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A brief comparison of not-Twitter services

With Musk giving Twitter one of the most short-sighted, poorly thought-through rebrands in tech industry history, a good number of folks are—once again—exodusing from the service.

The problem is many of them don’t know where to go, so here’s an easy reference comparing all of the hip and happening Twitter alternatives.

A robot bat with its chest open, exposing the wiring within and looking at you expectantly.

This is meant to be a teensy bit tongue-in-cheek. I have a preference and I’m not shying away from that, but as of writing, the basic data is pretty much accurate.

Who’s in charge?

X-Twitter: Certified asshat Elon Musk.

Bluesky Social: Jay Graber, who apparently invented a cryptocurrency. Certified asshat Jack Dorsey is the founder and on the board of directors; certified asshat Elon Musk is an investor.

Meta Threads: Certified asshat Mark Zuckerberg.

Mastodon: If you’re friends with a furry who works in the tech industry, probably them.

How easy is it to register?

X-Twitter: Open to basically everyone, not that you want to be there.

Bluesky Social: Invite only with a waiting list currently weeks or months long. Guess you’re not talking to your friends any time soon. 🤷

Meta Threads: Not available in half the world because they already know the app breaches privacy laws. Intrinsically tied to having an Instagram account.

Mastodon: Depends, but it’s only about as complicated as picking which email provider you use.

How’s the moderation?

X-Twitter: Mostly non-existent. Musk fired everyone involved in moderation.

Bluesky Social: Mostly non-existent. Bluesky expects users to moderate one another, apparently. It’s not going great.

Meta Threads: You’ll probably get banned for saying a swear.

Mastodon: As thorough as you want it to be. Smaller instances (fewer than a couple thousand users) tend to do it best.

How are the rules?

X-Twitter: Absolutely godawful.

Bluesky Social: A little bit chaotic because of the whole “users moderate each other” thing. Hateful slurs are apparently fine but tasteful nudity isn’t? Needs work.

Meta Threads: You will get banned for saying a swear.

Mastodon: As loose or as authoritarian as you want it to be. If you don’t like them, you can just use a different instance.

Does it respect my privacy and data rights?

X-Twitter: Wait, why do you automatically download my search history again?

Bluesky Social: Asks for a few bits here and there, but generally fine.

Meta Threads: Requires you to use your legal name. Would own your first-born child if it could.

Mastodon: Asks for literally nothing. Your data is your own.

Does it have user ran instances?

X-Twitter: Of course not, how is Elon supposed to make money like that?!

Bluesky Social: Coming eventually… supposedly. They just haven’t gotten around to writing that part of the protocol and have no idea how it’ll actually work yet. Bit of a weird flex for an already live service.

Meta Threads: Haha no.

Mastodon: Yes, thousands of them based around every conceivable and niche interest.

Does it work with the open web?

X-Twitter: Actively hostile to the open web.

Bluesky Social: Actively hostile to the open web. Is making their own proprietary version of the ActivityPub specification for no obvious reason other than to be dicks about it.

Meta Threads: Haha no.

Mastodon: Open source. Built on many open technologies, primarily the W3C’s ActivityPub specification, developed cooperatively by several individuals without corporate involvement. Cross-compatible with dozens of other services. Has multiple forks to introduce new features in a decentralised ecosystem outside of any one person’s control.

How many posts can I read in a day?

X-Twitter: 600, unless you give Elon your lunch money.

Bluesky Social: Unlimited.

Meta Threads: Currently unlimited, but have said they will introduce read limits in future.

Mastodon: Unlimited. Why the heck would you put read limits on a service based on reading lots of shortform posts what the f—?!

How many characters can I post?

X-Twitter: 280, unless you’re Chinese, Japanese or Korean, in which case it’s 140, unless you give Elon your lunch money, in which case it’s 25,000.

Bluesky Social: 300, for some reason.

Meta Threads: You know, a normal amount.

Mastodon: Defaults to 500, but many instances set it higher and don’t force you to pay for the privilege.

Are there algorithms to decide what I should see?

X-Twitter: Yes, and what you should see is Elon Musk’s posts. Also ads.

Bluesky Social: Yes but apparently it’s fine because you’ll be able to “customise” them, whatever that means.

Meta Threads: It’s the people who make Facebook, of course there is. It’ll be destroying democracy before the decade is out.

Mastodon: No. Thank god.

Are there third-party apps?

X-Twitter: Not anymore!

Bluesky Social: Not a one.

Meta Threads: Haha no.

Mastodon: Yes, dozens of them. People have made Mastodon clients for Mac System 7 and T9 dumbphones. Mastodon is where most of the Twitter ecosystem developers went to after Musk murdered their children, so the quality is often exceptional.

Is there an API I can use?

X-Twitter: Only if you’re a fan of paying extortionate fees to do anything useful.

Bluesky Social: Maybe? Kinda? It seems like there are dozens of API libraries and yet little actual API documentation.

Meta Threads: Haha no.

Mastodon: Yes, and it’s so easy to use. I’ve written so many integrations with Mastodon already. You don’t even need to have registered an account to use it.

How sustainable is it?

X-Twitter: Probably won’t survive another year at this rate.

Bluesky Social: Has promise, but distrust of the leadership, incomplete protocol and restricted adoption makes it liable to fail.

Meta Threads: It’ll be around for as long as Zuck thinks he can make money out of it. After that, it’ll die.

Mastodon: Mastodon will probably live forever. This is not an exaggeration. I am not joking. It’s basically the IRC of social media microblogging.

Anything else?

X-Twitter: The best time to leave was before Musk cut off all the cross-posters and migration tools. The second best time to leave is right now.

Bluesky Social: If they actually cared about decentralised social networking they would have just contributed to ActivityPub development. They were approached. They said no. They’re probably never going to actually do it.

Meta Threads: Doesn’t support alt text for images. Big fail. Also seriously, why does the app need access to my search history and medical information?

Mastodon: One of the co-authors of the ActivityPub specification nicknamed it the Trans Furry Network Protocol. That’s a ringing endorsement if ever there was any.

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    @batbeeps haha this was a really fun read.