I’ve been through at least three weekends since Elon Musk hauled a vanity into Twitter HQ for the most belabored sight gag ever, where everybody in my timeline was saying farewell because we were sure that the service was going to go down like the Titanic that very day.
And then we woke up the next morning and found out that the mass firings or Elon shutting off random servers or the attempts to turn the whole thing into an anti-meritocracy where any shit flinging bored ape with $8 can get boosted to the top of everybody’s replies did not, in fact, kill Twitter dead.
This says something as much about the community that has formed on Twitter as the engineering that went into making the platform as resilient as it seems to be. People have left… many loudly… only to show up again because of the critical mass that holds people there.
Is it the critical mass though? Or is it that there is no place that can really replace Twitter? Because there are alternatives. Let me run through some.
Mastodon – Let a Thousand Silos Bloom
The primary problem with Mastodon being a Twitter replacement is that it most strenuously does not want to be that. It was created by and for people who didn’t like the rough and tumble of Twitter, who wanted an extremely curated social media experience.
If you want that, great. This is your place. But that wasn’t what Twitter was and if you can’t see the difference I don’t know what to tell you.
That it is also the Linux of social media experiences doesn’t help. It is a decentralized, user run environment where every server can seem like an island and where you can feel like nobody is home if you don’t read the instruction manual. Unless you know what to do you end up with a feed that is all the same people all the time and the things they boost.
I think the biggest indictment of the service is how many people I follow there who still cross post everything to Twitter. That is pretty much an admission that it isn’t filling the Twitter void.
The true believers will talk about the Fediverse like it is a thing you should already know how to use and how you need to work at your feed, which is where the Linux comparison feels fairly apt. In the Linux world there is a strong vibe that if you can’t compile your own executables then you shouldn’t be allowed to use a computer. On Mastodon… well, I won’t even bother linking this post there because the first rule of Mastodon club is “Don’t criticize Mastodon club!”
Good at what it does, but if you aren’t interested in that it isn’t going to magically be something else for you.
Where it is: Mastodon
Where to find me there: @firstname.lastname@example.org
Post.News is not Post.Twitter
This answers the question, “What if I built a simple Twitter clone and just let it ride to see what happened?”
As an app Twitter doesn’t seem that complicated, at least on the UI end of things. But Post.news is here to remind you of what polish means in software development with a bunch of tiny annoyances. It persists with my greatest UI pet peeve, that of opening up a dialog into which you are supposed to enter text… like, you know, a new post… and failing to put the cursor in the text field so you can just start typing.
But little things aside, it is another site that just hasn’t hit critical mass. I follow a few Twitter refugees there, though a couple still cross-post to Twitter, an ongoing theme with Twitter replacement sites. One of them cross posts to there, Twitter, AND Mastodon. But I guess I do to, so who am I to criticize?
It also lacks the algorithm. I know it is en vogue to be critical of the Twitter algorithm, especially since Elon decided to tilt it to make himself and his pet follows more visible (and the paid blue checks as well, who now appear at the top of all replies, making the more noxious members of that club easier to find and block) but one of the common failing themes of the Twitter alternatives is that you immediately feel the lack of that algorithm.
Yeah, it gets things wrong, it suggests people you were never going to follow, and it can promote the noxious, but I still find the For You tab in Twitter, where the algorithm is allowed to run free and fill your feed, to be quite interesting most days. And it does, after more than a decade, do a pretty good job of bubbling up things I do like that I didn’t know about.
In Post.news you’re just there in the feed with the few people you’ve found to follow. Marc Elias and Jeff Tiedrich make up 90% my feed because others I follow gave up and went away.
Addendum: After I wrote this they finally implemented their points content monetization scheme, so you now have to spend points to read some posts. So, for example, every Reuter’s News post costs points to read.
I like the sentiment, getting content creators some value for their posts… on the other hand, I can’t see myself ever spending points on anything I’ve ever seen on the site.
Where it is: Post.news
Where to find me there: @wilhelm2451
Spoutible Springs a Leak
I only learned about Spoutible when Ellie Mystal, whom I follow on Twitter, declared he was leaving Twitter for this new site that I had never heard of. Of course, he was back on Twitter because there is no leaving the mothership AND keeping your Twitter circle.
But I went there long enough to sign up, and I still spout off, as they call it there, with links to my blog. However, it is largely a similar experience to other such sites where critical mass has yet to be achieved. There is, for example, no content algorithm.
However, in an attempt to bootstrap community what Spoutible does is assign you some new friends when you sign up. And you, in turn, get some people occasionally assigned to you when they show up. It is all rather akin to the Vonnegut novel Slapstick that includes a government scheme to end loneliness by giving everybody a new middle name with a number and declaring that everybody with the same middle name is now related and the number indicates the closeness of that relationship.
