Because Meta owns Facebook and Instagram, these destinations have been able to grow their audiences quickly. Users login to Threads with their Instagram accounts and automatically follow the same people they follow on Instagram.
“We’re at about 10,000 right now. I would say a good 80% of that happened over the weekend,” said Paula Port, Destination Toronto‘s vice president of marketing. Visit Orlando has over 32,000 followers.
So far, posting activity on Threads by these groups is uneven. Some haven’t posted anything while others like Visit Orlando have been posting daily.
Threads doesn’t offer advertising at the moment, according to the Wall Street Journal. Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and TikTok are the top spenders on social media advertising.
Destinations have been devoting fewer resources to Twitter. A new problem for Twitter has been the new blue check verification process, which requires a subscription. “We just kind of gone back and forth on what’s the value that we’re seeing there and it seems very unpredictable,” said Utah Office of Tourism Director of Marketing and Communication Ben Cook.
Destinations haven’t developed a strategy for marketing on Threads. Destination Toronto hasn’t posted much and is reusing the text-based strategy and repurposing content it uses for Twitter. Utah is experimenting with a more humorous voice.
“There is not a huge lift and we’re not going to put a lot of time into developing a huge strategy until we just sort of see where it goes,” said Cook. Audience engagement on the platform looks good so far, he said.
What strategies destinations come up with for Threads depends on the platform’s evolution.
“It feels like it wants to be Twitter, but everyone from Instagram is there,” Port said. “Is Threads going to reduce our need for that news-driven content or is it going to be more like Instagram, which is more curated and has more of a visual aesthetic?”
Linda Yaccarino, CEO of X, the digital platform formerly known as Twitter, told employees they are “writing history” with the stunning overhaul of the well-established brand.
In an email to employees obtained by Deadline (subject line: “X: Our Next Big Impression”), Yaccarino said Twitter “made a lasting imprint on the world” during its 17-year run. In rebranding it as X and ditching the blue bird logo, part of a move to explore new business areas like banking, payments and video, the company will “go even further to transform the global town square — and impress the world all over again,” the former NBCUniversal exec said. She went on to urge them, “Please don’t take this moment for granted. You’re writing history, and there’s no limit to our transformation.”
Yaccarino went on to declare, “Our company uniquely has the drive to make this possible. Many companies say they want to move fast — but we enjoy moving at the speed of light, and when we do, that’s X. At our core, we have an inventor mindset — constantly learning, testing out new approaches, changing to get it right and ultimately succeeding.”
Elon Musk acquired Twitter for $44 billion last fall and positioned it as the centrepiece of a company called X Corp., which he runs along with Tesla and SpaceX. He has since made a series of dramatic moves, laying off thousands of employees, restoring access to a number of users banned under prior content policies and imposing a paid verification system that will factor prominently into the evolution of X. Yaccarino, an ad sales veteran, joined as CEO in June and is working to persuade advertisers who have paused spending or pulled out altogether that the platform can once again be a safe and effective place for their ad dollars.
The internal memo was a somewhat more focused version of a series of tweets (Xs?) Yaccarino had posted earlier, drawing side-eyes and scepticism on the company’s own platform. “X is the future state of unlimited interactivity – cantered in audio, video, messaging, payments/banking – creating a global marketplace for ideas, goods, services, and opportunities,” she wrote. “Powered by AI, X will connect us all in ways we’re just beginning to imagine.”
As workers in San Francisco began prying the “Twitter” letters off the side of the corporate headquarters and preparing the white-on-black replacement, reactions circulated on the platform. For now, it still has its long-time domain name and interface, though the bird logo has been replaced by an “X,” and users seemed suspicious of the plan. ESPN NFL analyst Mina Kimes quote-tweeted Yaccarino: “Enjoyable to imagine Kendall Roy saying this to investors.” (Comedian and Twitch gamer Andy Cortez obliged by reading the tweet as Kendall Roy (with a few expletives thrown in). Eric Idle proposed, “Perhaps it should be called Twatter after the owner?”
Tech media personality Kara Swisher was among those replying directly to Yaccarino: “Sounds dandy, but big issue here is that you must deliver. So far under Elon regime” and completing the thought with a GIF of a worker throwing shipping boxes at a conveyor belt.
