Twitter isn’t in a great place right now, but that suddenly means that there’s a lot more competition in Twitter-like social media platforms. Mastodon might be the most well-known, but there are many other services vying to be the next place you hang out on the internet, including Post, Substack Notes, T2, and the Jack Dorsey-backed Bluesky.
That said, the “next Twitter” might not be decided by its app but by its protocol. Mastodon, for example, is built on top of ActivityPub, a W3C-recommended protocol for decentralized social networking, and the protocol will soon be supported by Tumblr, too. Bluesky is building its own protocol, the AT Protocol, which, yes, is focused on decentralized social networking, but also algorithmic choice and portable accounts.
If one of these protocols (or another) really takes off, it could have a foundational impact on the way social networking functions. Instead of having to cross your fingers that one organization or company is a good steward for the app of your choice, many services will theoretically be interoperable with one another. That could open up some really exciting ways for people to talk and post on the internet, which is something we here at The Verge care deeply about. Maybe we’ll all end up gravitating toward yet another centralized platform instead — but I kind of hope we don’t.
Here’s our coverage of the competition between Twitter alternatives. You’ll notice some of this coverage goes back a ways; Mastodon has been around for a while, but it’s really blown up because of Twitter.
Bluesky rolls out feeds with custom algorithms
One of Bluesky’s potentially biggest features is here: custom algorithms, or what it calls “custom feeds.” The idea is that you can subscribe to feeds that have algorithms tuned to showcase different kinds of posts than what you might see in Bluesky’s main “What’s Hot” feed.Read Article >
In practice, the custom feeds work a lot like Twitter lists. Similar to those, you can pin specific custom feeds, and they’ll show up at the top of your timeline as different tabs to pick from. You can pick which feeds to pin from a new “My Feeds” menu in the app’s sidebar. By default, that tab has feeds for “What’s Hot” (“Top trending content from the whole network”), “What’s Hot Classic” (“The original What’s Hot experience”), “Bluesky Team” (“Posts from members of the Bluesky Team”), and “Popular With Friends” (“A mix of popular content from accounts you follow and content that your follows like”).
May 19The official Bluesky FAQ means well, but it’s not telling the truth.
Whether you’ve snagged an invite code or not, the User FAQ for Bluesky is here to explain what you need to know about the Twitter-like service, the AT protocol, and even how to find your friends from other networks once you’re in.
But we will have to fact-check a section that is incorrect:
What is a post on Bluesky called?
The official term is “post.”
Liz Lopatto already told you, they’re skeets now. They even have a song.Bluesky User FAQ
This is Instagram’s new Twitter competitor
We finally have an idea of what Instagram’s rumored text-based Twitter competitor might look and feel like, as reported by Lia Haberman, who shared in her ICYMI Substack newsletter what appears to be a leaked marketing slide and details about the app.Read Article >
The slide doesn’t give the app a separate name — instead, it just calls it “Instagram’s new text-based app for conversations” — but the app is apparently codenamed P92 or, alternately, Barcelona, according to Haberman. Users will be able to sign in with their Instagram username and password, and your followers, handle, bio, and verification will transfer over from the main app.
May 15Bluesky open sourced its app.
It’s available on GitHub here. The sometimes weird Twitter alternative asks that you don’t submit a pull request to change “posts” to “skeets.” (Unfortunate, because that’s what they’re called.)
Artifact is taking on Twitter and Substack by letting you follow writers
Artifact, the AI-powered news app from Instagram co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, has a new feature that makes it even more of a news-focused social media app. With the latest version of the Artifact app, you can now follow individual writers. Articles from those writers will be prioritized in your feed and you can opt to get notifications when those writers post.Read Article >
Writers can also claim their profiles on Artifact to get a verified checkmark beside their name in search and in Artifact’s comments. (Writers can only claim profiles on iOS, but it’s coming to Android soon, Systrom tells The Verge.) Yes, Artifact lets users comment on individual articles, meaning those comments live outside of stories that may already have comment sections of their own. Writers can also get notifications about how many people read their articles on Artifact and when other publications link to your work.
