Twitter is struggling, weighed down by trolls, extremists, and over-exuberant censorship. The only answer is to jump ship.
But where should you go? Are there any realistic alternatives to Twitter, and if so, which one will suit you?
Twitter’s Dying Days?
Twitter is simple to use, easy to engage with, and it can easily connect you with the topics you’re interested in. It’s also struggling. Compared with Facebook (in the third quarter of 2017, 2.07 billion users were recorded), Twitter is treading water, with under 330 million users worldwide.
Who can figure out the true meaning of "covfefe" ??? Enjoy!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 31, 2017
Its problems are myriad. Beyond all of the ownership shenanigans and the IPO (the slightest hint that it may become profitable and shares rocket, without tangible evidence), there’s the issue of how people conduct themselves on Twitter.
Some argue that the only reason Twitter is holding onto 330 million users is because the 45th POTUS uses the platform. But Donald Trump isn’t the worst person on the social network. Trolls, extremists of all political and religious persuasions, terrorists, criminals, mob rule and partisanship… and then there’s virtue signaling celebrities, splitting their audience with a typical lack of self-awareness.
Quite Frankly, Twitter Is a Mess
Arguably, this has been a long time coming. A multitude of changes that regular users saw no need for, confusing direction and changes at the top (founder Jack Dorsey left, then returned) have left Twitter’s raison d’etre somewhat confused. Is Twitter really for social networking, or is it for microblogging? Or, as the results of a 2016 survey show, is it best used for contacting customer services departments of major manufacturers and retailers?
While the expansion of the character limit (doubled to 280) characters has been widely celebrated, it’s arguably added to the problem. Now, people have twice the opportunity to get it wrong. And then there’s the trending list, which appears to operate under a significant delay. Is someone at Twitter Towers managing a manipulated narrative?
Of course, there are so many great things about Twitter. The problem is, those great things are available elsewhere. If you’re looking for positive conversation and exploration of ideas, niche, geeky interests, or a means to share music, video, or photos, the following Twitter alternatives are worth your time. Like Twitter, they all offer mobile apps, so you can stay connected 24/7.
Here are seven alternatives you can consider switching to when you do an Ed Sheeran and quit Twitter.
With an aim of putting “people and free speech first” Gab has proved a controversial alternative Twitter. Intentionally or otherwise, Gab has become known as the “alt-right” alternative to Twitter; indeed, it was formed as an antidote to what CEO Andrew Torba described “the entirely left-leaning Big Social monopoly.”
While a free speech focused service might not seem unreasonable, it hasn’t worked out well for Gab so far. Its mobile app was banned in 2016 from the Apple App Store due to adult content. In 2017, meanwhile, Google removed the app from the Play Store for violating its hate speech policy, noting that Gab failed to “demonstrate a sufficient level of moderation, including for content that encourages violence and advocates hate against groups of people.”
Oh, and the Gab logo is a frog, which has been compared with the Pepe the Frog meme so bewilderingly admired by the “alt-right.”
In truth, there are entirely reasonable discussions on Gab; the distasteful stuff you would have to go looking for. If anything, it is perhaps a good argument against online anonymity. All of this controversy is a shame, as the Gab platform is really good, giving you 300 character status updates. The site feels like a combination of Facebook and Twitter, and Gabs can be automatically shared to Twitter (should you want to).
If alt-right and conservative undertones don’t work for you, perhaps a more specialized social network is the answer? Mastodon might be what you’re looking for, an open source alternative to Twitter that gives you far more control over what you see, and the conversations you have.
The real strength to Mastodon is that it can be used as individual “instances.” This means that you can access specialized versions of the site, usually themed by topic. Star Trek fan? There’s a Mastodon for you. And because Mastodon is open source, you can get your own instance, set it up, and essentially run your own social network.
You’ll need a server for this, as per our guide to creating your own Mastodon instance. If you’re short of money for running a server, don’t worry — it’s even possible to run Mastodon on a Raspberry Pi thanks to Docker.
