UPDATE: Friday, Dec 16, 2022 · 3:22:43 PM +00:00
Mentioned a couple times in the comments section. There’s another potential alternative in the works that I failed to mention: Spoutible
It is being headed up by Christopher Bouzy, the creator of Bot Sentinel, So it’s got the technical talent.
I’m expecting it to be a bit of a Twitter clone, but with better moderation. My assessment would be to place it in the “These also exist” category. However, once it launches early next year, who knows. It might blow us all away and get a lot of early adoption. Its already got 100k users on the waitlist.
As Elon Musk continues is downward slide into narcissism, QAnon, and White Supremacy, people and brands continue bailing on the platform. The problem is that there is no single obvious choice for an alternative to migrate to. With Musk now randomly banning journalists he doesn’t like, it’s time to take a look at the latest from the “who wants to be the next twitter” contest.
Before covering the sites, it’s important to understand what Twitter was. Twitter was the place where you went to see “what’s going on in the world and the communities I care about? And offer my take” “BookTwitter”, “BlackTwitter”, “CatsOfTwitter” are just a few examples. I’m sure you might have your own description of the niche Twitter filled, but that’s the standard I’m using to judge. And I think its a pretty good description of how most people used Twitter.
With that, here are the contestants.
The Contestants I’m rooting for in the long run
These are sites that I’m hoping will get better and eventually replace Twitter. However, I don’t think they are ready yet.
Mastodon, at first, seemed like the obvious alternative… until large numbers of people tried using it, that is. I like the idea of Mastodon because of its decentralized nature. However, I think the platform and protocol may need to continue to evolve before mass adoption.
If everyone you want to talk to is on the same server, the platform is great. If you want to like or re-toot someone on another server, be prepared for some “steps”. And if you want to know what other servers or the community in general is talking about, you’re going to have to click around because trending is “per server”.
I’ll be watching Mastodon in the long term. I’m willing to bet with some time and usability improvements it really could be the future. There’s nothing that’s “wrong” or “missing” can’t be fixed eventually.
From one of the founders of Wikipedia comes a Social Media site. The user interface is a little clunky, but it was definitely going for a new approach. I would encourage you to give it a try.
I love the idea of multiple editors for a post. It would be interesting to see what people would do with it if it got popular.
If the UI got a major makeover, got a little more streamlined design, and the whole site was faster, it could better compete to be the Twitter replacement. Honestly, those might be the only things holding it back from picking up steam. I’ll be keeping an eye on it.
Blue Sky does not fully exist yet. It is in closed beta. It’s Jack Dorsey (yes, the original Twitter Founder) attempt to take Mastodon’s idea of a decentralized Twitter and make it better. He’s already setup a nonprofit foundation for the protocol they’re developing. The advantage they have over Mastodon is that they can see the unforeseen problems of Mastodon and not have it from the beginning where as Mastodon has to slowly change things since their network is already up.
I might root for this as Jack has publicly shown remorse for what Twitter has become. And it would be really funny if he took Elon’s money and then created the thing that’ll replace Twitter.
Existing Big Sites
Some existing sites are having a bit of a renaissance. There is always the possibility that there won’t be a “new” Twitter. Instead, users will just go back to other, existing social media sites. I’m not betting on any of these, but they’re worth mentioning.
The big winner here is Tumblr. Tumblr has had a noticeable uptick in usage. While Tumblr is like an O.G. of the blogging world, its changed a lot. It’s homepage even looks more Twitterish. It’s got a great Trending page too.
The thing is, Tumblr already has a user culture. One that is not bent towards general news. It’s more used by fandoms. That could create some conflict on the site. And on the other side, news sites and journalists who take themselves too seriously might not feel the Vibe of the site. Tumblr can be pretty cheeky
(yes, this is from the current site)
Another contender could be the upcoming Substack. Substack users practically already used Twitter as advertising for their substack blogs, so it would make sense. However, Substack isn’t a social media site by any stretch. And it certainly doesn’t have any Trending or Feed like features. Not to mention its built around creating longform content, not short bursts of thoughts or comments.
Medium I feel like is making a play for Twitter. While Medium has traditionally worked towards long form posts, its comments work like twitter(every comment and response is just another post). And like Tumblr, their homepage has gotten a little more “Twitter” like. I wouldn’t count on it though, Medium is built to be a blogging platform that’s built around a paywall subscription. It doesn’t lend itself well to be a Trending news site.
