The latest news on the Twittersphere is the sudden popularity of newcomer Hive as an alternative home for refugee Twitter users.
Currently, with all the recent sign-ups, Hive has a total user base of around a million. In fact, the app has seen a surge in sign-ups and is currently sitting in the top 20 on the Apple US App Store.
Simply put, the service is less of a Twitter clone and more like the mutant offspring of Instagram, Pinterest, and Tumblr.
The app is very mobile-focused — specifically iOS at the moment — however, it looks like an Android version has just been rushed out to meet the hordes.
Apparently, sign-up surges to the app keep occurring as more bad news emerges from Twitter HQ — with the recent Donald Trump account reactivation being one example.
Hive for Gen-Z
Hive is quite Gen-Z-focused. Although it offers a Twitter-like follower model, the app features interests, plus a timeline interface. There’s a ‘discover’ feature to help navigate new material, and there are no ads. Instead, users are invited to pay pennies for additional favorite music content.
It’s not just the young crowd that’s moving. Twitter refugees continue to flow out of the TwitterSpace like lava down a rumbling volcano. Nobody knows if, or when, the top might blow, but users want to move as far away from the ash cloud as possible. Just in case.
The bottom line is there’s a desperate hunt going on for a suitable replacement for the ‘bird’. An early winner was a decentralized, open-source space called Mastodon. This innovative service is less of a platform and more of a loose collection of servers, connected together in a ‘Fediverse’.
The upside is a social media platform that can never be bought — the downside is — it’s not Twitter. It’s more complicated to sign up, you probably won’t find your favorite celebs on there yet, and you can’t spam it with GIFs of Donald Trump doing the Samba.
But there are no ads, and anyone can set up their own moderated server if they want, instead of joining one from someone else.
Running a close second is a close cousin (or fork) of Mastodon called Counter Social. It comes with the immediate advantage of having just one server to sign up to, and the user interface is arguably much better than the alternative. Even the mobile app seems to work better.
In both cases, the atmosphere is significantly more sedate than the bird — conversation is much more adult (so far) — and it’s easier to find a stream that will suit your temperament.
Set against that is the fact that, compared to Twitter, there aren’t that many people using either of these platforms right now. However, there are now 2.4 million monthly active users on Mastodon (up 575%) spread across 7,000 servers.
Spoiled for Choice
The big question now on most users’ lips is — centralized or not?
Hive demands a phone number to sign up, which is something that may make many users concerned about privacy, plus Hive was also set up by one person who could easily sell out to a billionaire if it gets big enough.
The Twitter-wounded may prefer to seek out alternatives like Mastodon and Counter Social. These at least have some sort of guaranteed independence baked into the infrastructure.
Meanwhile, other ventures struggle to be seen and heard in the scramble for users. Diaspora and Tumblr (yes that Tumblr) are trying to break through the noise.
But they both suffer from either a slightly dodgy reputation, or a lack of user-friendly mass-market appeal. The best thing to say about Tumblr is it’s where Ryan Reynolds currently hangs out.
Unfortunately, all the alternatives suffer from two key problems. First, they don’t give users as much hashtag functionality as Twitter does. As if that wasn’t bad enough, it’s really hard to track a range of different subjects, as you can on Twitter.
Most of the alternatives make it easy to follow one or two interests, but really difficult to add multiple streams to your feed. Of course, this may sound like a good thing to many people.
Finally, and this is really very strange, the Fediverse — much lauded as a decentralized yet federated collection of servers and services — has no single sign-on functionality. That’s right, if you want to join multiple ‘federated’ services, such as PeerTube, Mastodon, or Pleroma, you need to sign up for each one individually. Weird.
Join us next month, for another episode in the eternal hunt for Twitter alternatives. To Be Continued …