How long has Twitter got left? Is it dead already? If so, what is its future? Amidst a flurry of Twitter alternative apps popping up we are being given hints that maybe a future of multiple Twitter-like platforms is the answer. It’s not hard to imagine more Twitter-like services populating the web, customised to fit ever smaller and more specific niches.
When I scroll through Twitter I notice all the niches and how different they are, especially when it comes to spaces. You have web3 and NFT spaces, political spaces, music spaces, gaming spaces. So dispersing Twitter into different platforms for these different niches makes sense.
When it comes to the Twitter diaspora, decentralised Mastodon is the popular girl of the group. It’s so customizable that many other Twitter-style services are built on it, including a handful of right-wing Twitter alternatives like Gab and Donald Trump’s Truth Social, now the exclusive home of the former president’s all-caps missives. After all, it was right-wing users who started decamping from Twitter first. Then, after Elon Musk bought the platform last October, that trend accelerated.
The main alternatives in the running are Post., a microblogging site closer to Substack than Twitter, with a heavy emphasis on microtransactions; Substack’s Notes feed, a hybrid RSS reader for newsletters and short-form tweet-like posts; and the Jack Dorsey–backed Nostr and Bluesky.
Of these, Bluesky is the most hyped. It had a huge month recently after inviting thousands of waitlisted users onto the site at the end of April, leading to a flurry of activity. Popular users from Twitter’s weirder, more anarchic corners all created accounts in the same week and briefly turned the site into a cultural curiosity.
Nostr and Bluesky are pretty much identical to Twitter, as one might expect given their parentage, although both lack the ability to share videos. Almost by accident, however, they’ve begun to incubate their own unique posting behaviours. An early glitch in Bluesky, for instance, meant that if a post had too many replies, the thread would effectively break but users would still receive notifications, and anyone who had once replied would be unable to leave. Bluesky invites are petering out, which has tempered the site’s memetic energy slightly, but the core user base doesn’t seem to be leaving anytime soon.
The rest of 2023 will be interesting to say the least.