Here’s Yaccarino’s full memo:
What a momentous weekend. As I said yesterday, it’s extremely rare, whether it’s in life or in business, that you have the opportunity to make another big impression. That’s what we’re experiencing together, in real time. Take a moment to put it all into perspective.
17 years ago, Twitter made a lasting imprint on the world. The platform changed the speed at which people accessed information. It created a new dynamic for how people communicated, debated, and responded to things happening in the world. Twitter introduced a new way for people, public figures, and brands to build long lasting relationships. In one way or another, everyone here is a driving force in that change. But equally all our users and partners constantly challenged us to dream bigger, to innovate faster, and to fulfil our great potential.
With X we will go even further to transform the global town square — and impress the world all over again.
Our company uniquely has the drive to make this possible. Many companies say they want to move fast — but we enjoy moving at the speed of light, and when we do, that’s X. At our core, we have an inventor mindset — constantly learning, testing out new approaches, changing to get it right and ultimately succeeding.
With X, we serve our entire community of users and customers by working tirelessly to preserve free expression and choice, create limitless interactivity, and create a marketplace that enables the economic success of all its participants.
The best news is we’re well underway. Everyone should be proud of the pace of innovation over the last nine months — from long form content, to creator monetization, and tremendous advancements in brand safety protections. Our usage is at an all time high and we’ll continue to delight our entire community with new experiences in audio, video, messaging, payments, banking – creating a global marketplace for ideas, goods, services, and opportunities.
Please don’t take this moment for granted. You’re writing history, and there’s no limit to our transformation. And everyone, is invited to build X with us.
Elon and I will be working across every team and partner to bring X to the world. That includes keeping our entire community up to date, ensuring that we all have the information we need to move forward.
Now, let’s go make that next big impression on the world, together.
Feature Image Credit: Linda YaccarinoGetty/Courtesy
In this article, we dive into five apps that are similar to Twitter and share what you need to know about each one.
Ever since Twitter’s ownership changed in late 2022, several apps have sprung up offering to be alternatives with varying degrees of popularity. Some are so recent they’re not even at the beta testing stage yet.
It may be overwhelming trying to navigate the list, but thankfully, I’ve been keeping up with them and have noted five that you may want to keep your eye on. In this article, we’ll dive into these apps, what you need to know about each one, and share some advice for your potential future on these new platforms.
Starting with one most of us are familiar with; Mastodon saw an uptick in users when the Twitter takeover began and has been touted as the most likely platform for users to gravitate towards.
Mastodon is a decentralized network that allows users to create accounts in distinct communities while being able to access others. It’s based on an open-source, “federated” concept, where different servers use the same protocol to speak to each other and share content to one feed.
These servers (also known as instances) allow users to create communities through Mastodon without building the whole infrastructure from scratch. Server operators oversee the users’ activity registered and hosted on their respective servers.
Users can choose the network they want to sign up on, and options abound with nearly 10,000 active communities. The default network for new users at signup is “mastodon.social”, but you can choose whichever you want.
There are no ads or plans to incorporate ads into Mastodon. Its founder has stated that he doesn’t mind if users publish ads on their servers but would do so at their own risk.
When you create an account on one server, you can still see and interact with the activity on other servers on your Feed.
Users can make up to 500 character-long posts and share images, videos, and links.
Some Use Cases
If you target highly specific audiences and communities, there’s a Mastodon server for you.
By creating an instance for yourself or your brand, you can make a personalized feed with all the content you want to serve your audience and conversations you want to have with them while reaching a wider audience.
Find the Mastodon version of your favorite accounts from Twitter – many people and brands that moved over cross-post their content to both platforms.
Focus on thought leadership by starting and contributing to conversations without worrying about selling something or needing great visuals since that’s not the platform’s focus.
In January 2023, rumours began that Meta had started coding a “Twitter competitor,” and in May, the rumours were confirmed through a leak.
Currently referred to internally as Project 92, the platform has been referred to as Meta’s answer to Twitter and will be integrated with users’ Instagram information. According to The Verge, “The app will use Instagram’s account system to automatically populate a user’s information.” It’s also rumoured that the app’s public name might be Threads.
Meta’s chief product officer Chris Cox reportedly shared with employees that the company’s goal for the app was “safety, ease of use, reliability” and making sure that creators have a “stable place to build and grow their audiences.”
