Another Twitter exodus has begun.
Since Elon Musk first made a bid to acquire the social network, some users have expressed concerns about the direction the site under his ownership could take. A narrow focus on “free speech,” which seemed specifically defined to please his right-wing American supporters, a penchant for misinformation, and a basic refusal to acknowledge the concerns of those more experienced in running a social network, didn’t bode well.
But the Maven-Maven’s chaotic first week has crystallized the fears. Thousands of Twitter employees have been laid off in a process so ill-conceived that “dozens” have been asked to come back (£) after managers realized they were in fact crucial to the site’s functioning. Musk has apparently begun exercising his personal power in increasingly self-serving ways, with a fact check disappearing under one of his own tweets and Users receiving permanent bans for imitating him in protest. Advertisers have begun to scale back spending, raising the serious possibility of a death spiral as a revenue slump forces ever larger interventions from Musk, resulting in deeper revenue slumps.
And so users are turning elsewhere. But the menu of options is confusing and unappetizing. Here’s a guide to what else is on offer:
What is it? The flagship service of fediverse, a federated social network that operates on common protocols to ensure compatibility between thousands of different servers, each running an “instance” of the network. It’s to Twitter like email is to messaging apps.
why could i go there? The Fediverse is as close to a like-for-like alternative to Twitter as you’re likely to find. It’s comparatively large, with more than a million monthly active users, which means you can probably find your niche. It’s familiar, with most of the same basic posting concepts inherited from Twitter, plus some additions like content warnings that feel thoughtful. The federated concept means it can be scaled very large without ever losing its indie feel. And Musk was upset enough to take a picture of his screen and call it “masterbatedone” (tweet since deleted).
Why could I dodge? The Fediverse is confusing. The concept of following users across different servers can take a while to get used to, and simply tracking down people across the distributed network is difficult. That’s before we get to concepts like defederation, where one server bans all users of another, and the problems of volunteer moderators having absolute power over their own server. (One caveat: don’t assume your DMs on Fed-Diverse are private.) And it’s not entirely clear how the service will scale past a certain size. “It’s like email” sounds reassuring until you remember that your email service is almost certainly run by one of the Big Five for a reason.
What is it? The Anti-Twitter. A social network set up for – and by – people who like the basic offering of Twitter, but explicitly hate the site, the software industry, and almost everything about it but the basic idea of the post.
why could i go there? If the Fediverse and the whole concept of decentralized social media is too much, Cohost offers a simpler suggestion: What if Twitter was run by good people who just wanted to create a chilled website? If we’re being honest, the answer is, “Something that feels like a mix between Twitter and Tumblr, with a user base made up almost entirely of software developers.”
Why could I dodge? The site is already getting people’s interest and requires a two-day wait before new users can post. It seems unlikely it can absorb even a fraction of Twitter’s userbase, meaning it may have to settle for supporting the niche that manages a home there and become the Ello of the 2022 Twitter exodus.
What is it? A chat room service. Built around games, it started out as a way for gamers to coordinate voice chat and talk about the games they were playing. It has now been expanded to encourage anyone to create chat rooms or “servers” about anything for anyone. If you use Slack at work, the easiest way is to think of Discord as Slack for the rest of your life.
Why might I go there? If Discord is for you, you probably already use it. You’re already on a few servers – maybe one for fans of your favorite online game and another where members of a niche hobby you’re into hang out. Instead of leaving Twitter for a similar replacement, you can just… stop posting on Twitter and spend more time on Discord instead.
Why could I dodge? Discord is not a social network; It’s more of a tool for creating new social networks. While you have a stable identity across various Discord servers, almost everything happens within these walled gardens. This means you can’t just “switch to Discord”: you have to actively find the right community for you. And you’ll probably never find one that covers all your interests, so get used to switching between servers for a while.
What is it? Come on, you know WhatsApp: the world’s largest messaging app, the only meta subsidiary people have great things to say about, the place you first heard about the lasagna they made at the Wembley have prepared the stadium.
Why might I go there? look inside yourself Does social networking really have to be public? Sure, the upside is that sometimes a nice stranger will stick their head in and say something interesting, but the downside is that you’ll post about something you thought was harmless and become the main character of the day. So why not just grab your best internet friends for a few group chats and post all your posts there instead?
Why could I dodge? Posting in a group chat is great, but creating one is not. It’s like inviting a colleague over for your birthday drink for the first time: what if your other friends don’t like them? What if they think you’re being weirdly direct? And even once you’ve created the group chat, it can be difficult to use them to expand the network to the outside world. Public social media is the way to go for this.
What is it? OK, you pull my leg. You definitely know your way around email. This is an email!
Why might I go there? You may have missed it, but email newsletters are enjoying a renaissance. Even big media organizations are getting into the game. But you don’t have to sit down and write an essay every week to have a newsletter: what if you just… jotted down all the tweets you wanted to send and emailed them to the people who care about you follow? Services like Substack, Buttondown, and Ghost make this easy.
Why could I dodge? Social norms for email vary, and while it might be possible to send an email that just says, “IF THE ZOO FORBID ME FOR GETTING THE ANIMALS, I WILL FACE GOD AND GO BACKWARDS TO HELL“, users can log out. And while it can be fun to click reply and chat with the author (try it now!), it’s not the same as having a conversation on a public social network.
What is it? Twitter.
Why do I want to stay there? Network effects are real. With 350 million users, there will not be, and probably never will be, a replacement for Twitter that has everyone represented. If the site dies, it dies, but if you don’t want to hasten its death, you don’t have to.
Why could I dodge? See the post above.
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