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The best Twitter alternatives, from Mastodon to Hive

Twitter users have reacted strongly to Elon Musk taking over the platform — and not all in a positive manner (Gregory Bull / AP)
Twitter users have reacted strongly to Elon Musk taking over the platform — and not all in a positive manner (Gregory Bull / AP)

Twitter is in a right state after Elon Musk took over the platform in October 2022.

The latest news is Twitter users are able to view only a limited number of tweets a day. Even paid-up Twitter Blue subscribers are getting limited access. However, with a ceiling of 10,000 tweets a day, anyone hitting that limit should question how they spend their time.

Are you a fan of TweetDeck? You have only a month to use it without Twitter Blue, as subscription-free access is ending in the first few days of August.

If you think Twitter is starting to feel like a sinking ship, with a captain hacking away at its hull with an axe, perhaps it is time to look for an alternative. Here are the best of Twitter’s rivals.

Threads

Founded: 2023

Number of active users: 10 million

Threads is Meta’s take on the Twitter formula — the company that owns Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp. Threads launched on July 6 and attracted more than million users within its first seven hours, according to CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

In short, it feels a lot like Twitter, with the ability to post messages of up to 500 characters that appear in followers’ timelines in real-time. Like Twitter, you can reply to interesting posts and repost content from others into your own timeline for your followers to see.

It links directly to your Instagram account, which makes it feel a bit less private, and annoyingly there’s currently no way to block out algorithmically picked-out content from your timeline. But it’s a strong start, and will feel instantly appealing to those who want the functionality of Twitter with less corporate drama.

Bluesky

Founded: 2021

Number of active users: ~200,000

Work on this social network from Jack Dorsey, the founder of Twitter, began in 2021. It is yet to open fully to the public, though. Only a relatively small number of users are on the platform, amounting to a couple of hundred thousand, after a beta launch in February 2023. You need an invite, which is best achieved by begging on another social network such as Twitter or Reddit.

The Bluesky “big sell” is that it’s a decentralised network, although that won’t mean much to the average person looking for a Twitter alternative. This means Bluesky plans to fracture into communities that it does not centrally manage.

However, for now, you can join only “@bsky.social”, which is Bluesky’s own community. The experience is also quite basic at present, lacking core Twitter features such as direct messages.

Reddit

Founded: 2005

Number of active users: 52 million

Founded a year before Twitter, Reddit is an internet institution, but one that can often seem opaque and unfriendly to folks without a degree in internet culture. It has much more of the air of a classic message board or forum than Twitter and is broken down into often incredibly specific areas called subreddits.

These are home to some of the best and worst things the internet has to offer. And, of course, the bad bits have gained all the attention over the years. However, it’s a great place to indulge in hobbies with like-minded folks, while Reddit feeds such as /todayilearned and /dataisbeautiful are top time-killers minus the Twitter guilt.

Reddit has become almost as infamous as Twitter in recent weeks, though. Changes to how the platform works have caused the closure of the most popular third-party apps, and there was a 48-hour blackout of many of its most popular sections back in June.

Mastodon

Founded: 2016

Number of active users: One million

While Mastodon is one of the most similar-looking alternatives to Twitter, it will feel quite different in use. Twitter is a behemoth in which everyone tweets under the same virtual dome, while Mastodon operates as a series of smaller servers, each with a maximum of 250,000 participants.

A server is chosen on sign-up. There’s a server for “people in Scotland or who identify as Scottish”, for example, or another for “ravers”. Mastodon is going to feel a lot less busy than Twitter; it is less of a place to pick up social media clout than it is to connect with people who have similar interests.

Substack

Founded: 2017

Number of active users: 2 million paying subscribers

Substack essentially allows you to sign up to receive newsletters via email from notable and amateur writers. The platform has built a reputation as a refuge for media firebrands who have fled established news outlets. Among the notable authors on Substack are journalists Glenn Greenwald and Matt Taibbi; renowned authors Salman Rushdie and Chuck Palahniuk; Boris Johnson’s former aide Dominic Cummings; and political activist Michael Moore.