Available as a mobile app (you can run Android apps on a PC), Amino can be installed on Google Play and the Apple App Store. Its focus is similar to Mastodon: you’re given communities to join based on your interests.
Communities on all sorts of topics can be joined, from favorite movies and TV franchises to pop groups and even sub-cultures based on gender and sexuality. Content that parents may deem unsuitable can be found on Amino, and although it has a minimum age of 13, you’ll find content that shouldn’t be seen by children.
Anyone interested in Amino should browse the website first. Although you cannot post or sign up here, you’ll get a flavor of what this social network is all about.
A social network based around unfolding news stories, Raftr lets you engage in conversations with people who share your interests. Raftr groups are known as “rafts” and these enable you to get in touch with friends and would-be friends, and discuss topics.
Aimed at the 15-25 age group, Raftr provides social spaces for colleges and schools, where you can also engage with friends. All rafts update you with social event notification and other news, too.
Custom rafts can be created too. These might be for personal interests, or to reflect a group or society on campus. Using the mobile app is straightforward, but Raftr is only available on iOS. Android users will either have to wait and hope, access the mobile site.
Just a couple of years younger than Twitter, Plurk was founded in 2008 and is especially popular in Taiwan. This probably explains how Plurk has managed to survive so long with a service that is surprisingly similar to Twitter.
Initially allowing messages of 140 characters (like Twitter), Plurk upped this limit to 360 in 2016. The name “plurk” has several meanings, such as being a portmanteau of “play” and “lurk” or an acronym of peace, love, unity, respect, and karma. But how does this translate to actually using the service?
Plurk utilizes a horizontal timeline, with messages summarized by single verbs (“feels”, “loves”, etc.). As you would expect, media files can be shared, and Plurks can be liked. Emoticons are an important element of the Plurk user experience, and your selection increases as your karma grows. Karma is based on your activity on the social networking site. Group chat and direct messaging are also featured on Plurk.
In many ways, this service is indistinguishable from Twitter, but is overall a friendlier place.
One of those popular apps that adults have somehow never heard of, Musical.ly is aimed at 13-18 year olds. While it’s perhaps not ideal for such an age group this app (available for iOS, Android, and Amazon Fire devices), nevertheless delivers access to an interesting social network.
However, it doesn’t make the best hub for conversation. Instead, Musical.ly is all about artistic expression. Plenty of Twitter users share their videos, artwork and more via the microblogging service, however, so Musical.ly makes a suitable alternative destination.
With this network, you’re able to use your phone as a microphone, and record songs, bits of dialogue, and more. Uploading it to Musical.ly then attracts views, and comments and likes. It’s here where things can get a bit sticky with privacy, however. Would a parent be happy for a child’s performance (potentially wearing an outfit that emulates a star known for their sex appeal) to be publicly available online?
Probably not. Fortunately, Musical.ly has privacy settings that can be tweaked to avoid problems here.
If you ever share photos on Twitter, then you probably should be on Instagram. Sure, it might be owned by Facebook, and mobile-only, but with hashtag support and the ability to follow some of the biggest names in the world of entertainment, some of the biggest brands, and top comic book artists, it makes sense.
Perhaps the most important thing about Instagram is that there are so many users. Figures indicate that it grew to 800 million during 2017, which is more than double the number of Twitter users. Being so easy to use, Instagram feels like an obvious Twitter alternative.
What’s Your Twitter Replacement?
Whether you plan to get off Twitter today, or think it better to leave it until the people you follow jump ship, these seven destinations are currently the best option.
Which one you prefer depends on what you hope to get out of a microblogging/social networking experience. Although Instagram is the best-supported alternative, the flexibility of Mastodon as a Twitter replacement makes it my own preference.
What about you? Tell us where you expect to move when Twitter inevitably collapses under the weight of its own self-importance.