Otherwise it does all the usual things. You have a feed, you type in spouts, it supports hash tags, and you can follow people. The one useful account I have found there so far is the Congressional Bill Bot that posts bills being proposed in congress. Depressing is actually a better word for it, because you can see all the performative garbage that our congress critters get up to. I had, for example, never heard of Rep. Andy Biggs from Arizona district 5, who apparently he wants to set some sort of record by proposing bills to defund every federal department, one at a time.
Where it is: Spoutible
Where to find me there: @wilhelm2451
Tribel – Is it Just Liberal Truth Social?
I forget where I even heard about Tribel. Most likely I saw it on Twitter. I have heard about almost all of Twitter’s competitors on Twitter, and yet Twitter is still a thing. Go figure.
Tribel’s attempt to solve the “get involved and meet people” problem of the new user is to carve the place up into some pre-set categories, no doubt so you can use that to find people with similar interests. So you have four feeds, friends, following, breaking, and trending.
I have no friends besides the Tribel support account and haven’t followed anybody, and that is because the breaking and trending are pretty much non-stop liberal memes and outrage. #FuckTheGOP is the constant top trending hashtag.
Thanks to four years of Trump as president and the overt Republican desire to overthrow the constitution if they don’t get their way, I find it very easy to make common cause with all sorts of people on the left I might have disdained previously.
But that doesn’t mean I want a site that is non-stop anti-Republican. I don’t even care if they’re right, or if they they deserve it, I just don’t want a social media site that is all that and nothing else. And that seems to be the case because even in the “gaming” category there is me valiantly linking to my posts, a few people posting their Wordle results, and nothing else. I own #EVEOnline on the site!
So not really the site for me. But if you like that sort of thing, have at it.
Where it is: Tribel
Where to find me there: @wilhelm2451
Substack Notes – Subscribe to my Substack!
One of the dumbest things Elon has done on Twitter recently was block links to Substack because they were introducing Notes, an alleged Twitter competitor. He would have been much better served by linking to it himself and asking people to go check it out and tell him what they think of it.
Because it may be a few things, but a Twitter competitor it is not.
To start with, in order to sign up you have to create a Substack site. And when you try to follow anybody on Notes, you have to subscribe to their Substack. Also, Notes doesn’t believe in hashtags yet, so your feed is basically notifications that people have posted something new to their Substack. I already have that, as noted, in email thank you very much.
Not very useful because nobody seems to read, much less interact with, just the Notes section and I don’t need my email inbox filled with a bunch more Substack feeds. Also, I have no intention of moving my blog to Substack.
Where it is: Substack
Where to find me there: Wilhelm Arctutus
Tumblr – So I’ve Been Told
The other day Automattic, which owns WordPress and Tumblr, sent out an email about how their automated API to Twitter was being shut down. In that post they suggested that people should look to Tumblr as a Twitter alternative.
My response to that was, “Wut?”
I mean, I see the vague similarities and how you have a feed and such, but Tumblr feels more like an Instagram competitor. I have certainly never seen anything on Tumblr that made me feel like it was more than a picture site where the occasional person foolishly tries to use it as a blogging platform before disappearing into the abyss.
But maybe I have just been using the site wrong.
It is, however, the only site on this list that I can post to automatically through WordPress.
Where it is: Tumblr
Where to find me there: TAGN or EVE Online Pictures
Bluesky Social – I don’t see you on the list, sir
What if Jack Dorsey and the people who originally created Twitter got together and tried to make it again? Could they succeed? Could they find that magic once more?
Bluesky has been inviting a select group of people… people popular on Twitter, people who might attract others to follow. They even invited Dril, who had problems getting his handle there, but they solved it.
The thing is that they are playing this celebrity and scarcity thing for all it is worth. Every day somebody else shows up on Twitter with a screen shot of their shiny new Bluesky presence and people beg for a friend code or some other way onto the site. But there is nothing for the plebes except to go sign up at their site to be put on the wait list. I did that months ago and, watching famous people walk by the velvet ropes and into the cool kids club, the guy at the door says there isn’t any room for me yet. Oh wait, here comes another famous person… and they’re let right in.
I don’t know if they’re just trying to piss off the Elon loyalists who insist that everybody paying $8 for their 15 seconds of fame is a meritocracy (Tim Sweeney’s view, ladies and gentlemen) or if they just want to build up a ton of demand, but I feel like they could really push this too far if they’re not careful.
They might just make me not want to join.
Oh, who am I kidding? Let me in! LET ME IIIIINNNNNNNNNN! PLEASE!
Where it is: Bluesky
Where to find me there: I am not worthy yet
So those are the sites I have been keeping an eye on. As an experiment I have been trying to post my content, use hash tags, and follow people with similar content on each of those sites.
I have to do this manually every day because, besides Tumblr, the only site that WP.com connects to for automatic posts is Twitter… and that was supposed to go away on April 30th, yet still works as of today.
We shall see if I gain any traction on the other sites. Substack Notes seems like a lost cause already over my steadfast refusal to write a Substack.