It’s been quite the dramatic start for new Twitter owner Elon Musk since he purchased the platform at the end of last month for a whopping $44 billion.
The self-proclaimed ‘Chief Twit’ laid off roughly 3,700 of Twitter’s 7,500 workers, while hundreds more resigned after deciding not to be part of Musk’s ‘extremely hardcore’ Twitter 2.0.
Musk’s takeover has also raised concerns about the proliferation of misinformation and hate speech on the platform, with many controversial accounts – including Donald Trump’s – reinstated, having been banned in the past.
According to MIT Technology Review, Twitter may have lost more than a million users since Elon Musk took over – many of whom have sought out alternative apps.
Here, MailOnline tries out four Twitter rivals – Mastodon, Hive Social, Tribel and Donald Trump’s Truth Social – and picks a favourite.
MailOnline tries out four Twitter rivals – Mastodon, Hive, Tribel and Donald Trump’s Truth Social – and picks a favourite
Trump founded Truth Social in 2021 after he was banned from Twitter. Truth Social lets users post ‘truths’ rather than tweets
TRUMP HAS NO PLANS TO USE TWITTER
Former US President Donald Trump has no plans to return to Twitter despite his account being reinstated by new owner Elon Musk.
‘I don’t see any reason for it,’ the former president said when asked if he’d return to Twitter at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s annual leadership meeting.
He said he would stick with his new platform Truth Social, the app developed by his Trump Media & Technology Group (TMTG) company.
Truth Social has better user engagement than Twitter and is doing ‘phenomenally well’, Trump said.
Musk reinstated Trump’s account, @realDonaldTrump, on Monday following results of a Twitter poll.
Trump’s account was removed following his role in last year’s attack on the US Capitol.
Truth Social is the social media platform that former US President Donald Trump founded last year after being banned from Twitter.
Trump’s Twitter account was removed after the attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, although new Twitter owner Elon Musk has since reinstated it.
Truth Social looks remarkably like Twitter.
In fact, it feels like a place for people who have been banned from Twitter at one time or another – almost like a rival treehouse for the kids at school.
Posts are called ‘truths’ rather than tweets, while verified users have a red tick next to their name, rather than a blue one.
For desktop, the layout feels almost identical, with a menu on the left with ‘Home’, ‘Search’, ‘Alerts’, Profile’ and ‘Settings’.
On the right there’s a list of trending subjects, which include #Jan6, #CelebrateLifeMonth and #EndTheFBI.
To create an account, I have to enter my date of birth to confirm I’m at least 18 years old.
It then wants my phone number, which I begrudgingly give so it can send me a verification code, followed by a username and a photo.
Once my account has been created, Truth Social gives me a list of accounts to follow, with Donald Trump right at the top.
Also on the list is his wife Melania Trump, his son Eric Trump, American conservative political commentator Dave Rubin, alt-right activist Jack Posobiec and controversial Australian columnist Miranda Devine.
There are also official accounts for Conservative news and opinion site American Greatness and far-right site Breitbart News.
I follow Donald Trump and decide to follow more accounts later. I’m then directed to the homepage.
I notice Trump has posted in the last 24 hours ‘MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!!!’
Ah yes, this feels very familiar. This is like a throwback to Twitter in 2016.
With the same profile photo, handle and bio, Trump’s Truth Social account looks remarkably similar to his Twitter account – apart from the red tick instead of a blue tick
Twitter: Donald Trump’s account was reinstated by new owner and CEO Elon Musk following the results of a poll
The layout of Truth Social leans pretty heavily on Twitter. It’s opted for red verified ticks next to account names rather than blue
Browsing the list of ‘People to Follow’, I notice that there are no accounts that I want to connect with, and instead there seems to be a lot of alt-right figures.
Truth Social quickly starts to feels like a microcosm of ultra-right commentators who need their own sanitised version of what’s true and what’s not.
Funnily enough, that’s the opposite of what it professes to offer on the app store – an online space for multiple people ‘to share their different viewpoints’, including ‘die-hard liberals’ and ‘staunch conservatives’.
But then why would a ‘die-hard liberal’ start an account on Truth Social?
Unlike Twitter, Hive Social has a chronological feed rather than an algorithm-powered feed
I don’t think there’s anything here for me. All of the people or companies that I’m interested in following don’t have an account.
So it’s time to try another.
Hive Social is only available as an iOS and Android app and is not for desktop, so I have to pick up my smartphone for this one.
It claims to have been created by two college students in 2019 ‘with a new approach to social media’, one of whom goes under the name ‘Raluca’.
Unlike Twitter, Hive Social has a chronological feed rather than an algorithm-powered feed, meaning there’s no personalized content shoved in your face by AI.
Hive Social says: ‘Raluca was tired of the restrictions she faced on social platforms in which her posts were not seen by many friends and felt the pressures of complicated algorithms.’
