When Elon Musk bought Twitter, I had very few expectations about the impact on the service. I’m neither a Musk fanboy nor an Elon hater (as the meme goes, I’m a third, more complex thing). He deserves credit for his entrepreneurial activities, including bringing electric cars to the mainstream car lover and reviving space travel. On the other hand, I knew some of his behavior and opinions were questionable, at the very least. And I’m generally wary of billionaires accumulating too much power, including control over an essential communication and media platform. However, I didn’t expect that Twitter would change significantly under Musk’s leadership. Now I have to admit I was wrong.
After he entered the Twitter headquarters (with a sink, just for a pun’s sake), Musk quickly changed the culture into “move fast and break things”, a motto that might work for an early startup but not for an established platform. Things have gotten chaotic, making many people worry about the long-term stability and viability of the service. I don’t want to recount everything he did and subsequently roll back. However, I’m pondering how to use Twitter in the future.
The chaos at Twitter has been great for alternative social networks. Tumblr appears to make a comeback. New competitors like CoHost are appearing. The biggest benefactor is Mastodon, though, along with the whole cosmos of ActivityPub-powered federated platforms often referred to as the Fediverse. There have been exodus waves from old social media sites into new networks, but they have yet to be sustainable. It could be different this time. I don’t expect Twitter to die or claim the Fediverse is already a complete replacement. Still, Mastodon might be the first federated network since email to graduate from geek toy to mainstream endorsement. There might have never been a better time to migrate.
From seeing the first drafts of OpenID to being a participant at IndieWebCamp, I’ve always been interested in federated and decentralized technology. Hence, observing these developments is interesting. However, I’m also worried about the financial and administrative sustainability of the Fediverse. Decentralization has a lot of advantages, but it’s neither a business model nor a panacea that solves all problems inherent to social media. In “Smoke alarm and snowfall”, Julia Racsko shares similar sentiments. Decentralized social media is an experiment that can fail, and we may find that centralization is better.
While Elon Musk seems erratic as the head of Twitter, his general idea of emphasizing the Twitter Blue subscription model over funding from ads seems intriguing. It’s another experiment that I want to see played out. It could change the overall vibe when Twitter rewards paid users more attention. The most active and visible Twitter users could be those who can justify Twitter Blue as a business expense, engaging more in promotion than conversation. Maybe we see a split where Twitter becomes even more of a broadcast network, and regular discussions move to Mastodon. Also, if the paid model works, Twitter could become what app.net tried to be. Of course, this is all speculation.
As I’m observing and speculating, I need to develop my social media strategy. I have two Mastodon accounts, but I rarely post on either. That should change because I don’t want the Fediverse to be a ghost town. On Twitter, I promote my business and my book and drive the conversation with the tech community around APIs and Developer Experience. I also engage in discussions around a broad range of interests with a vast community of active Twitter users. Doing both from the same account seems challenging, but setting up an “alt” account seems overkill, and I know there will be analysis paralysis if a tweet could fit both, and I can’t decide where to post. On top of that, I should spend less time on social media and more time creating stuff and engaging with people in the real world or more intimate virtual spaces.
While figuring mine out, I’m curious to hear about your goals and plans for social media usage in 2023 and how you deal with the Twitter situation.