There isn’t much out officially about the app, but according to Lia Haberman’s ICYMI newsletter, it could be out as early as July 2023. Some other details she shared in her newsletter are:
It’s built on the back of Instagram, so you can sign in with your username and password, sync your follower list and even keep your handle, bio and verification status
Users on other apps will be able to search for, follow and interact with your profile and content (so it’s likely a decentralized app built on the ActivityPub protocol)
You’ll have multiple options to create content: text updates of about 500 characters, links, photos, and videos up to 5 minutes
Sharing will remain standard with likes, replies, and reposts.
You’ll be able to control replies and mentions and easily block or report spam. Also, your blocked accounts and hidden words on Instagram will carry over
Finally, community guidelines will remain the same as on Instagram
The newsletter also shares that there are no current monetization plans, implying that there won’t be ads and the focus will be on organic content.
Available on: Nothing yet
Of all the apps on this list, Bluesky is second in popularity only to Mastodon, as the app has seen increasing hype, in part thanks to its Twitter co-founder and former CEO, Jack Dorsey, co-sign. The app has around 50,000 registered users but has reportedly been downloaded more than 375,000 times.
Bluesky is a decentralized social network, much like Mastodon, that allows its users to share short text updates through different providers instead of a huge central one. The default provider is bsky.social, where I’ve created my account. However, users can set their domain name as their Bluesky username while accessing the platform (instead of tami.bsky.social, I could be tami.buffer.com).
We have a few teammates in Bluesky, so leave a comment if you’d like an invite code and I’ll share it with the first commenter!
Users can create posts of up to 300 characters and add images and links.
Bluesky allows its users to choose and even create their own algorithms called “Feeds.” This means you can decide which type of content shows up on your feed. Some available options are: What’s Hot, which shows all the trending content on the app; Blacksky, which shows posts from the Black users of Bluesky, among many others.
Moderation is taken quite seriously, with users allowed to filter content, mute lists, block accounts, and more updates in development.
Some Use Cases
Create an algorithm that shows you and your community content from your account and other related news. If I had the technical prowess, I would create a “Creator Economy” or “Social Media Updates” feed. Flipboard has created curated Feeds for different categories.
You can set and manage your account from a custom domain – see instructions here – which can help with verification. It could also create cohesion for everyone that works with or collaborates with your brand
Available on: Web (in progress) | iOS | Android
True to its name, Post News is a “social platform built for news,” according to its tagline. The main idea behind the platform is to replace the specific function of “trusted news source” that Twitter lost, along with the changes to how verification works.
Since its public launch in February, Post has welcomed over 440,000 users ranging from journalists, subject matter experts, and academics, and more than 30 premium publishers.
Despite serving a similar function to Twitter, Post aims to “develop a platform where publishers can generate revenue from micropayments — that is, where users pay some small amount of money to read individual news items,” according to TechCrunch.
Essentially, the platform seeks to aggregate every news platform that might put a paywall and let users choose when to pay for each news item they want to read instead of paying multiple subscriptions.
Post allows users to write articles of any length, as well as like, repost and reply
Users pay with “points” to read articles which range in cost from 1-50 points
You’re gifted 50 points at sign-up, after which you have to buy a bundle from Post’s micropayments platform. One point costs $0.01 and you can buy a bundle of 300 ($4.20) to 10,000 points ($126.70).
Post gets a percentage of each sale of points bundles.
Users can also choose to tip creators and publishers on the platform.
Some Use Cases
If you already share paywalled content through your newsletter or Patreon, for example, Post could be a great way to send updates to your existing and new audience (if it’s a relevant platform) while also being able to keep monetizing your content.
Thanks to the lack of a character limit, you can post entire articles on the platform so people don’t have to click out, but your content still gets in front of the right audience.
Available on: Web | iOS | Android (coming soon)
T2 Social, founded by Gabor Cselle and Sarah Oh, is the closest platform to Twitter in terms of its user interface, the style of posts, and the general vibe on the platform. This can probably be attributed to Sarah Oh’s experience as Human Rights Advisor at Twitter.
The platform has one of the smaller user bases on this list, reporting 7,500 users in an email update as of June 2023.
Write short posts of no more than 280 characters, add a photo, post replies, and repost or like content.
You can connect to your Twitter account to your T2.
