Leaving Twitter? The alternative social media sites are ready

SINCE Elon Musk’s US$44 billion (RM207.53 billion) purchase of Twitter Inc, there’s no shortage of users threatening to quit and go elsewhere. Concerns range from the billionaire’s stance on moderation and free speech, to his plan to let people pay for verification check marks.

But once a user closes their Twitter account, where can they go to attain some level of social media satisfaction?

“If you were following Kylie Jenner’s tweets and she left Twitter, don’t you just follow her on Instagram or TikTok instead?” said Sarah Simon, a senior media analyst at Berenberg.

Not necessarily. Here are some popular options:

Mastodon

The social network is often spoken of as an open-source alternative to Twitter. Users register their accounts on different “servers”, each of which are run independently with their own content rules, similar to Reddit’s community-controlled groups.

Instead of joining a single platform that blends everyone’s contributions, Mastodon’s servers are themed by interests, such as hobbies, countries or activism. This gives users an immediate community, but they are still allowed to follow users on other servers. Posts are called “toots” and can include text and images. Mastodon says it will only promote servers that “are consistently committed to moderation against racism, sexism and transphobia.”

Mastodon was founded in 2016 and has more than a million active monthly users. About half a million signed up since Musk took over Twitter on Oct 27, according to founder Eugen Rochko.

Tumblr

Tumblr is angling to regain its erstwhile popularity amid the chaos of Twitter’s Muskification. In a Twitter thread, it played up to that platform’s defectors with promises of an ability to remove algorithm-suggested content, free edit features, a “ridiculously huge character limit.” and “GIFs. A lot of GIFs. So many GIFs.”

After a US$1.1 billion purchase by Yahoo! Inc in 2013, the site failed to compete effectively with newer mobile-first platforms like Instagram. Traffic numbers faced further challenges in 2018 when the platform said it would ban sexual content. However, last week Tumblr announced that nudity would now be permitted, and in the past seven days, downloads on Apple’s App Store are up 58%, according to a tweet by Matt Mullenweg, whose company Automattic now owns the site.

While Tumblr’s focus on allowing lengthy blog posts and streams of multimedia used to starkly contrast with Twitter’s short-and-to-the-point text-only model, the latter’s expansion of character limits and support for threads and videos brought the two platforms closer from a product standpoint. It might make it a suitable new home for Twitter escapees as a result.

Parler

Parler is among a growing group of so-called alt-media sites that aim to give conservatives a forum to share views they feel are silenced on mainstream outlets. It was set up in 2018 as a place users would be “uncancellable,” with its name — which means “to speak,” in French — a nod to its ethos.

It had a surge of user registrations in 2020, with high-profile US conservatives like Ted Cruz opening accounts, and last month, Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, agreed to buy the app. It’s still small, however, with an estimated 40,000 daily active users according to download tracker Apptopia, while Twitter had an average of 238 million daily active users in the second quarter of this year.

The app has been clouded with controversy for the past few years, and was banned from both the Apple and Google app stores last year after violating policies following the Jan 6, 2021, US Capitol riot. It returned to Apple devices in May 2021, and Google’s in September this year.

Truth Social

Another high-profile competitor to Twitter is one created by Donald Trump. After being forced off Twitter, Facebook and YouTube following the US Capitol insurrection, the former US president promised Truth Social would offer a free-speech service. It looks strikingly similar to Twitter, with timelines of short messages, but similar to Parler its modest audience is also largely one formed of American conservatives.

The app has about 513,000 daily active users according to Apptopia — more than 10 times the total it estimates for Parler — with Trump’s widely-publicised eviction from mainstream social media platforms helping promote his latest media enterprise. Trump has just over four million followers on Truth Social.

WT.Social

WikiTribune Social, or WT.Social, has had a “strong rise in users leaving Twitter due to Elon Musk’s new ownership and policies,” founder Jimmy Wales said by email. Wales, who also founded Wikipedia, said the website will fund itself by selling memberships, not through advertising, which he says gives users voting rights over content.

Billing itself as the “non-toxic social network,” WT.Social wants to establish authenticity by prioritising content based on the truthfulness of content, as judged by what the most trusted people on the site think. This is in contrast to the engagement-based algorithms of other social media sites, where controversial content is often surfaced first.

In a version of the site coming in the next few months, users will be awarded with different “status levels” depending on how trusted their posts are deemed to be by other users. In essence, it blends the approval-by-committee model of Wikipedia with the anything-goes appeal of a service like Twitter.

Tribel

The site came out of beta testing three months ago, which was “pretty fortuitous” timing given Musk’s purchase of Twitter, said founder Omar Rivero in a phone call. Two months ago, the site had 250,000 registered users but now has 500,000, he said. “Pretty much every time Elon Musk makes fun of people in his tweets we get an uptick,” he added.

The text and picture-based site looks somewhat like the news feeds of Facebook or Twitter, but posts can be sent to selective audiences. Users can also search for posts in specific categories, meaning that a user’s first post can trend without having any followers, said Rivero, who also founded the partisan Occupy Democrats news site. Tribel doesn’t promote a specific political ideology, he said. – BLOOMBERG