The Fallout of Twitter

Posted on Wed 28 December 2022 in Web

Elon Musk bought Twitter. He became Nero as Rome burned to the ground. The ramifications are still being felt across the internet, and while many stay due to the cost of changing habits, others scramble to get a foothold in other communities to resume their online lives. Social media became something that needed to be protected, and it hasn’t been.

People have been moving to Mastodon and the Fediverse in droves, including myself. I’m on three Mastodon instances in total, two of which I make public. It’s the most Twitter-like of the open social media services, even if it isn’t a full Twitter replacement. Fragmentation, as well as a much steeper learning curve in the user experience, make for a difficult pain point among users who don’t want to think about how systems function, much less about how they actually do things online.

And yet, we’ve gone through this before, many times over, in some form or fashion. The exodus from BBSes to the internet, from NNTP newsgroups to forums, and from forums to social media, creating a cycle of people trying to find their place again on the web. And it’ll happen again. The Fediverse won’t be immune to its own eventual collapse, when people find out that free really isn’t free, and the community coffers eventually dry up.

Of course, there are other options. CoHost and Pillowfort come to mind, but there are also the OStatus-based GNU Social that came from StatusNet, as well as the barebones plaintext-based twtxt network. Not to mention software that haven’t even been made yet.

And it’s not like old standards fully died. BBSes are still around, newsgroups are still accessible via Google Groups and services like eternal-september, and there are many different forums still floating around the web. We also still have chat rooms and the like, such as IRC and XMPP. Even old-school chat kingdoms like MUCKs and MUDs are still around, accessibly via SSH or telnet. And much like those systems, the Fediverse will live on even after the masses move.

Social media’s only real advantages over the other options are convenience, and the ability to advertise or boost information to large swaths of people at once. Once you remove those, you have just another medium to communicate with others. The same as forums, chatrooms, and even email.

That’s why I’m not so concerned by Twitter dying off. It’s happened so many times that, at this point, it’s just a natural part of the internet. So, here’s to the next cycle. Let’s see where this trainwreck takes us next.