Users who are legacy checkmark holders on Twitter can claim their T2 checkmark by filling out a form. Others have to schedule an interview with Sarah and availability is limited – you can only get one as soon as August. I’ll let you know how mine goes!
There’s no clear “algorithm” yet – I get served content across different verticals and in different languages (Japanese is a constant on my feed). This is probably because I just joined, so my interests haven’t fully registered yet.
I have access to T2, so leave a comment if you’d like an invite code, and I’ll share it with the first commenter!
Some Use Cases
If you’re looking for a centralized, clear alternative to Twitter with a simple interface, this is the platform for you
The T2 audience is small, so engagement is high and it’s easy to grow a following and connect with like-minded folks with a bit of consistency
Available on: Web | Desktop
Another entry from ex-Twitter employees, Spill is a social platform launched more recently than any other platform on this list. However, it’s the most different from Twitter, as it’s visual-first, putting it closer to Tumblr in look and feel.
When you open the app, you land on a feed that includes recent posts from people you’re “sipping” (the platform’s version of following, taken from the Kermit the frog meme) and algorithmically served posts. From there, you can pull down a top menu showing trending posts and hashtags. From the bottom menu, users can post text, gifs, videos, photos, links and polls.
Spill stands out from other platforms, including the ones on this list and its CEO’s former company, as a platform that immediately prioritizes diverse communities. CEO Alphonso Terell shared with TechCrunch that the driving ethos behind Spill is that “building for underserved culture drivers would create a superior platform for all.”
Spill is still in beta and is invite-only, so I’ll have to report back with my observations once I’ve been given access. Till then, some key things to know about Spill are:
Like Twitter, Spill will have a live news feed where users can post “spills” (the platform’s version of posts, taken from the phrase “spill the tea” popularized by Black creators).
It’s getting its own large language learning model for better content moderation that will reportedly understand Black dialects like AAVE.
The platform also plans to add blockchain-based creator features in order to reward users who originate viral trends.
It gives users a “rep score” to incentivize good behaviour and create a system for rewarding active users regardless of their audience size.
The platform is building a feature called “tea parties,” where users can host both online and offline events and then get in-app bonuses to apply to things like boosting their posts without having to pay.
Available on: iOS (beta)
The future of social media might be decentralized
A common theme across the apps on this list is the focus on decentralization. Users have become increasingly wary of big tech companies and their goals. Worries around data privacy and content moderation are driving user behaviour to platforms where they have more control.
Most of these apps have adopted open-source protocols to improve interconnectedness and allow users to control where they settle on the Internet and how they communicate. Mastodon and Meta’s secret project are all built with ActivityPub (which powers the “Fediverse”), while Post intends to adopt it eventually. Meanwhile, Bluesky is built on the ATProtocol, a social networking technology created by the team.
This push towards decentralization means two things for creators (including businesses) and users. One, watching the developments in these apps and technologies is important to understand them better. And two, you must take the time to try them out where you can, especially if users are gravitating towards them.
The more practice you have with using decentralized social networks, the better prepared you are for whatever changes are to come for how we communicate online.
Twitter is now worth just one-third of what Elon Musk paid for the social-media platform, according to Fidelity, which recently marked down the value of its equity stake in the company.
Musk has acknowledged he overpaid for Twitter, which he bought for $44 billion, including $33.5 billion in equity. More recently, he said Twitter is worth less than half what he paid for it. It’s unclear how Fidelity arrived at its new, lower valuation or whether it receives any non-public information from the company.
Fidelity first reduced the value of its Twitter stake in November, to 44% of the purchase price. That was followed by further markdowns in December and February.
Twitter has struggled financially since Musk took over. After saddling the company with $13 billion of debt, Musk’s erratic decision making and challenges with content moderation led advertising revenue to decline by 50%, Musk said in March. An attempt to recoup that revenue by selling Twitter Blue subscriptions has so far failed to take off. At the end of March, less than 1% of Twitter’s monthly users had signed up.
Twitter didn’t specifically respond to a request for comment.
Musk’s investment in Twitter is now worth $8.8 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, which uses Fidelity’s valuation to calculate the value of his holding. Musk spent more than $25 billion to acquire an estimated 79% stake in the company last year.
The latest markdown erases about $850 million from Musk’s $187 billion fortune, according to the index. Despite Twitter’s issues, Musk’s wealth is up more than $48 billion this year, largely due to a 63% surge in Tesla Inc.’s share price.