Please stop inviting heads of state to Bluesky
Bluesky, the chaotic, invite-only “errors and asses” platform, told its users today there’s a new rule: no heads of state. I’m guessing the posters are too feral to be trusted.Read Article >
In some sense, this is understandable. The thing is still in beta. The team is tiny, and actively juggling moderation while trying to ship features. I’m not sure who got invited, but something prompted today’s announcement.
May 5On The Vergecast: all the butts on Bluesky, and all the worries about AI.
I refuse to believe that they’re actually skeets now, but the Bluesky momentum seems to be real. And also insane. Plus, if the godfather of AI is worried about AI, should we be too? All that, and a bunch of laser bongs, on the show today.
Mozilla’s setting up shop on Mastodon and trying to reinvent content moderation
If you want to be a member of Mozilla.Social, Mozilla’s new Mastodon instance, you’re not allowed to harass other users. You’re also not allowed to use derogatory language about gender, sex, sexual orientation, race, age, ability, or any other “physical, social or cultural attributes or classifications.” You can’t spread misinformation and disinformation, either. Or impersonate someone. Some of these are normal policies, some are unusually heavy-handed, and they’re all hard to litigate. But Mozilla’s stance is pretty simple and extremely unusual in the social media universe: if it’s debatable, it’s gone.Read Article >
“We’re not going to advertise that we’re some kind of neutral platform,” says Steve Teixeira, Mozilla’s chief product officer. He says too many platforms try to find a middle ground between, say, people who want to do others harm and people that don’t, when in reality, there is no middle ground at all. “You have to land on the side of people who don’t want to do harm to others.” By not pretending to be neutral and not claiming to be the free speech wing of anything, Mozilla hopes it can be much more active in making Mastodon a good place to be.
Discord is growing up, so everyone needs to pick a new username
Discord is taking away the four-digit tag that it puts after its usernames as it looks to make it “easier to connect” with other users. As noted in a post on Discord’s blog, this change will force most users to change their usernames, as Discord will no longer have the four-number tag that distinguishes one person with the same username from another.Read Article >
Instead of having a four-number discriminator appended to your username, you will now have a unique alphanumeric username with the “@” symbol in front of it. You’ll also get to choose a non-unique display name that can include special characters, spaces, emoji, and non-Latin characters, making the platform a lot more like other mainstream social networks, such as Twitter and Instagram. It also makes it less like the gaming platform it started life as, with suffixes similar to the ones used on services like Steam, Battle.net, and Xbox.
It’s getting easier to make an account on Mastodon
Mastodon is making it easier for newcomers to create an account on the platform. On Monday, the decentralized network announced that it will start directing new users to create an account on mastodon.social instead of prompting them to choose from one of the thousands of other servers on the platform.Read Article >
This update doesn’t mean that Mastodon’s taking away the ability for new users to sign up for an account in a specific community, though. It will simply present two separate options on its signup page: “Join mastodon.social” or “Pick my own server.” The service’s flagship mastodon.social server is the platform’s largest, but the network notes that users can swap instances at any time.
Bluesky is starting to feel like Twitter
Bluesky might be the Twitter-like we’ve been waiting for.Read Article >
Yes, I know it’s still invite-only. Yes, I know there are only thousands of people on the platform right now. Yes, I know that it’s still missing table-stakes features like video uploads and DMs.
They’re ‘skeets’ now
Look. I know that most people aren’t on Bluesky yet, but when you get there, you should know that you won’t be posting. You’ll be skeeting.Read Article >
I could do some explanation of it being a portmanteau of “sky” + “posting” but I think we just hit the sicko event horizon and a bunch of shitposters logged on over the last 24 hours, including a bunch who didn’t bother with Mastodon. Anyway it’s skeeting now. Sorry if you don’t like it. Skeet, skeet, motherfucker.
- “This is our biggest single-day jump in new users that we’ve experienced.”
Bluesky has had a banner day, and it’s doing an emergency upgrade to handle the influx of new users. I’m already worried how I’m going to handle the five minutes of downtime — I haven’t been able to stop refreshing the app all day.
Update April 27th, 5:56PM ET: Bluesky made it through the downtime and is now back.
