Four Twitter Replacements, One Year In
It’s been one year since Elon Musk surprised the world, and maybe himself, by buying Twitter for $44 billion.
Since then, the social network (now officially called X) has gone through a rapid series of transformations, few of them good. Musk fired most of his staff, messed with the verification system that allowed people to find trusted sources of information, boosted his own signal, limited the reach of sites he considers rivals or critics, and boosted misinformation. The company’s metrics are terrible — users, revenue, and advertising have been in freefall since Musk took over.
Twitter is very bad now, and it will likely only get worse. Are you still on it? You should probably not be on it. But where should you go? Over the past year, a number of microblogging platforms have emerged. There now seem to be three serious alternative platforms, along with a fourth very tempting choice. So what are the pros and cons of each?
If you want to talk: Bluesky
Bluesky emerged from a project involving Twitter’s old CEO, Jack Dorsey, who envisioned a social network that looked like Twitter but was open and decentralized. The platform is run by a “public benefit corporation” that, at least on paper, exists to produce beneficial social outcomes rather than just to make a pile of money for its shareholders.
Here’s the deal with Bluesky: it’s great but small. They’re still in beta, which means they don’t let just anybody sign up — you have to have an invite code from an existing user or get on a waitlist. I spent several months on the waitlist, so long, in fact, that I had forgotten about Bluesky when I finally got the invitation email.
There seem to be about a million users on Bluesky right now. The people who run the platform seem to be focusing on slow, sustainable growth, but they risk staying too small for too long and missing the great Twitter exodus. On the flipside, many of the people who have enjoyed the smallness of Bluesky worry that, as it expands, it will become a home for the anger and ignorance that have infected Twitter.
On Twitter, I followed a lot of academics (mostly history and political science…