Musk revealed that Twitter will take a 10% cut on content subscriptions after the first year, noting that the company will not take a cut for the first 12 months
Twitter CEO Elon Musk has announced that Twitter will allow media publishers to charge users for individual articles they post on the website. The feature is rolling out next month.
“Rolling out next month, this platform will allow media publishers to charge users on a per article basis with one click. This enables users who would not sign up for a monthly subscription to pay a higher per article price for when they want to read an occasional article. Should be a major win-win for both media organizations and the public,” Musk Tweeted.
According to reports, this move is seen as Twitter’s attempt to find a sustainable business model as advertising revenue continues to fluctuate. Moreover, Musk also revealed that Twitter will take a 10% cut on content subscriptions after the first year, noting that the company will not take a cut for the first 12 months. These subscriptions include long-form text and hours-long videos.
The per-article payment feature could benefit media organizations struggling to make ends meet, especially as advertising revenue continues to be unpredictable.
Meanwhile, Twitter has also applied ‘Community Notes’ to ads which aims to create a better informed world by empowering people on Twitter to collaboratively add context to potentially misleading Tweets. The feature allows the contributors to leave notes on any Tweet and if enough contributors from different points of view rate that note as helpful, the note will be publicly shown on a Tweet
Earlier this week, the micro-blogging site removed the legacy verified blue tick from verified accounts where several celebrities have lost their verified blue ticks from their Twitter accounts. This comes months after the company’s CEO Elon Musk announced the date to press users to sign up for Twitter Blue, its paid subscription service.
According to recent reports, a leaked marketing clip has provided a sneak peek into Instagram’s rumoured text-based app that could compete with Twitter.
According to recent reports, a leaked marketing clip has provided a sneak peek into Instagram’s rumoured text-based app that could potentially compete with Twitter. The app, which has been codenamed P92 or Barcelona, is referred to as “Instagram’s new text-based app for conversations” in the slide, according to The Verge report.
Users will have the convenience of signing in to the app with their existing Instagram username and password. Furthermore, their followers, handle, bio, and verification will seamlessly transfer over from the main Instagram app, the report said. The leaked marketing slides reveal that the new app resembles a combination of Instagram and Twitter, featuring a feed where users can make text posts up to 500 characters long, complete with attached links, photos, and videos.
Is Instagram planning to enter the Twitter arena?
According to the reports, Meta, the parent company of Instagram, seems to prioritise moderation controls from the outset. The leaked marketing slide mentions that users will have settings to manage who can reply to their posts and mention their accounts. It also suggests that any accounts blocked on Instagram will carry over to this new text-based app.
In an intriguing move, the app will also introduce an element of decentralisation. The slide indicates that compatibility with certain other apps like Mastodon is in the works, allowing users from these apps to search for, follow, and interact with profiles and content on the Instagram text app. This compatibility is likely to be achieved through ActivityPub, a protocol explored by Meta and other technology companies.
Should the app be widely released, it could further solidify Instagram’s popularity as a social media platform. As Twitter faces ongoing challenges, many users are actively seeking alternative platforms to share tweet-like updates. Instagram’s potential entry into this space could present a compelling option for those seeking a new online destination.
While the leaked marketing clip has generated excitement, official confirmation and further details from Instagram or Meta are still awaited, leaving users and industry observers eager for official announcements.
Publishing platform Medium is opening up its debut Mastodon instance, me.dm, to its members, the company announced today.
Last month, Medium first teased its plans around the Fediverse — the group of interconnected servers powering a range of open source, decentralized applications, including the Twitter alternative Mastodon and others. It said it wanted to make access to me.dm a perk included with Medium membership, offering a place for authors and readers to discuss the content published on its platform.
The company explained at the time that this would make for an interesting local feed — a reference to how Mastodon users can view a dedicated feed of just the conversations happening on their own instance (server), in addition to those happening more broadly across federated servers (those servers their local server knows about and is connected to).
In addition, Medium said it would tackle some of the onboarding challenges involved with joining Mastodon by making it easier for newcomers to find both the people and topics that matched their interests as part of its onboarding flow.
