter staff has been extended to Twitter users. While overall usage of the platform is up according to Musk, people keep posting — on Twitter — that they’re leaving Twitter.
It is the big question: Where are you going?
Right now, I feel that Twitter is the best alternative. And my guess is that those who say they’re leaving will (mostly) be back.
I have the now-obligatory outpost on Mastodon, but let’s be honest: Mastodon is not ready for prime-time, and it’s not clear it ever will be a mass-market replacement to the raucous marketplace of ideas that Twitter has become.
Mastodon might have gained hundreds of thousands of users in recent weeks, but they are spread out over 7,100 servers, meaning that there’s kind of no “there” there. Following people in a Twitter-like way is more challenging, and while Mastodon has a methodology of surfacing the most interesting content across the federated network of servers, it’s patchwork.
Worst, it can be hard to re-create your network in an entirely new location. This is especially true if you are trying to recreate your network in an area that has 7,100 people.
There’s an opportunity for Mastodon as a sort of distributed Reddit, with each Mastodon server acting roughly like a subreddit. It would be great if that worked. But let’s face it: first of all, we already have Reddit and — it’s worth noting — a Reddit where you don’t have to individually sign in to each subreddit you want to join. And secondly, that’s not exactly Twitter.
Other options include Post, a very early stage social platform that still has a beta waitlist, or DeSo, the “social layer of web3,” which wants you to sign in — like most of web3 — with you wallet. (Thank you, no, I’ve seen the track record of crypto and web3 security, and it’s literally awful. I’ll create an account with my username, and password. There’s also India-based Koo, which claims to be the world’ second-largest microblogging platform with 50 million downloads of its app amid Twitter’s post-acquisition transition. And of course there are the Gettrs, Truth Socials, and Parlers of the world, which are clearly lacking in a breadth of perspective and tend to be focused on what — for me — is among the most boring of human preoccupations: politics. Minds.com is a slightly smaller part of that range, but it’s still quite far.
Social networking for business and traditional social networks, as well as small upstarts.
What’s left is the Meta-owned juggernauts of Facebook and Instagram, plus — if you will — dark social in WhatsApp and Messenger groups. And Microsoft’s LinkedIn, which is focused on business networking but has over the past few years expanded its publishing and news-oriented tools.
Facebook is not a platform for ideas. Facebook actively lowers visibility for posts that have links beyond its own walled gardens, especially news and politics. And while that’s great to see the grandkids and the cat pictures and the personal news — and I really do mean that: it’s good for those things — it limits Facebook’s ability to be a Twitter-like marketplace of ideas with links to great content and interesting insight all over the internet. That’s an Achilles heel of LinkedIn as well: like Meta, LinkedIn likes to keep people inside the wall, and posts that might bring them outside the place are typically not the ones that get great engagement.
There’s Instagram, which is great if you’re a fitness model but not so amazing if you’re a tech pundit or a news junkie.
There’s YouTube, which is intriguingly more social than it used to be, but it’s also a heavy-lift publishing platform: making and publishing videos isn’t for everyone, and it’s also a silly thing to do when you just want to share that one post that perfectly sums up the Russian-Ukraine conflict.
There’s also Reddit, where you can share information easily. Unfortunately, the best thing about Reddit (the mods who filter the submissions) is also the worst thing about Reddit (the mods who prove that even a tiny amount of power can go instantly to pretty much anyone’s head).
Some other options which may be of interest but seem limited or too inaccessible are CounterSocial and Hive Social. Tribel, another Twitter clone and many more.
I just don’t see a viable alternative.
(I can only imagine Mark Zuckerberg thinking about an alternative Facebook version that would operate in Twitter mode.
And I honestly don’t get the need to leave, either.
Stay there if you don’t like the new owner. You can also present other opinions. If you dislike his re-enabling of former U.S. president Donald Trump’s account, stay there and compete in the marketplace of ideas.
Although I am certain that this is incorrect, it seems to me there are no alternatives to Twitter. It’s a global platform of ideas, where anyone can follow any celebrity, politician, athlete or thought leader and engage in wide-ranging global discussions. It’s imperfect, it comes with challenges and dangers, it’s messy at times. And I really dislike the way Musk has come in like a bull in a china shop, firing thousands of people without so much as an all-hands chat and a thank-you-for-your-service-but-we’re-making-big-changes-quickly.
That all said: at minimum, Twitter is interesting, the pace of innovation has quickened and should stay fast (if Musk hasn’t fired too many of the people who keep the service running), and anyone can still play.
Twitter continues to be the top-rated site for real-time information and debate.