Alternatives to Twitter

By November 4, 2022Technology

Billionaire Elon Musk has bought Twitter, and has sacked numerous people, including the board of directors and has named himself CEO. Musk stated “The reason I acquired Twitter is because it is important to the future of civilization to have a common digital town square, where a wide range of beliefs can be debated in a healthy manner, without resorting to violence. There is currently great danger that social media will splinter into far right wing and far left wing echo chambers that generate more hate and divide our society. In the relentless pursuit of clicks, much of traditional media has fueled and catered to those polarized extremes, as they believe that is what brings in the money, but, in doing

so, the opportunity for dialogue is lost.” While much of the reference to the traditional media is true, it is still unclear how he proposes to turn Twitter into a “digital town square”1.

While Musk states that he “didn’t do it to make more money”, he “did it to try to help humanity”. However, it has been suggested that Musk will introduce a user charge for those who have the blue tick, which is a verification system that individuals are who they say they are. Twitter Blue was the platform’s first subscription service, launched in June 2021, and offers “exclusive access to premium features” on a monthly subscription basis. Musk is believed to be considering increasing the subscription price for Twitter Blue from $4.99 a month to $19.99 a month2.

It seems that making money is still part of what he is on about and the ‘digital town square’ may be largely for those who can afford to pay for it, something that many cannot. So, it risks becoming just another vehicle for the wealthy to tell people how wonderful they are and how the poor are scum who deserve everything they get.

People have already started leaving Twitter simply because it has been bought by Musk, and I have certainly considered doing so, mostly because he is not quite the full shilling (he named one of his children X AE A-XII Musk), and seems to be intent on changing Twitter, perhaps even to the extent of allowing the Mango Mussolini (Trump) back on the platform. If that happens, many have stated that they will leave, me included.

There are alternatives to Twitter, and some of them are run by what they call open source software. Open source software has a source code that anyone can inspect, modify, and enhance. The source code is the part of software that most computer users don’t ever see; it’s the code computer programmers can manipulate to change how a piece of software—a “program” or “application”—works. Programmers who have access to a program’s source code can improve that program by adding features or fixing bugs. The opposite of open source software is proprietary software. This is software where the source code is the property of a person, organisation or corporation and it is they who maintain exclusive control of that software, and often charge heavily for its use. Examples of this include Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop3.

Based on my limited knowledge, the most reasonable open source alternatives to Twitter seem to be: Mastodon, CounterSocial, Tooter and Tribel.

Mastodon

Mastodon is like a decentralised version of Twitter. You don’t join Mastodon per se; you join a specific server run by an organisation, individual, or group. The moderation policies are separately determined on each server, although there are basic moderation policies that apply to all servers. You’re not limited to a single server; you can follow people or have followers from other servers, and you can change servers — or create your own.

On Mastodon, you post toots (rather than tweets) with a 500-character limit per post; you can attach images, a video, or an audio file. Hashtags are encouraged to help people find your toots, and there are apps for iOS (iPhone) and Android (other phone brands) devices. There is also a beginners guide, and a ‘tips’ site. To sign up, you go to https://joinmastodon.org/ and click on the ‘Servers’ link at the top of the page to choose which server you want to sign up for. You can choose to search by topic and/or language. Some will let you join immediately while others have waiting lists. You might want to start with one of the more populated ones, such as ‘mastodon.social’ which at last count had about 779,000 users. It is also vacuuming them up fairly quickly as users seem to be leaving Twitter at quite a rate4.

CounterSocial

On its front page, CounterSocial boasts that it doesn’t allow trolls, ads, or fake news — and in fact, it currently bans several countries for being “origin points” for bots, such as Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan and Syria. Its user interface works via a series of columns rather than the traditional single column feed of Twitter (if you’ve ever used Tweetdeck [I haven’t], you’ve got a fair idea of what CounterSocial looks like). You can use each column to follow different hashtags or user lists. You can pin columns in their place or move them around the interface, arrange notifications for replies or new entries. There is also a chat link for support and conflict resolution. The social network is free; a Pro account costs $4.99 a month and includes additional security, access to other feeds such as traffic radio and news videos, and entry into a virtual reality site4.

Tooter

Tooter contains all the primary Twitter features like toots (tweets), trending posts, etc., and its user interface has been designed to be similar to Twitter. As on Twitter, users can write and publish them in the form of toots. These can also include images, links etc. Users can follow others whose toots they appreciate and it shows trending topics (hashtags) as does Twitter. Users can create groups and can join existing groups with which to share posts. As on Twitter, users can give feedback to posts in the form of comments, reposts, and likes, and users can also mute and block specific users5.

Tribel

There are other Twitter-like social media platforms, one of which is Tribel. It is marketed as a place to grow your profile and your influence. What that means is anyone’s guess. It looks much like Twitter however reviews of it that do not sound like PR plants, are hard to find online6.

I expect that as Musk and his cronies infiltrate Twitter and they attempt to start charging for access (as has been mooted – see above), the trickle of people leaving Twitter will become a flood. At least three of the sites listed above have had significant increases in the number of subscribers over the last few weeks, and these are, as some wag said on Tribel, ‘Twitter refugees’6

On Twitter you have people who follow you and read your tweets and for me this has been fairly stable over the last 6 months or so. However, over the last couple of weeks this has seen an unusual and significant drop of a couple of percent; only a trickle but perhaps indicative of what people think of Musk and what he may do to the platform.

I think I might have a crack at these platforms just to see what they are like. I might even report back.