But while there are some similarities with these other Fediverse plays, Medium is the first major tech company to offer users a “premium” Mastodon experience — meaning access to the instance isn’t free as it is elsewhere when signing up directly. Instead, interested users would have to purchase a Medium membership, which currently runs $5 USD per month or $50 per year with its annual plan.
The company believes the exclusivity and the community it will curate on its instance will have immediate value. Already, it’s quietly onboarded 5,000 people from its waitlist onto the instance and is forecasting a community in the “six figures” in size at some point later this year.
Image Credits: Medium
“We want Medium to be the best place to read and write on the internet,” Medium CEO Tony Stubblebine tells TechCrunch. “We want to do it under a single subscription — I think people are tired of having dozens of subscriptions. And I think we’ve also found that ad-driven models have their own kind of corrupting influence,” he continues. “I think that’s why a lot of social media ends up toxic — because people are focused on engagement, rather than substance. So, in order to have the best place to read and write, you have to build the whole thing around an economic model for substance. For us, that means a subscription,” Stubblebine adds.
Plus, the exec points out, the instance will be among those run by an experienced tech company. That means it will run the instance on its own infrastructure and will have its own Trust & Safety team managing moderation. (Today, there’s one person dedicated to the task, but it could scale in time.)
Stubblebine notes, too, that instance’s domain name — me.dm — could have a draw.
“You have to share the domain along with your username in the Fediverse. To have a short domain is valuable,” he says.
That’s further highlighted by the fact that Medium itself was created by Twitter co-founder Evan Williams. (Williams exited Medium as CEO last year, but remains chairman of the board.) Another Twitter and Medium co-founder, Biz Stone, also sits on Medium’s board.
Stubblebine addresses the oddity of having so many Twitter founders now involved with companies building alternatives but says Medium’s impact on Twitter’s fate is not a huge consideration.
“We didn’t go into this year, thinking that we wanted to compete with Twitter or even that it was possible,” Stubblebine says. “But it seems obvious to me that there’s an exodus from Twitter — and enough of an exodus to create an alternative. We’re not particularly worried about whether or not Twitter lives or dies. We see it more as there’s going to be a new thing and maybe it lives alongside Twitter or maybe it completely replaces it. But regardless, it’s going to be important. And, regardless, that new thing is Mastodon,” he adds.
Medium plans to improve its Mastodon experience as it grows, hoping to provide a place for writers to find new readers for their stories and enable conversations, then roll out more features in time.
Meanwhile, Tumblr owner Matt Mullenweg confirmed to TechCrunch that it’s testing the ActivityPub protocol that powers Mastodon and other Fediverse-connected apps, in addition to others, like Bluesky and Nostr.
Medium itself, by comparison, isn’t integrating with ActivityPub — it doesn’t think syndication of blogs to the Fediverse is the future; its focus instead is on proving a place for the authors to build a community.
Stubblebine also says he’s not worried that offering a premium instance will corrupt the potential of what’s, so far, been a free and open source social web.
However, he does admit there has been some pushback from the wider community about Medium going the premium route.
“Most of the pushback is based on a fear of — sometimes it’s expressed as a fear of capitalism, but, when you dig into it, it’s always a fear of monopoly. This is one of the things that I think is exciting about the Fediverse — there’s really no hope for anyone to monopolize it. So it just leads to healthier business ideas,” he explains. “This is just a business idea that will be one of many on the Fediverse…I think it’s new, so it will probably be a little bit alarming. But in practice, there’s just no way for it to pan out that way,” Stubblebine says.
“I think there’s this unbundling of social media going on right now,” he continues. “And what that gives us is the opportunity to be more opinionated. For me, that’s exciting — I don’t want to be a town square for the entire world. I want to be the town square for people that love reading and writing — and a certain type of reading and writing — thoughtful reading and writing,” he concludes.
Meta’s new text-based social network might obliterate the remains of Twitter and also take aim at the fediverse.
The decentralized social media network, code-named P92, could be compatible with ActivityPub, which is what services like Mastodon are built on. Users will be able to log in using their existing Instagram credentials, which means that it will be trivially easy to join in with Mastodon instances around the world. It’s a boss move from Meta, but it could be as dangerous for decentralized social media as it is for Twitter.
“The one feature that Facebook lacks is the ability to give its users autonomy. Social media apps like Mastodon do not have a parent company operating them. It works on independent servers, and the users have the liberty to set their own code of conduct,” marketing expert Ryan Faber told Lifewire via email.
