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Since Elon Musk bought Twitter in October, many users of the social media platform have considered taking their thoughts elsewhere – and some have.
Some object to Musk’s spreading lies, the rise in hate speech after he took office, his firing of half of Twitter’s staff and his reinstatement of former President Donald Trump’s account. Some believe that the site will shut down completely at some point due to the departure of many engineers from the company. And some just say the site’s best days are behind it.
Either way, Twitter has had some real “Closing Time” vibes over the past two weeks, with many long-time users taking Semisonic’s advice to heart: You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.
Here’s a look at where some Twitter users are testing the waters.
Mastodon, founded in 2014, has received the lion’s share of attention in recent weeks, and it’s gained a lot of users during this time. Mastodon says it had more than 2.5 million monthly active users as of Tuesday. Nearly 180,000 people joined Mastodon in a single day last week, according to data scientist Esteban Moro.
Soooo, what exactly is Mastodon?
It is a decentralized and open source social media platform. Anyone can launch and host their own Mastodon server and create their own community, which can connect to other Mastodon servers. Because it’s open-source, it doesn’t belong to anyone, and its creators don’t hold any copyrights to it.
It is by design. “Nobody controls the whole network,” founder Eugen Rochko told NPR last week.
“It is, indeed, more democratic,” he said.
You can learn more about Mastodon’s structure on its basic help page. This page states: “Mastodon is not Twitter”. He says the site won’t get you to follow certain people, and that Mastodon doesn’t emphasize the popularity or virality of a post: “What’s important here is to interact in real conversation.”
Each server has its own rules and moderators, and moderators can serve as gatekeepers to that server, deciding who can join. Users of different servers (called Instances) can generally interact with each other, although Instances can form around specific interests, such as one for journalists, or cyberpunks, or food and wine lovers. You can create accounts on multiple servers, so there’s no need to pick the perfect community upfront.
Mastodon does not offer some of the features familiar to Twitter users, such as quote tweets. Also, direct messages can potentially be read by a server’s moderator, so keep that in mind.
Starting over on a new network can be daunting. Some transplants on Mastodon use tools like Fedifinder and Twitodon to find accounts they know on Twitter and follow them on Mastodon.
Screenshot by NPR
Hive Social, founded in 2019, is available as a mobile app for Apple and in beta on Android. It offers a chronological feed (rather than the algorithm-driven feeds of many mainstream apps), and it says it doesn’t “shadow ban” or prioritize certain accounts.
The app promises to bring back “what you loved about social media in a new way”. Some aspects of Hive – like the profile music – listen to a simpler era, namely the Myspace era. It’s also very photo, like Instagram or Tumblr.
Like Mastodon, Hive Social is growing rapidly amid the Twitter chaos, although apparently managed by only two people and hustle for crowdfund.
On Wednesday, Hive Social was No. 1 on the Apple App Store’s Free Social Media Apps chart. Hive said monday that he had surpassed 1 million “Besties,” and on Tuesday he said he had gained 250,000 users overnight, although its email verification process does not work. (Twitter, meanwhile, is still ranked #1 on the App Store’s news app chart.)
On Twitter, new members of Hive applauded its growth, though several lamented the lack of a desktop app or website and said they encountered issues with registration and usernames.
Screenshot by NPR
Post was founded by former Waze CEO Noam Bardin and aims, much like Twitter, to bring together news and social media.
The site is making a direct appeal to outgoing Twitter users, promising content moderation, the ability to write posts of any length, and “a civil place to debate ideas.”
“Remember when social media was fun, introduced you to great ideas and cool people, and actually made you smarter? Remember when it didn’t waste your time and made you angry or sad? When you could disagree with someone without being threatened or insulted.”We want to bring that back with Post,” Bardin wrote in a post on the site’s homepage.
It’s hard to see what Post is offering, as there’s currently a long waiting list to join. According to an email update Tuesday evening, the site had 180,000 people on its waitlist, 20,000 people had been invited to join and 16,000 had activated their accounts.
Like Hive, the site’s small staff struggles to keep up with demand. Bardin wrote that “the platform is holding up well” but cautioned that users should be careful when selecting a username, as they won’t be able to change it for a while, and questions sent to e-mail support will not receive a response for several days.
Bardin admits the site is still “half-baked”, lacking basic features like the ability to find other people to follow and a personalized feed of who you follow once that feature exists. “That means 1,000 people are all on the same feed seeing the same thing. As you can imagine, that’s a lot of photos of cats and dogs,” he wrote in an update on Saturday. .
Legacy social networks
Of course, many Twitter users are already on other social media platforms. The uncertain state of Twitter may cause them to use more or differently than other well-known social networks.
Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, TikTok, Reddit and Tumblr all continue to exist, with their own quirks and moderation issues.
They may not have the same claim to “town square” status that Twitter has sometimes approached, but to varying degrees they exhibit some of the same qualities that Twitter has offered: news, entertainment, community and feed. endless content.
Can a site foster the same communities and conversations that thrived during the good days of the bird app? It’s too early to know for sure, but many people are hoping the answer is yes.
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