A multilingual microblogging app was recently launched in Brazil and was downloaded one million times within three days of the launch. No, it wasn’t an American app. Or Chinese. Israeli. Or Russian. It was an Indian app called Koo.
Which brings us to the topic, what does a post-Twitter world look like? Truth be told, from an Indian point of view, Twitter is miniscule. I think it has about 24 million users — hardly a drop in the ocean compared to even Roposo, an Indian social platform (there are several home-grown ones).
Twitter is great for specialist/niche folks (I follow many marketers, techies, journalists), trolling, and fake news — not in that order though. Though I am far more involved on Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram, I have a sneaking admiration for high-quality conversations on Twitter and have been pondering over a post-Twitter scenario of late.
The exodus has begun, but I doubt if anyone’s deleting accounts at the moment — I suspect most people will stay on Twitter, scrolling through the timeline and trends until their engagement finally flickers out. Ok, here’s my top Twitter alternatives list. Have fun!
This is my favourite going by the quality of engagement. Launched in 2016, the free open-source platform is basically a decentralised version of Twitter, made up of various interest-based servers. So, nobody owns Mastodon, though you can get kicked out if a server goes down! The interface is a bit clumsy and getting used to Mastodon might take a while, but like I said the conversations are worth checking out. It’s also completely free of ads and doesn’t do blue ticks, which is nice (Twitter has suspended the $8 blue tick for some reason).
Tumblr is old! Around 2007, it lets users post long form, blog-style content with photos and GIFs. At its peak, Tumblr had over 100 million users and was popular with alternative communities — still is. One reason it’s survived so long is its reverse chronological timeline, also letting users heavily customise their own pages à la MySpace.
Discord was initially a chat app popular with gamers, but is now an instant messaging service (like Whatsapp) for specific communities and topics. The main appeal is being able to communicate in real-time using text, video, and audio.
Cohost has done away with one of the most controversial elements of most mainstream social media platforms – the algorithm. It’s been called ‘the awkward offspring of Tumblr, Twitter, and a hint of Reddit’ and is popular with nerds creating a parallel, co-owned universe.
Founded by former US president Donald Trump, Truth Social is Twitter for conservatives. If you hate the liberal left, you’ll love TS - only available to users in the United States currently.
On the heels of Truth Social is Tribel, a “bigotry-free social network where kindness and intelligence flourish,” — in other words, the Left Liberal counterpoint. Also, Elon Musk is said to be very interested in this platform — he actually praised Tribel on Twitter, and later deleted the tweet
Many journalists on Twitter are moving — with their audiences — over to Substack, an online newsletter platform for content creators, especially long-form journalists. Will the shift from algorithm-powered news feeds to age-old email newsletters work? Time will tell, but it’s raking in millions of dollars from subscribers.
Clubhouse is a social audio app, which gained niche snooty popularity during the Covid pandemic. Frankly, I am not sure I like it — it’s like the worst of Twitter, lovingly curated.
My hands-down favourite, Reddit is a popular website for smart people who want to interact with smarter people on specific interests and topics, from r/CatsInSinks to r/Existentialism and everything in between. Like Mastodon, each subreddit has its own rules that you must follow or risk being kicked out.
Koo is an Indian microblogging and social networking service based in Bengaluru. Ever since the app won the MyGov ‘Aatmanirbhar App Challenge’ (in its category), it has gone from strength to strength. The USP, in my opinion, is understanding local culture (in India they support all major languages) — in Brazil, it is available in Portuguese.
Finally, I don’t think Twitter is going anywhere too soon. But I do think the time for niche, specialist platforms has come. And the time for algorithm-driven is fast running out — there is an international backlash which is growing stronger.
To paraphrase the Bob Dylan classic,
“How many years can a social media platform exist
Before it’s washed to the sea?
Yes, ‘n’ how many years can some followers exist
Before they’re allowed to be free?”