P92 Skirts the Fediverse
Twitter is on its way out. Since the Musk takeover, the trolls and bad actors who always strove to ruin Twitter for the rest of us have finally taken over. Lots of folks have moved to Mastodon, a decentralized collection of many federated servers, any of which you can join. In its simplest form, it’s kind of like email in that you pick your email provider, but you can email anyone else on any other email service.
This is fundamentally different from services like Twitter and Facebook. These are monolithic structures where everything happens inside a walled garden. The advantage of this approach is that you can easily sign up without having to vet and choose a server “instance.” The disadvantage is that anyone with enough money can buy the whole thing, or a single company can mine terrifying amounts of personal information from billions of users worldwide.
At the same time, Meta is under ever-increasing government scrutiny for its practices. By adopting the federated model, it might avoid the regulation it fears. If P92, or whatever it ends up being called, is just another ActivityPub-compatible service, or even just an Instagram-branded Mastodon server, the argument for breaking it up is weakened.
It sounds amazing, like a real win for open, decentralized social media and micro-publishing, comprised of a collection of servers and standards known together as the fediverse. And for Facebook and Instagram users, it removes the biggest barriers to entering that fediverse. Instead of trying to understand the whole federated thing, you just—presumably—join up from Instagram or whatever new app Meta comes up with. But this is also the biggest danger for the existing fediverse.
Meta’s Decentralized Social Media
In the 1990s, Microsoft used a strategy called “embrace, extend, and extinguish” (or “exterminate”). It was how it took over the fledgling browser market, for example. In the case of Meta and the fediverse, it would work like this.
Meta would embrace, say, Mastodon and instantly become the world’s biggest Mastodon server. It may then add features, and it would definitely make sure that anyone using its own instance would be just as heavily surveilled as they are using Meta’s other products.
Then, if all goes to plan, Meta could use this dominance to squeeze out the rest of the fediverse. It would become a de facto standard, and any independent Mastodon servers unable or not willing to implement Meta’s proprietary features would be shut out.
“Facebook is not coming to Fedi because they want to administer a good, responsible instance that regards other well-run instances as peers and equals and has policies that aim to respect the autonomy and values of its users and other instance’s users right?” the Research Fairy, the creator and administrator of the scholar.social Mastodon instance, said on Mastodon.
The Best Defense
But it might not be so easy. While an easy sign-up will probably be enough to get the remaining Twitter users to jump to Mastodon via Facebook, the fediverse has some tricks up its sleeves. First, a Mastodon instance can block any other instance. This can be used to cut off servers that go bad or are full of trolls, but it could also be used to block Meta’s P92 network. And right now, I’d wager that many Mastodon users are anti-Meta (or anti-Facebook), and would prefer a server that blocks it.
Even an extensively-blocked Meta-owned Mastodon instance could be enough to finish off Twitter. And you never know, it might even end up introducing more people to Mastodon and all the other decentralized social media and federated goodies beyond.
Social media services have generally been free of charge for users, but now, with ad revenues slowing down, social media companies are looking for new revenue streams beyond targeted ads. Now, Twitter is charging for its blue check verification, and Meta and Twitter both charge for identity protection.
Users benefit from “free” services such as social media platforms. According to one study, in the U.S., Facebook users say they would have to be paid in the range of $40 to $50 to leave the social networking service for one month. If you value Facebook highly enough that you’d need to get paid to take a break, why not pay for these new services if you can afford them?
Information goods, such as those provided by social media platforms, are characterized by the problem of collective action, and information security is no exception. Collective action problems, which economists describe as network externalities, result when the actions of one participant in a market affect other participants’ outcomes.
Some people might pay Facebook for improved security, but overall, collective well-being depends on having a very large group of users investing in better security for all. Picture a medieval city under siege from an invader where each family would be responsible for a stretch of the wall. Collectively, the community is only as strong as the weakest link. Will Twitter and Meta still deliver the promised and paid-for results if not enough users sign up for these services?
While large platforms such as Facebook and Twitter could benefit from lock in, meaning having users who are dependent on or at least heavily invested in them, it’s not clear how many users will pay for these features. This is an area where the platforms’ profit motive is in conflict with the overall goal of the platform, which is to have a large enough community that people will continue using the platform because all of their social or business connections are there.