It recently revealed it’s had one million signups since Elon Musk purchased Twitter in October.
Creating an account is pretty easy. The Hive Social webpage gives me a link to download the Android app from the Google Play store.
Once downloaded, I just need to click on ‘Create an Account’ and then I can sign up with email or my Google account. I then have to create an account name and handle.
Hive Social was created in 2019 by two college students ‘with a new approach to social media’
HIVE SOCIAL SEES 1 MILLION SIGNUPS SINCE MUSK BOUGHT TWITTER
Hive Social claims not to use algorithms to determine which posts users see
While Twitter suffers amid Elon Musk’s takeover, Hive Social benefits from the chaos.
The social app has reported more than one million signups in the last 30 days and sits at the top of Apple’s App Store’s social network apps chart.
The surge comes as Twitter has seen racial slurs increase since Musk stepped in and as Donald Trump’s ban is lifted, along with the Twitter Blue fiasco that allowed anyone to be verified.
And these, among other things, have sent more than one million users fleeing from Twitter, MIT reports.
Hive Social, launched in 2019, is said to be the closest replica of Twitter, with its chronological feed, profiles and lead posts, while pulling inspiration from Instagram by emphasising visuals.
The app asks me to add at least three interests out of a huge list that includes ‘art’, ‘gaming’, ‘travel’, ‘books’, ‘finance’ and LGBTQ+. I choose ‘music’, ‘food’, ‘tech’ and a few others.
Concerningly, ‘football’ has an American football next to it rather than a football, making me think this is primarily aimed at US users.
There are options to list other things such as your pronouns and zodiac sign on your profile, but I don’t bother with either.
I can also add music to my profile – a feature that seems to pull inspiration from MySpace, generally credited with being the first social media platform.
On Hive Social you can choose to post text, images and video.
When users post enough videos, the app displays them on the profile page in a grid orientation, similar to the way photos are displayed on Instagram.
Unlike on Twitter, posts can’t be promoted, and instead just appear in chronological order.
The app also doesn’t have a word limit on posts, meaning Hive Social users can post some really lengthy messages, which, in my opinion, is not a good thing.
With its combination of text and image-based posts, Hive Social feels like a cross between Twitter and Instagram with a bit of TikTok thrown in – albeit without the algorithms.
What’s more, on Hive it’s not entirely clear how I find accounts that I want to follow, such as celebrities, public figures and companies.
What I found even more confusing is that when I searched ‘Netflix’, as an example, there were multiple accounts with the same ‘@netflix’ handle, and none of them were an official Netflix account.
There generally seems to be a lack of official, verified accounts here. I can’t find anyone I know on the app – famous or otherwise – which means I’m pretty much limited to seeing some very boring posts from strangers.
This is the worst app yet, and is probably one for the Gen Zedders.
I’ve no interest in strangers posting pictures of their lunch. At least with Truth Social I could read Trump mouthing off against something. Next!
Unlike on Twitter, Hive Social posts can’t be promoted – instead, they just appear in chronological order
With its combination of text and image-based posts, Hive Social feels like a cross between Twitter and Instagram
MASTODON USERS SOAR
According to Mastodon, it gained more than 70,000 new sign-ups on October 28, the day after Musk finalised his takeover of Twitter.
On November 12, Rochko said there are 1 million more people using Mastodon than there were on October 27, the day of the takeover.
On November 18, almost 180,000 new users joined Mastodon – a new record for the platform – and there are now 2 million monthly active users.
In comparison, it’s estimated Twitter has more than 300 million users.
Mastodon is the app you’ve probably heard about the most since Musk’s takeover.
It was founded in 2016 by German software developer Eugen Rochko, who recently slammed Musk’s ‘incompetence’ at Twitter.
Mastodon is not a single website like Twitter, but a network of thousands of sites, called ‘servers’ (also known as ‘instances’) – independent communities that can set up their own guidelines.
Mastodon posts each have a 500 character limit – more than Twitter’s 280 character limit – and are called ‘toots’ rather than ‘tweets’.
When joining Mastodon, the first step is choosing a server that lets me connect with other people across the platform.
These servers are themed, so users can pick one based on their location or interests, such as gaming, football or science.
I join the UK server (@mastodonapp.uk) because it was the first one I saw that seemed appropriate, although my homepage shows users from other servers too as long as I follow them.
The way Mastodon works is rather unique – I can follow anyone and they appear on the ‘Home’ tab.
I followed some high profile British names that I could find including Professor Brian Cox, Jay Rayner, Stephen Fry and Minnie Driver.
With some Mastodon servers, you have to request permission to join, while in others you can sign up straightaway. Others aren’t currently available to join. Pictured, Mastodon servers
Pictured is the user interface of Mastodon, the free, open-source platform founded in 2016 by German Eugen Rochko
But I can also see users on the @mastodonapp.uk server who I haven’t followed under the ‘Local’ tab, which is a good way of discovering relevant posts or people.
