The best Twitter alternatives to try out, from Mastodon to Hive
Twitter has changed, and perhaps not for the better. Legacy-verified “blue ticks” have been wound down, and the platform is beginning to limit non-paid accounts.
The app disbanded its Trust and Safety Council, which aided in strategies to tackle hate speech, suicide, self-harm and child exploitation issues on the platform.
Twitter CEO Elon Musk has also announced his intention to remove inactive accounts from the platform - and has encouraged users to sign in at least once a month to keep their accounts active.
As a result, many users may be looking for an alternative social media app.
Below you’ll find some of the most notable alternatives to Twitter, from longstanding dinos of social media that are still worth a look, to upstarts looking to attract folks disillusioned by Elon Musk’s direction for Twitter.
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.
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.
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, for free. 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. The move seems to have rankled Musk as Twitter is now effectively blocking users from interacting with Substack posts.
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.
The oddest thing? You can pick a song to play when anybody visits your profile, like in the old days of MySpace.
Number of active users: None as yet
It’s hard to know what to expect from Post at the time of writing. Created by the former CEO of Google-owned Waze, Noam Bardin, the prospect of a social medium designed to make you smarter rather than angry has certainly piqued people’s interest. There are more than 100,00 people waiting to be granted access to the platform.
What we do know is that it seems like it’ll be a cross between Twitter, Medium, and Tumblr. Like Twitter, the aim is to encourage conversation between friends, strangers, and experts without barriers. Unlike Twitter, there will be no limit to the length of posts, rigorously enforced content moderation, and the ability to buy individual articles from publications you don’t subscribe to, to break people out of their filter bubbles.
“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,” Bardin says.
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. The app is very slow to load right now, though (perhaps caused by an influx of folks moving from Twitter).
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.
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 for free, 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 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 are from Gen Z.
Today, it comes across as a much lower-stakes network than the big names. Since it has been around for ever, it doesn’t claim to want to clean the social-networking slate. It is less influencer-drenched than the more mainstream networks.
Meta’s mystery new app
Expected: Summer 2023
Meta is expected to release a new app this summer. The text-based service, codenamed Barcelona, will allow users to share posts using their Instagram account.
Leaked images suggest that the app will let users share text, pics, videos and links that other users can interact with through replies, likes and shares. It could be available by the end of June.
Meta confirmed the existence of the app in March. “We’re exploring a standalone decentralised social network for sharing text updates,” the company said. “We believe there’s an opportunity for a separate space where creators and public figures can share timely updates about their interests.”