Sources

  1. https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/1585619322239561728/photo/1
  2. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-11-01/elon-musk-is-now-ceo-and-director-of-twitter-what-is-happening/101601460
  3. https://opensource.com/resources/what-open-source
  4. https://www.theverge.com/23429095/twitter-social-network-alternatives-mastodon-reddit-tumblr-cohost
  5. https://listoffreeware.com/free-open-source-twitter-alternative-services/
  6. https://www.tribel.com/public/trending

16 Comments

  • Michael Peters says:

    Thank you for your timely article – coincidently, as if it knew, my phone decided to remain in my trouser pocket deciding to experience a front loading washing machine as a protest – the result is for another time…..

    Nevertheless, reading your article triggered a question residing in the back of my mind for some time – what would an ideal twitter look like?

    Would that be worth while exploring?

    • admin says:

      Michael,
      I doubt there would be such a beast as an ideal Twitter. Different people require different things from such a platform. I found it enlightening insofar as there were many people on it who knew much more than I about specific topics, and some of these sparked some of my essays on this blog. There are also people on it who are simply nice people and want to know stuff. However, there are others on there who are simple-minded trolls who every time a female tweets, they abuse her. And when that female happens to be black or Muslim the abuse is doubly appalling. I don’t seem to have much trouble with trolls personally, mostly because I just block them, or if they overstep the mark, I report them and they are banished from Twitter. Whether that will still happen under Musk is yet to be seen. Musk seems to talk much about freedom of speech, but I am concerned that his idea of freedom of speech is also accompanied by freedom of consequences for that speech. That would mean the trolls win.

  • Jon says:

    The “opportunity for dialogue”?
    Like, for example:
    – Calling a rescue diver pedo guy (and later repeating it) because his ludicrous and clearly ignorant “offer” of a mini submarine was curtly rejected by serious people trying to save multiple young lives in Thailand?
    – Promoting the ludicrous suggestion that there was a chance Paul Pelosi had a “relationship” with his attacker, a conspiracy rwnjs had invented in order to spread disinformation and influence naive idiots?

    Musk got caught by his own hubris in offering to buy Twitter. When he discovered it would cost him an arm and a leg to reneg he had to put his money (and the banks’) where his mouth was. With any luck it will lead to the demise of both the platform and its owner.

    There’s enough shyte generated on that platform to cover the Earth multiple times.

    • admin says:

      Jon,
      Yeah, Musk’s recent actions do not fill me with confidence that he means what he says, or that he understands the consequences of what he means. My following on Twitter is still declining slowly, I suspect because people are leaving it. It brings to mind the old adage thst just because a person is famous (or wealthy) doesn’t mean they are intelligent. Musk like Trump came from a wealthy family, and like Trump, says enormous numbers of stupid things which may betray his lack of intelligence, gullibility or simple right wing nutjobbery.

  • Mark Dougall says:

    Sorry but I actually can’t see any valid reason for using Twitter at all. I am really not sure how it helps anyone or anything other than lazy journalists and politicians.

    • admin says:

      Mark,
      There are loads of excellent people on Twitter some of whom are experts in particular fields (climate change, renewables, EVs etc. etc.). There are also several investigative journalists who have picked up stories days or weeks before the mainstream media eventually catch up. The way I look at it is based on my history. When I saw any injustice, hypocrisy or lies by public figures I used to write a letter to the editor of the local newspaper. Something less than 50% were ever published. This blog allows me to write when I see such things, and I was told by my technical advisor (my son) to get on Twitter to promote the articles I wrote. This I did, and now a fair proportion of ‘traffic’ on this site comes from my efforts on Twitter.

  • Bronwyn Benn says:

    I’ve noticed that a lot of people are migrating to Mastodon, whose owner explicitly does not provide a platform for RWNJs. You can also use a crossposter app to share content between Twitter and Mastodon, if you want to keep a foot in both camps – see link below.

    https://crossposter.masto.donte.com.br/?fbclid=IwAR03cHJucZ2BpWOx7joWtgkqE4SLmcoJf2JPq4UHnudhtT4a2_LEKy365qE

  • Jon says:

    Good article from a Twitter “facilitator” and fanatical user:
    https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/twitter-elon-musk-employees-leaving-b2227874.html

    For certain people Twitter is not dissimilar to religion is some ways, but an uninvested person would say that I guess.

    • admin says:

      Jon,
      Nah, Twitter is nothing like a religion. It is more like a meeting of people, some of whom are funny, some very serious. With the judicious use of the block facility, you can block almost all the ads, all the racists, bigots, rabid RWNJs and associated other wackers. It can become a very interesting place if you let it. While I won’t mention names, I have interacted with religious people who have no truck with the new christians like Morrison and all the other religious spivs. I read stuff from people who are at the forefront of climate research (both here and overseas). I read stuff from people who are in the Teal movement and even the Labor and Liberal parties. It allows you to see how they think. I also have a few fruitcakes; reading their stuff would make any vaguely normal person feel like a genius.

  • Jon says:

    The many positive things mentioned by that fella aside – ie the less contentious stuff – the (mindless in some cases) addiction, the need to express simplistic opinions about often very complex issues, the need for approbation and/or vindication, all seem very familiar/similar. I recognise its importance and usefulness but overall I’m just a jaded skeptic as far as social media in general is concerned.

    To mangle a famous and oft misquoted aphorism: “social media is the crack of the people”.

  • Cappie says:

    Commie

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Bitnami