We’ll be straight with you. There’s no 1:1 Twitter replacement — not yet, and possibly not ever.
Twitter’s current situation — advertisers leaving, Nazis logging back on, little things breaking here and there every day — presents an opportunity to check in with ourselves about what we really want out of a social network.
We don’t just have to use social apps because they’re there and they’re really sticky. Users should get something out of the exchange, particularly on ad-supported services. Whether that means building a following for your fledgling business or connecting with people in communities you care about, social media should serve a function — not just drain away the hours in the day.
Happily, there are options. Decentralized projects offer a different experience that’s less beholden to corporate whims while less traditional social platforms might serve up a totally different set of interactions and experiences. But that’s okay. Twitter wasn’t perfect, and while it was and arguably still is pretty essential for real-time events and news-gathering, its most engaged users didn’t always enjoy spending time there.
While we’re all figuring it out and seeing what pops up next, here are some options to consider.
Mastodon emerged as the most-discussed home for fleeing Twitter users — and with good reason.
The service is designed in a way that decentralizes power and moderation decisions, obviating the concerns about one person setting platform-wide rules based on a whim.
Mastodon works a lot like Twitter, allowing users to share real-time thoughts to an account and re-share posts by others. But that’s mostly where the similarities end. Unlike traditional social networks, Mastodon is an open source option, which means that rather than all users being in one big basket with one set of rules, you’ll need to select a server (smaller basket) to join.
If you get sick of it or disagree with those moderation decisions, you can migrate elsewhere. You can still follow and interact with people on other servers so you don’t need to agonize too much over that choice, but that decentralized ethos colors the whole experience.
Like a choice of server, you’ll also have a choice of which app to use to use the service on mobile (we like Metatext and plan to check out Ivory, from Tweetbot maker Tapbots). Mastodon’s open source nature means you’ve got more choice all around, but the downside of that is that the extra steps might be off-putting to people who want a more straightforward sign-up process.
That said, if you’re tired of the cynicism and harassment on Twitter, the vibe on Mastodon is pretty chill right now. If any of this sounds interesting, it’s definitely worth checking out.
Discord doesn’t really work like Twitter at all, but hear us out — it’s one of the best social apps around.
The app was originally created to give gamers a better way to chat, but since then it has expanded well beyond that initial vision. Like Mastodon, Discord doesn’t offer a giant “public square,” instead offering topic and interest-based servers that anyone can join and hang out in. Discord offers regular text chat within its server-based channels, as well as seamless voice chat and some other experiences, like streaming a game to friends or queueing up YouTube videos together. Some of the most popular servers have hundreds of thousands of members, but you could also just curate one for friends or family.
Through servers, Discord offers some of the same federation benefits as Mastodon without the open source stuff that spooks some people during onboarding. Unlike some of the other options on this list, Discord isn’t going anywhere any time soon: It’s a mature company with a thriving user base and a sustainable business built around paid subscriptions. That kind of stability goes a long way for social apps, which historically are prone to fizzling out and vanishing overnight.
The downside is that Discord is more about chatting than posting. The app’s Slack-like interface refreshes in real time and in a busy Discord, or even one with a few hundred active members, it’s easy to lose track of conversations fast. The company knows that and is actively building more tools that enable asynchronous interactions, so that’s something to watch out for.
Post is a mainstream alternative to Twitter that shares little in common with more open platforms like Mastodon. The platform was sped into private beta to capitalize on the timing of Twitter’s recent chaos and is only just opening up to everybody. Far from being decentralized, Post offers a more curated experience that’s focused on attracting the journalists who usually while away the day on Twitter.
Post allows users to write, post, share, comment and like content, much like we’re used to on Twitter. But the thrust of the service is altogether different. Post wants to help newsgatherers monetize their content, building in micropayments and tipping and promising the ability to buy “individual articles from different premium news providers” in order to get outside of their information bubble. Far from being an open platform, Post is backed by VC and traditional investment from Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) and tech commentator Scott Galloway.
Post’s pitch is compelling, but the social network sounds a bit like it was designed in a vacuum. Those of us who work in the news might check it out or hang out there but it’s hard to imagine many average Twitter users being lured by the promise of paying for journalism, which unfortunately is a hard sell. Post could develop a more Substack-like commentator culture, but even then it’s hard to see why the Substack elite would jump ship for a new platform.
Although you may not see it as an alternative to Twitter, hear us out, because there are some similarities between the two platforms that make it a notable contender.
Even though Tumblr teeters more toward a microblogging site than a traditional social network, it features a feed that displays posts from people you follow in a similar way to Twitter. Tumblr lets you post content with images, GIFs, videos and more. You can leave notes on a post, which are similar to comments. You can also like, share and repost content on the platform. Tumblr also has a trending topics section like Twitter. In addition, the platform has a chat feature that’s similar to direct messages on Twitter.
Tumblr offers more flexibility than Twitter, while being easy to set up and use. You can use Tumblr for free or opt for an ad-free experience with additional features for $4.99 per month or $39.99 a year.
Given Tumblr’s ability to stay alive despite its fair share of changing ownership, we don’t think it’s going anywhere, which makes it an ideal alternative to Twitter. It’s also a place with its own unique humor and a chaotic culture that’s a massive part of Tumblr’s unique appeal.
Although Cohost is still in its beta phase, anyone can sign up for the service. If you don’t have an invitation, you’ll have to wait a day or two before you can start posting. The website says this measure is designed to prevent spam.
Cohost offers a vertical feed that displays posts chronologically, as opposed to an algorithmic listing. Similar to Twitter, Cohost has followers, reposts, likes and comments. Right now, the interface is quite simple, and since it doesn’t use algorithms, there isn’t a trending section. The platform won’t surface content unless you actively search for it using hashtags.
You can use the platform for free or pay a monthly $5 fee for additional features, such as larger uploads and more customization options. The company says the fee mainly helps it keep the lights on as it continues to grow.
Since Cohost is fairly new and a bit rocky, it may not be the most established Twitter alternative. But, it could be appealing to people who want a simple alternative that actually looks like Twitter in some ways. We’ll have to wait and see if it will be able to amass enough users and traction to be considered a worthy alternative.
Wild card: Bluesky
We don’t know a lot about Bluesky, but what we do know is intriguing. Bluesky was developed in parallel with Twitter and spearheaded by former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. Like Mastodon, Bluesky is all about the decentralized social network, i.e. giving people the tools they need to form their own communities.
There’s been some pushback to Bluesky given its Dorsey connection, but we’re still interested to see what the project comes up with once it eventually expands its super limited closed beta. The Bluesky team is apparently launching an app along with the protocol itself and the result could combine a Twitter-like user interface with algorithmic choice, a federated design and community-specific moderation. We’re listening.
We’ll keep this list updated as we explore new social apps that can scratch the Twitter itch in the coming months. Love one we didn’t mention here? Let us know: firstname.lastname@example.org.