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Best social media platforms to try out if Elon Musk’s Twitter shuts down 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 could be about to implode amid reports of staff locked out of its offices and many resigning in droves in the face of new owner Elon Musk’s “hardcore” work policy. The latest turmoil comes after Musk laid off half of Twitter’s staff and dissolved its board in a contentious bid to make the loss-making platform profitable.

With the future of Twitter looking ever more precarious, it might be time to try out one of the alternatives. Though you may not find the exact same functionality elsewhere, these platforms can help you socialise with like-minded users, keep tabs on the news, and indulge the nichest of interests.

Reddit

Founded: 2005

Number of active users: 52,000,000 (2021)

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 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.

Mastodon

Founded: 2016

Number of active users: 520,000

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.

Hive

Founded: 2019

Number of active users: 1 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 thise without timeline algorithms: you see things in chronological order as they’re posted, just as it was in the early days of Twitter.

There are big differences though. For starters, there’s no limit to post length, making the bite-sized content Twitter offers optional here, with no defence against blowhards who enjoy the sound of their own voice. 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 the old days of MySpace.

Post

Founded: 2022

Number of active users: Unknown

It’s quite hard to know what to expect from Post at the time of writing. Created by the former CEO of Google-owned Waze, the prospect of a social media designed to make you smarter rather than angry has certainly piqued people’s interest, with a queue of over 100,00 people waiting to be granted access.

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, in order 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,” writes founder Noam Bardin.

CounterSocial

Founded: 2017

Number of active users: Unknown

A response to the ills that have afflicted social-media giants like 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 properly get into the app, 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 right now. Bring some friends along. You might cringe yourself out of giving it a go if you read the platform’s FAQ section, though.

Cohost

Founded: 2022

Number of active users: Unknown

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 a month ($50 a year) to support the developers, and unlock a few advanced features, such as large file uploads. There’s no Cohost phone app yet, just 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: 9,000,000

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 forever, it doesn’t claim to want to clean the social-networking slate, but is less influencer-drenched than the more mainstream networks.