You can join, and even publish your own articles, free of charge. But some writers charge a subscription for their newsletters, while others simply ask for a tip. Substack makes money by pocketing 10 per cent of the subscription fees, with additional costs for payment processing.

More recently, Substack has branched out to introduce podcasts and videos, though it’s mainly associated with written articles. Notably for alienated Twitter fans, it also just launched its own take on short-form text posts, dubbed Notes, which are uncannily similar to tweets.

Hive

Founded: 2019

Number of active users: One million

Hive Social may appeal to those looking for something that behaves a lot like Twitter as soon as you sign up. Like Twitter, there’s a timeline and the ability to follow people and repost other people’s messages as you see fit. It does all this without timeline algorithms: you see things in chronological order as they’re posted, just like in the early days of Twitter.

There are big differences, though. For starters, there’s no limit to post length. This makes the bite-sized content Twitter offers optional, with no defence against blowhards who enjoy the sound of their own voices. Also, at the time of writing, it’s mobile-only, with no desktop experience at all.

Following a brief explosion of interest in late 2022, Hive has not blown up as some hoped. But development of the platform continues. On June 20, Hive announced its verification feature, in which you email copies of a photo ID to the Hive team. But at least you don’t have to pay to do so — yet.

Post

Founded: 2022

Number of active users: TBC

Post is a social network driven by news. It was launched by Noam Bardin, former CEO of Waze.

“Post is designed to give the voice back to the sidelined majority; there are enough platforms for extremists, and we cannot relinquish the town square to them,” says Bardin.

In person, Post reads more like a news feed, with articles from publications like USA Today and Fortune. It’s less about reading the bizarre opinions of Greg278938X from the internet. However, you will find ordinary folks posting on Post too.

It has a points-based currency. You pay a certain number of points to read full articles, and can tip people, or publications. Buying additional points costs real cash. Post is only available for iPhone right now, and it’s not clear how many active users the platform has at present.

CounterSocial

Founded: 2017

Number of active users: Around 30,000

A response to the ills that have afflicted social-media giants such as Twitter and Facebook, CounterSocial claims to take a “zero-tolerance stance” to “hostile nations, bot accounts, trolls, and disinformation networks”.

To this end, it blocks entire countries from accessing the network, including Russia, China, and North Korea.

Once you access it, the look is similar to that of Twitter, but with virtually zero engagement in posts from the “community firehose” of content promoted by the app itself. CounterSocial isn’t one for those looking to kill some time browsing social media streams. Bring some friends along. You might cringe yourself out of giving it a go if you read the platform’s FAQ section, though.

The Counter Social team also runs Counter Realms, a metaverse-like set of VR chat rooms. However, at the time writing they were all empty.

Cohost

Founded: 2022

Number of active users: Around 38,000

If CounterSocial is the “no bots” platform, Cohost aims to be the “no algorithm” social network, bringing back some of the feel of the internet of years gone by. It promises “no ads, no tracking”, for good.

You can try the service free of charge, but there’s also Cohost Plus subscription for $5 (£4) a month ($50/£40 a year) to support the developers, and unlock a few advanced features, such as large file uploads.

There’s no Cohost phone app yet, only a web interface, which isn’t easy to find. And its active user base is likely tiny. Sign up with a bunch of friends, though, and there are worse ways to keep in contact online.

Tumblr

Founded: 2007

Daily posts: Nine million

Tumblr is a social network many have forgotten existed. It was a giant back in the days before such platforms were routinely described as a “hellscape”. But according to a New Yorker interview with Tumblr CEO Jeff D’Onofrio, 48 per cent of active users and 61 per cent of new users were from Gen Z.

Today, it comes across as a much lower-stakes network than the big names. Since it has been around forever, it doesn’t claim to want to clean the social-networking slate. It is less influencer-drenched than the more mainstream networks.