These also exist
If you’re using these sites and enjoying them, awesome. But I find them all to be underwhelming and unlikely to grow fast and do Twitter better than Twitter. If you disagree, let me know in the comments.
Tribel is a site that has built something that has merged Facebook and Twitter. You have both “friends” and “followers”. While they’ve had an uptick in users, I have no expectations of this taking off. Its a small team and I don’t see how they won’t just have the exact same problems as everybody else. If we were talking about leaving Facebook, I might consider it more. But we’re talking about Twitter.
Hive is just another twitter clone, except its only an app, ( no web interface). Its currently run by like 3 people. When I used it, I got inundated with porn that I did not ask for. I’d tell you more, but its currently not working. If they suddenly get funding and content moderation, I’ll take a second look.
This is an interesting one. I kind of like the vibe of this place. It was originally a Mastodon server, but the person running it forked the code and does his own thing now. The UI is kinda ugly and the whole thing is run by a single person. Its a cool place to check out, but it won’t be a Twitter replacement supporting 10s of millions of users.
The Contestant I’m rooting for (for now)
The site that I’m pretty sure is going to become the next Twitter is
Post.News is very Twitter like in most ways.
- You have a feed. In fact, you have 2 feeds. A feed of “only those you follow”(and only those you follow. No slipping in extra “suggested for you”) and a “discovery\algorithmic feed” that you can easily switch between. Like actually switch with a single click. You don’t have to go into “Settings”. You’re encouraged to use both.
- You have a profile page just like in Twitter.
- You have lists of people you follow, and who follow you.
- You have an @username
- You have Tags and Searches
- More functionality is coming
The difference is that they are planning for encouraging civility right from the start. They aren’t going to go through the whole free speech learning curve like every other damn platform, including Twitter AND Elon’s Twitter 2.0 There are a couple technical differences. I think they’re “pluses”, but I’ll let you decide that for yourself.
- First, you have the option to comment on a “Post” and your comment isn’t treated like a regular Post. This is in addition to the option of doing a reply or a “RePost” just like on Twitter.
- Second, you have no character limits and you can format your text. You might think that makes it more of a blogging platform, however, it instead is just giving you options. When you’re looking at a feed of posts, it shows you just the beginning of a “Post” and gives you a “read more” if its too long to fit.
Post.News is co-founded by Noam Bardin who was the CEO of Waze for 12 years. So the leadership is not just “some guy”. Its someone who knows what they’re doing. They’ve also gotten Venture Capital funding so they are growing fast.
Furthermore, they are planning an alternate funding mechanism instead of (or maybe in addition to) advertising. They have fast-tracked news organizations to the platform. They want to experiment with microtransactions for people to pay for individual news articles. So far, no less than Reuters, NBC News, Rolling Stone, Propublica, and more have already joined the platform. Most are still just linking to their own websites for news stories, but others, like Reuters are experimenting. In addition dozens (probably 100s at this point) of individual journalists have already joined the site and using it like they used Twitter.
A couple things you should know. Post.News is still in Beta and has a waitlist. If you want to leave Twitter, I recommend you sign up for the waitlist now. It’ll take a few weeks before getting in. That said, they launched early while still building out the platform to take advantage of Twitter’s chaos. They are adding more features every week and are working to accommodate the thousands of users they let in everyday(about 10k a day).
The last thing to mention is a link to a bad dude. The firm that got the Venture Capital for Post.News is “a16z” which was cofounded by the notorious misogynist, Marc Andreessen. Noam has addressed this by saying a16z were the only ones willing to get them the funding fast, Noam still has controlling interest in the company, and a16z is a passive investor this time. While that may not completely taint the whole platform, Its not something that should be ignored. A16z was an active investor and botched another social network by ignoring safety and exposed Andreessen as just another Tech-bro.
I really do think Post.News is going to replace Twitter as the place where journalists, activists, and everyone talks about the latest thing. Post is, so far, doing everything right. However, they are still just another tech company. Some crazy ass billionaire might ruin the platform in 10 or 15 years, and we’ll be right back where we started. That’s why I’m rooting for Post.News for the short(and probably medium) term. Longterm, I’m hoping that something like Mastodon, Blue Sky, or WT.Social can slowly grow into something for the masses and we no longer have to worry about any individual, company, or State being able to single-handedly ruin our online communities.
For now, I encourage you to check it out and get your username. You can find me there @DustinMi. But I shouldn’t be your first follow. That should be Seth Abramson (@sethabramson). He’s an amazing journalist and has become a real champion for the site and has beginner tips and follow lists.
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