Dril and AOC are now on Bluesky
Two Twitter icons joined Bluesky on Thursday. Dril was first, with AOC joining shortly after.Read Article >
The invite-only decentralized Twitter alternative has been gaining steam in recent days — I’ve seen a lot of people I follow on the bird-themed social network start to show up on Bluesky. But the Twitter clone might truly begin to feel like a New Twitter now that Dril (the Twitter legend who recently gave an interview as his real-life human self) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) have officially joined the platform.
Twitter alternatives for the Musk-averse
Twitter users (and ex-users) are still watching to see what the next chapter will be in the soap opera called “What Elon Musk will do with Twitter next.” Start a small war with Substack? Temporarily replace its bird logo with a Doge? The possibilities seem endless.Read Article >
If you’re becoming bored with the whole thing, and you want to continue following social networking without having to deal with Twitter, where do you go? We’ve looked around and found several possible alternatives. Most don’t have the size and scale of Twitter, and it’s hard to say if any of them will attract enough followers to give it a run for its money. Some of them ape the real-time feed of Twitter, but most provide a different take on what a social network can look like. Depending on what you get out of Twitter — perhaps you use it to broadcast your work, or maybe you use it to keep up with news events, or maybe you use it to connect with other Twitter users — you might prefer some of these options over others. But take a look and see if any of these seem worth checking out.
Bluesky, a decentralized Twitter alternative, is now on Android
Bluesky, the Jack Dorsey-backed decentralized Twitter alternative, now has an Android app. The launch follows the release of the service’s iOS app, which came out in late February. However, if you want to access the service at all, you’ll need to join the waitlist or get an invite code from a friend.Read Article >
I don’t have an Android phone, so I can’t vouch for the quality of the Android app. But I would recommend getting on the waitlist for the service — it’s my favorite Twitter clone yet. Right now, it’s a pretty small community of over 25,000 people, and it feels like everyone is really dedicated to maintaining a positive environment. It’s also a nice break from Twitter, which continues to get worse every day and will probably be especially bad starting tomorrow.
Bluesky’s CEO wants to build a Musk-proof, decentralized version of Twitter
This interview was first published in April 13th’s edition of Command Line, my weekly newsletter about the tech industry’s inside conversation. You can subscribe here to get future editions delivered to your inbox.Read Article >
As Elon Musk continues wielding Twitter like a blunt weapon against competitors like Substack, the downsides of centralized social media platforms are becoming more apparent every day. For those like me who have built a valuable audience on Twitter over the years, it’s unnerving to consider that those relationships could be broken or taken away completely in the blink of an eye.
Bluesky is my favorite Twitter clone yet
Bluesky is really, really fun.Read Article >
Yes, the platform is essentially just Twitter but decentralized. And yes, the Jack Dorsey-backed Bluesky is one of many services emulating how Twitter looks right now. But after spending a few hours in Bluesky since getting my beta invite this week, it’s so far the service where I feel the most joy.
Is Substack Notes a ‘Twitter clone’? We asked CEO Chris Best
It is fair to say that Substack has had a dramatic week and a half or so, and I talked to their CEO Chris Best about it. The company announced a new feature called Substack Notes, which looks quite a bit like Twitter — Substack authors can post short bits of text to share links and kick off discussions, and people can reply to them, like the posts, the whole thing. Like I said, Twitter.Read Article >
Twitter, under the direction of Elon Musk, did not like the prospect of this competition, and for several days last week, Twitter was taking aggressive actions against Substack. At one point you couldn’t even like tweets with Substack links in them. At another point, clicking on a Substack link resulted in a warning message about the platform being unsafe. And finally, Twitter redirected all searches for the word Substack to “newsletter.” Musk claimed Substack was somehow downloading the Twitter database to bootstrap Substack Notes, which, well, I’m still not sure what that means, but I at least asked Chris what he thought that meant and whether he was doing it.
