Users began fretting about the end of Twitter as soon as Tesla Inc. TSLA,
CEO Elon Musk announced plans to purchase the service earlier this year, when he teased a more lax approach to content moderation. But many Twitter users have been bracing to say goodbye with more urgency over the last several days, after Musk followed up mass layoffs by asking remaining employees to either consent to long hours or take severance pay.
Now, Twitter users who once contemplated leaving the platform due to a CEO’s changing vision are contending with the possibility that Twitter might physically “break” given the absence of key engineers and other staffers.
The employee exodus has changed the equation. Employees had to decide whether or not to stay at Twitter by Thursday afternoon, and perhaps hundreds of those who were given the ultimatum opted for an exit, according to estimates published in the Wall Street Journal and elsewhere.
Twitter, which is said to have largely disbanded its press team, didn’t immediately respond to a MarketWatch request for comment on the number of employees who chose the severity package.
Read: Twitter risks fraying as engineers exit over Musk upheaval
The problem is that Twitter, which has more 237 million monetizable daily active users as of the June quarter, isn’t easy to replace. Yes, there are other big platforms where people can go to connect online, including Facebook and Instagram, both owned by Meta Platforms Inc. META,
and fast-growing TikTok, owned by the Chinese company ByteDance. But Twitter serves a unique role for many web dwellers due to its focus on real-time information, often spread through text. Instagram and TikTok are far more focused on photos and videos, respectively. What’s more, Twitter is a platform where many world leaders, companies, celebrities and public figures already have an established presence and are easy to find; the same can’t be said for alternatives like Mastodon and Post. Yet.
That said, Twitter users have some ideas of where they might be able to go in a world in which Twitter doesn’t exist, or at least one in which Twitter doesn’t resemble the service it once was. The following are some widely mentioned alternatives.
This oft-mentioned alternative platform describes itself as “radically different social media, back in the hands of the people.” It points to the fact that it has “no algorithms or ads to waste your time” and “provides you with a unique possibility of managing your audience without middlemen.” As the tech-oriented Lifewire site explains, Mastodon is decentralized — meaning that instead of “offering one giant social media platform, it allows users to create, host, and run communities or ‘instances.’ Each instance has a different set of conduct policies determined by the hosts.” One benefit of Mastodon is that it doesn’t allow the equivalent of quote-tweeting the way that Twitter does. Quote-tweets can breed sassy replies, so Mastodon has a less aggressive feel. And Volkswagen VOW,
— Europe’s biggest car maker — is one company that has already signed up for a Mastodon account, as Bloomberg reported.
Another emerging platform, Hive Social says it’s “bringing back what you used to love about social media in a new way.” That said, it has many of the same features as Twitter (or Facebook for that matter), with a chronological feed of posts. The Pocket-lint tech website notes that while it doesn’t ban “Not Safe For Work” content, it “does insist that it be tagged as ‘NSFW’ in order to have it redacted for accounts held by minors.” One thing to keep in mind: It’s a mobile-only platform, so if you access social-media on a desktop/laptop, it may not work for you.
This platform bills itself as one that disallows trolls, abuse, ads, fake news and “foreign influence ops,” and says it has more than 63 million visitors. One interesting feature of CounterSocial is that it monitors emergency radio traffic, and says it can provide updates and chatter “from the ground when a major incident occurs long before traditional media catches on.” Twitter is often a place where people go to see breaking news before media outlets are able to get full stories published, so that scanning feature might hold some appeal. Creative Bloq, an art and design site, calls it a “no-nonsense alternative to Twitter” that is already “proving to be plenty popular,” while the tech site ZDNet simply rates it as the best Twitter alternative overall. The Tech Briefly site calls its design “futuristic” and says that both Mastodon and CounterSocial offer “features that are quite comparable to those on the Twitter platform.”
Amino calls itself the platform that lets you “build your own community,” with a custom design that includes a logo, theme, background image and more. Some say it’s similar to Mastodon, but ZDNet notes that it’s also guided by the fact that it’s a “safe social space for teens” with “strictly enforced community guidelines.” (Still, the tech-oriented MUO site noted that some “unsuitable” content seems to slip through the cracks.) Twitter spent the past few years trying to make it easier for users to find community among others interested in topics like them. This appears to be a core function of Amino’s platform.
Describing itself as “a really snazzy site that allows you to showcase the events that make up your life in deliciously digestible chunks,” Plurk has a playful orientation. LifeWire calls it the most similar platform to Twitter, pointing to the fact that “you’ll find people discussing a broad range of mundane topics from knitting to Netflix.” Headquartered in Taiwan, Plurk houses many discussions focused on “Asian pop culture,” according to LifeWire. The service could be especially appealing to Twitter users interested in making connections with others who like the same musical groups or shows. And CNET describes it as a “Twitter clone,” saying if it offers “a slick timeline view of all the posts from your friends. The system also has a good design for adding friends by finding them on your other buddy lists (AIM, Yahoo IM, Gmail, etc.).”
Often described as a conservative social-media app, Parler says its platform is social media “the way it was intended,” pointing to how it’s “built upon a foundation of respect for privacy and personal data, free speech, free markets, and ethical , transparent corporate policy.” Ye, the musical artist formerly known as Kanye West, reportedly agreed to acquire Parler last month. And, of course, when it comes to politically oriented platforms, there’s also former President Donald Trump’s Truth Social, which emerged after Trump banned Twitter. Both of these platforms have been framed as alternatives to Twitter, and would aim to fill the void for a particular set of users should Twitter struggle.
The 15-year-old microblogging platform was trendy in the early 2010s. But it failed to achieve broad cultural currency as Facebook and Instagram did, shuffling through a wave of owners as it sought commercial success. While its interface feels a bit like a relic of the 2010s, Tumblr has retained a fervent base of users and remains a favorite among fandoms. Part of the appeal of Twitter is that it allows groups of fans and other online communities to connect over shared interests. Tumblr has already proven its ability to meet that need for its user base, and could fill the void for addrift Twitter users.
Twitter serves as a hub for news and real-time information, and some see newly created posts as an appealing entrant to the space. Noam Bardin, a Google GOOGL,
veteran who worked on the Waze navigational system, calls himself the service’s “Chief Poster,” and pitches the Post as a place for “real people, real news and civil conversations.” Post “will oppose any government’s attempt to censor speech on our platform” but also has “rules, which we plan to rigorously enforce via content moderation, with the help of our community,” according to a dispatch Bardin posted to the service. He added that people on Post would be able to write and share “posts of any length,” as well as converse, buy individual articles from publications, and tip content creators.
“Discord” might sum up what’s been going on at Twitter, but it’s also the name of a fellow social-media service that allows users to create spaces in which they can discuss shared interests with friends and strangers. Users can browse for “servers” keyed around popular interests, like stock trading, Ariana Grande or the Roblox Corp. RBLX,
Blox Fruits game. Or they can start groups of their own meant either for friends or members of the public. While people can share text, images and GIFs to the service, Discord also supports voice and video. The service represents yet another option for Twitter users hoping to connect in real time around topics of interest.