Economics of information security
Charging for identity protection raises the question of how much each person values privacy or security online. Markets for privacy have posed a similar conundrum. For digital products in particular, consumers are not fully informed about how their data is collected, for what purposes and with what consequences.
Scammers can find many ways to breach security and exploit vulnerabilities in large platforms such as Facebook. But valuing security or privacy is complicated because social media users do not know exactly how much Meta or Twitter invests in keeping everyone safe. When users of digital platforms do not understand how platforms safeguard their information, the resulting lack of trust could limit the number of people willing to pay for features such as security and identity verification.
Social media users in particular face imperfect or asymmetric information about their data, so they do not know how to correctly value features such as security. In the standard economic logic, markets assign prices based on buyers’ willingness to pay and sellers’ lowest acceptable bids, or reservation prices. However, digital platforms such as Meta benefit from individuals’ data by virtue of their size – they have such a large amount of personal data. There is no market for individual data rights, even though there have been a few policy proposals such as California governor Gavin Newsom’s call for a data dividend.
In the first three months of 2022 alone, nearly one-fifth of teens and adults in the U.S. reported their social media accounts getting hacked. The same survey found that 24% of consumers reported being overwhelmed by devices and subscriptions, indicating significant fatigue and cognitive overload in having to manage their virtual experiences.
For those who are scammed, the process of account recovery is frustrating and time-consuming. Such moves might hurt the most vulnerable, such as those who need Meta to find access to job information, or the elderly and infirm who use social media to learn about what is happening in their communities. Communities that have invested resources in building a shared online space using platforms such as Twitter and Facebook may be harmed by monetization efforts.
People are tired of having to navigate numerous subscriptions and having security and privacy concerns that persist. At the same time, it’s an open question whether enough users will pay for these services to boost collective security. Ultimately, the service a social media platform offers is the opportunity to connect with others. Will users pay for the ability to maintain social connections the way they pay for content, such as entertainment or news? Social media giants may have a difficult path ahead.
Mass layoffs are the source of much of the chaos at the company, according to both current and former employees.
Current and former Twitter employees have said the company has suffered an inability to protect users from trolling, disinformation and child exploitation, a BBC story asserts.
The company is also said to have been experiencing chaos as a result of staffing issues since Tesla (TSLA) – Get Free Report owner Elon Musk bought it in October 2022.
Twitter’s former head of content design, who worked on the microblogging site’s features to protect users from hate speech, said her team was making progress.
“It was not at all perfect. But we were trying, and we were making things better all the time,” Lisa Jennings Young told the BBC.
One of the features implemented by Young’s team was the “harmful reply nudge.” When artificial intelligence detected certain trigger words in a user’s tweet, it would alert the user before they posted it.
“Overall 60% of users deleted or edited their reply when given a chance through the nudge,” Young told the BBC. “But what was more interesting, is that after we nudged people once, they composed 11% fewer harmful replies in the future.”
When Musk took over the company, Young’s whole team was laid off. She chose to leave the company in November 2022.
Young said she does not know what’s happening with the features she worked on.
“There’s no one there to work on that at this time,” she said.
An engineer at Twitter, who was granted anonymity by the BBC because he’s still working there, described conditions at the company.
“For someone on the inside, it’s like a building where all the pieces are on fire,” he said.
“When you look at it from the outside the façade looks fine, but I can see that nothing is working, he continued. “All the plumbing is broken, all the faucets, everything.”
He said not just engineers, but cleaning and catering staff, were among the employees that were let go since Musk took over.
Musk even tried selling plants from the office to employees, he also said.
He described the mass layoffs since Musk bought the company as the source of the chaos.
“Twitter has around 1,300 employees today, per CNBC, from 7,500 in November,” tweeted @unusualwhales on Jan. 20.
“The note is incorrect,” countered Musk in a tweet of his own. “There are ~2300 active, working employees at Twitter. There are still hundreds of employees working on trust & safety, along with several thousand contractors.”
The anonymous employee offered his view.
“A totally new person, without the expertise, is doing what used to be done by more than 20 people,” he said. “That leaves room for much more risk, many more possibilities of things that can go wrong.”
“There are so many things broken and there’s nobody taking care of it, that you see this inconsistent behavior,” he said.