Substack launches its Twitter-like Notes just days after Twitter throttled Substack links
Substack’s Twitter-like feature for shorter posts, called Notes, is launching for everyone on Tuesday. Notes could prove to be a worthy Twitter alternative for some, especially for Substack writers who have already built audiences on the platform and are looking for a new place to post after Twitter throttled Substack links and marked them as unsafe.Read Article >
Substack’s Notes will appear in their own separate tab, meaning they’ll be separate from the full newsletters you can read in the Inbox tab or the threads you can read in the Chat tab, where you can read newsletters. In a blog post, Substack suggests using Notes to share things like “posts, quotes, comments, images, and links,” and there is no character limit, Substack spokesperson Helen Tobin tells The Verge.
Hashtags are everything on Mastodon — why not give them a home?
Mastodon has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of Twitter’s ongoing meltdown, and since I started seriously using it late last year, it’s won me over. While I still use Twitter for monitoring news and talking to the occasional source, Mastodon is my new home for shortform posting. But Mastodon has one significant problem: it’s very annoying to find things I like.Read Article >
I’m not talking about “discoverability” in the sense of some tailored suggestion algorithm. I mean that by design, information on Mastodon’s many servers is diffuse and relatively obscure. Back on Twitter, I kept several columns of search terms open — some for serious topics I was covering, some for personal interests like my favorite games, all of them a potential gateway to an interesting new corner of the service. Mastodon deliberately disallows plaintext search, and despite some attempts to devise an opt-in system for it, the main alternative so far is hashtags.
The sudden death and rebirth of Tweetbot
I had a corpse on my phone, and I kept checking in on it. Ever since January 12th, my preferred iOS Twitter app had been locked in stasis, frozen on an error modal informing me that “there was a problem authenticating with Twitter,” and wow, was there ever. Without any notice, Twitter had revoked the mainline access credentials for Tweetbot and every other third-party client not operated by Twitter itself.Read Article >
Unlike many decisions made during Twitter’s “vox populi” Roman cosplay era, there had never been a poll about this. Elon Musk had never appeared deep in a thread with Kevin Sorbo and a spartan avatar burner account to say, “Yikes, third-party apps should go.” Instead, Twitter took several days to communicate with its users or commercial partners and admit that the move was deliberate, eventually releasing a “your fault”-style official tweet gnomically explaining that “Twitter is enforcing its long-standing API rules.”
Substack is getting tweets — err, ‘Notes’
Substack is getting a new tweet-like feature called “Notes,” the company announced on Wednesday. The feature will let users publish small posts about things like “posts, quotes, comments, images, and links,” according to a blog post from Substack co-founders Chris Best, Hamish McKenzie, and Jairaj Sethi.Read Article >
Notes appear in their own dedicated tab, and the feed looks pretty similar to what you might see on Twitter or other social media platforms. On individual posts, for example, you can see familiar icons for likes, replies, and reshares (which Substack will be calling “restacks”). We asked if there is a character limit for Notes, but Substack spokesperson Helen Tobin declined to share details about that.
Can Mastodon seize the moment from Twitter?
Eugen Rochko is the CEO of Mastodon — the open-source decentralized competitor to Twitter. It’s where a lot of Twitter users have gone in our post-Elon Musk era.Read Article >
The idea of Mastodon is that you don’t join a single platform that one company controls. You join a server, and that server can show you content from users across the entire network. If you decide you don’t like the people who run your server or you think they’re moderating content too strictly, you can leave and take your followers and social graph with you. Think about it like email, and you’ll get it. If you don’t like Gmail, you can switch to something else, but you don’t have to quit email entirely as a concept.
Medium wants you to pay $5 a month to join its Mastodon server
Popular publishing platform Medium is now fully embracing the Twitter alternative Mastodon by opening up its new me.dm instance to paying Medium community members. Joining the Mastodon server requires a subscription to Medium for $5 per month (or $50 per year) which enables perks on the site like ad-free browsing and offline reading. Mastodon instances are generally free to join.Read Article >
Medium is one of the first notable tech companies to utilize Mastodon as a premium social media experience, which is interesting given the publishing company’s historic connections with Twitter. Medium co-founders Ev Williams and Biz Stone also co-founded Twitter back in 2007. A great deal of Mastodon’s recent success was born out of ongoing turmoil with Twitter following Elon Musk’s acquisition of the platform.