Plus, once you understand how Mastodon works you feel quite clever.
Every server is operated by an independent organisation or individual, and therefore can differ in its moderation policies.
However, its ‘decentralised’ way of operating – meaning it’s not owned by one organisation like Twitter – has already courted some criticism.
YouTuber and writer Ian Miles Cheong has described Mastodon as ‘hell’ because every server moderator has too much power over accounts and ‘can read your direct messages’ (DMs).
‘If they deem you to be talking behind their backs you will get banned,’ he said. ‘It’s the inverse of Twitter, where people can publicly make fun of @elonmusk and not get banned for it.’
Indeed, DMs on Mastodon are not encrypted, meaning they could be read by whoever is administering your Mastodon server.
DMs on Twitter are not encrypted either, although Musk is working on this.
What’s more, there is no official verification process for profiles on Mastodon, so I was left wondering if I really was following Minnie Driver or an imitator.
Tribel is a ‘kinder, smarter social network’ where you can customise your feed by topic, whether it’s sports, politics or fashion.
Like on Facebook, I can join public and private groups based on my interests
With Tribel I’m able to personalise feeds by adding category filters to find relevant content ‘instead of scrolling all day hoping to get lucky’.
Tribel is for iOS and Android as well as desktop, which I opted for.
The desktop layout strongly reminded me of Facebook.
What’s interesting about Tribel is other users can be added as a friend (like on Facebook), followed (like on Twitter) or both.
If I’m someone’s friend, I can see their ‘personal posts’, whereas if I only follow them, I can only see their ‘categorised posts’ (music, gaming, arts, etc).
Also like Facebook, I can join public and private groups based on my interests.
I can also become a ‘star contributor’, by becoming a contributor to a category and earning enough likes to be ranked in the top 10 per cent of that category.
Tribel tracks likes that are given to posts in order to rank the most popular posts and contributors in each category.
This isn’t too shabby – I like the idea of having people I follow on one tab and friends and family on another.
The only thing is I can’t find any friends or family on Tribel and the contributors I’ve opted to follow are strangers.
On Tribel, I can make a ‘personal post’ that only my friends can see, or a public post in a given category
This is where a big problem lies more generally – platforms like this are relying on PR and word of mouth to establish a significant userbase.
However, I don’t particularly want multiple accounts for multiple platforms, and I’m sure other people are the same.
AND THE WINNER IS…
So, can Tribel or Hive really trigger mass migration away from behemoths like Twitter and Facebook? This kind of depends on what lies ahead for Musk and Zuckerberg.
Either way, I don’t think Tribel will fill a Twitter-sized hole, for the simple reason that the user experience is not as good as, or even that similar to Twitter.
For me the clear winner is Mastodon, because it’s the most akin to Twitter – albeit with key differences – and how it works is deceptively simple.
Given the recent spate of media coverage, there seem to be more public figures and celebrities to follow on Mastodon than any of the other rivals.
And if I’m looking for a replacement for Twitter, that’s really what I want.
One thing that might cause problems is the lack of verification for accounts, which Mastodon says is ‘not possible without a central authority’.
Mastodon’s main selling point is the fact that it’s decentralised, meaning there is no single person, company or sever running it, so it doesn’t seem like blue ticks will be coming any time soon.
Alternatively, the so-called demise of Twitter could be overhyped and overstated. I’ll keep my Mastodon account handy but I’ll stick around on Twitter until the bomb drops.
MUSK’S ‘ERRATIC’ LEADERSHIP WILL CAUSE TWITTER’S DOWNFALL, MASTODON FOUNDER SAYS
The founder of Mastodon has said Twitter has a ‘real chance of disappearing’ under Elon Musk’s management.
Eugen Rochko, a 29-year-old programmer from Germany, created Mastodon as a decentralised alternative to Twitter.
Rochko has called the billionaire CEO’s leadership style ‘erratic’, adding that it shows ‘incompetence’.
‘I would say it shows incompetence and a lack of understanding of the industry that he’s entered and the platform that he’s now in charge of,’ Rochko told BBC Newsnight.
Elon Musk, the world’s richest person with a net worth of more than $210billion (£180billion), completed his purchase of Twitter following protracted legal battle and months of uncertainty
‘I would call [Musk’s leadership style] erratic, and frankly, I’m not a fan of it.’
He went on to say that the sheer size of Twitter was not enough to insure it against failure.
‘There are examples from history of social media platforms which were also immensely huge, like MySpace, for example, and they lost their relevance,’ he added.
‘Perhaps they’re still around, but they’re no longer popular or the place that you go to. And even though Twitter is very large, it’s still not even the largest social media platform out there.
‘I definitely think that with the issues that it’s having right now, and with new management under Elon Musk, that it has a real chance of actually disappearing, because, well, it takes a lot to run a social media platform like that, that deals with real-time data and, you know, losing most of its engineers is not a good thing.’