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With Instagram Threads Nearly Here, Will Twitter Remain the Go-To Platform for Disseminating News?

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Twitter is alive and well.  However, will this remain the case as a variety of noteworthy competitors to the social media platform continue gaining in popularity?  Now, Meta has announced its own Twitter Killer titled ‘Threads'.  What is the difference between each of these platforms?  Are there already better options available?

Expanding the Functionality of Instagram

Threads is what Meta describes as “Instagram's text-based conversation app.”  The platform is set to launch on July 6th and will undoubtedly have an impressive user base from the outset as existing users/fans of Instagram trial what it has to offer.

Notably, Instagram Threads is set to provide more control over privacy settings than Twitter, allowing users to customize who can see their updates and share their location.  In contrast, Twitter has more general privacy settings without the ability to curate specific groups and will continue to offer features like retweets, trending hashtags, and public conversations, which are not set to be present in Instagram Threads.

Where It's Alike

  • Each platform has a commenting system
  • Each platform offers the ability to receive updates from followed accounts
  • Each supports private messaging between accounts

Where It's Different

  • Threads will cater more to private groups, while Twitter is more public
  • Threads will shift the focus from being primarily a text-based platform to placing more emphasis on visual content
  • Threads will integrate seamlessly with Instagram

Overall, it would appear as though these platforms differ enough that they should be able to coincide well within the current playing field of social media apps.

The main appeal behind Threads appears to be for existing Instagram users that do not want to switch between platforms for accessing privately curated social groups.  With the more public approach on offer by Twitter, it will likely remain the go-to platform for breaking news and as a soapbox for public personalities.

What Will It Take?

So with Twitter and the coming Threads platform set to differ enough that they should be able to coincide, what will it take for would-be ‘killers' to supplant the former as the go-to social media platform?  The following are a few issues that must be addressed and conquered.

Lack of Digital Asset Integration

Crypto-Twitter is a large part of the platform and the content which dominates user feeds.  This shouldn't be surprising with Elon Musk having a long history involving digital assets, Presidential candidates voicing support for digital assets on the platform, original Twitter Founder Jack Dorsey being a Bitcoin maximalist, and a healthy amount of vocal detractors, all voicing opinions on the subject via Twitter.  Despite all of this, Twitter has yet to integrate digital assets.

If crypto Twitter decides to one day migrate to another platform, a lack of integration involving digital assets may end up being a major reason why.  For ages now, it has been rumoured that Twitter would integrate digital assets like Bitcoin and its Lightning Network as a means of compensating content creators and minimizing bots; alas, this has not yet occurred.

Meanwhile, various Twitter rivals have already taken this step.  Unfortunately, there are instances of solutions like Damus – which is built atop Nostr – having already hit roadblocks by companies like Apple, which have decided to remove such platforms from its App Store due to digital asset integrations that it perceived as being in violation of existing policies.

Data Scraping

In 2023, consumer data is a prized asset.  This has become even more true in recent months as data = sustenance for Artificial Intelligence; and with the rapid rise of this nascent technology, developers are scrambling to feed it with all they can.

As a result, social media platforms like Twitter are being forced to take somewhat radical steps in an attempt to prevent ‘data-scraping' as much as possible.  Most recently, this manifested with Elon Musk announcing that Twitter would be imposing view limits for its unverified users.

Data scraping is a long-used method used to extract large amounts of data from websites and social media platforms like Twitter.  Developers use automated scripts to fetch, analyze, and save this data for use in training AI, market research, sentiment analysis, and more.  Before scraping was possible on such large data sets, its collection would typically be quite time consuming – to the point that once gathered, it may no longer be relevant.

The issue is that data scraping places a massive burden on the underlying platform and its ability to provide a reliable and stout service.  Unfortunately, the problem will only get worse with AI outfits multiplying quite quickly – each of which needs to train its own products.

Any platform, including Twitter, that expects to thrive needs to learn to adapt to this reality.  Whether the answer is rate limiters like those recently imposed by Twitter, remains to be seen.

Free Speech or Censorship

Much of the debate over which platform is best stems from one thing – free speech.  There are plenty of options available that boast friendly interfaces and versatility in their capabilities.  What often sets each apart is the approach toward censorship and free speech.

A problem that no single platform has yet to solve is where to draw the line.  Should literally anything be allowed?  Probably not, as your feed would be littered with hate and bigotry.  Should only like-minded views be shared with followers?  Also no, because no one should live in an echo chamber that leaves readers ignorant to the views of others.

Unfortunately, it is not as simple as a company like Twitter deciding to abolish censorship.  There are forces outside the control of such companies (ie. Governments) which continue to exert pressure to stifle commentary that doesn't align with their goals.  This has become such an issue that recently the New York Times shared and article titledFederal Judge Limits Biden Officials Contacts with Social Media Sites‘.  The reason for this stemmed from a belief that the current administration was doing its best to ‘silence its critics'.

With censorship becoming such a hot topic – and rightfully so – Twitter and any competitors set on supplanting it as the go-to social media platform for disseminating information need to find where to draw a line in the sand that will filter harmful content without stifling free speech.

Top Twitter Alternatives

As previously stated, there are already a variety of competitors looking to dethrone Twitter.  While Threads will have its own opportunity to do so, we will need to wait and see what kind of adoption the app boasts upon launch.  For the time being, the following are widely viewed as the top alternatives active for use.

Mastodon

Mastodon is an open-source, decentralized social networking service, comparable to Twitter.  Unlike Twitter's centralized model, Mastodon's federated system enables individual servers for user-created communities, providing enhanced privacy and moderation tools.  It supports 500-character posts, compared to Twitter's 280, and doesn't use algorithms for content sorting.

Parler

Parler is a social media platform popular with conservative users and those seeking less content moderation than platforms like Twitter.  It offers similar post-and-follow features but has been associated with free speech controversies due to its hands-off approach to content regulation, resulting in occasional app store removals.

Gab

Gab is a social media platform known for its minimal moderation and commitment to free speech, attracting a user base with diverse viewpoints.  While similar to Twitter in functionality, offering post and follow features, Gab's lax approach to content regulation has stirred controversy and criticism, distinguishing it from mainstream platforms.

NOSTR

NOSTR is an open protocol that aims to create a censorship-resistant global data-sharing network by improving social media and enabling decentralized communication.  It aims to differentiate itself from Twitter by offering better protection against censorship and a more private and secure environment.  NOSTR focuses on fostering meaningful connections and conversations rather than prioritizing follower counts.  It achieves this through features such as limited character counts, an upvoting system to prioritize quality content, and enhanced privacy settings and encryption.  NOSTR provides a more controlled, intimate, and secure social media experience compared to Twitter.

Will Twitter Be Replaced?

Honestly?  Probably not.  The best tech doesn't always win, even when it should.  While there are rivals that may boast a better approach to certain aspects of their platform, Twitter does everything decently well.  What will allow Twitter to remain atop are two things – personalities and complacency.

Ultimately, people tune in to Twitter to view the opinions of influential individuals.  As long as big personalities like Elon Musk, Presidential candidates, business tycoons, etc., continue to use the platform, the masses will follow.

Secondly, the majority of people are complacent.  Twitter is a known entity with a familiar interface.  For most, the platform works as it should, and as long as its users are provided with a semblance of free speech, there will most likely not be enough incentive to venture out.  Simply put – the status quo is easier to digest.

The good news is, there are plenty of options available for people of every ilk and those willing to see what else is on offer.

Joshua Stoner is a multi-faceted working professional. He has a great interest in the revolutionary 'blockchain' technology.