Ever since Elon Musk took over Twitter, rarely has a day passed without a bunch of people announcing that they are moving away from the social network. Their reasons vary from a personal dislike of Twitter’s new boss to his treatment of existing staff to proposed changes to Twitter. Small wonder that the past week has seen a slew of “Twitter alternatives” listicles in different publications and websites, telling people about other social networks that could be used as an alternative to the one now being run by Mr. Musk.

elon musk twitter
Image: INC

Twitter is not just about functions and features

A big error being committed by the authors of many of these pieces is to evaluate Twitter purely in terms of features. So any app or network that allows you to share or respond to messages with a community is being touted as a ‘Twitter alternative.’ Many even highlight extra features that other apps have – the ability to write longer messages, share longer videos, see fewer ads, and so on. If only it were that simple. The geeks might not like the sound of this, but Twitter’s greatest strength is not its features or even how simple it is to use. It is its massive reach, one which it has been built over the years.

Twitter has the buzz because it has the people…and vice versa

However, just how many alternatives there REALLY are to Twitter became brutally evident last night. An earthquake rocked parts of the Indian sub-continent at 2 am yesterday. While most other social networks and even TV networks were rather slow to get to the news, Twitter was buzzing about it literally within a minute of it taking place. We have accounts with Mastodon (the most popular Twitter alternative right now) and Koo, as well as a few other social networks, but the only ones that seemed to come close to Twitter were actually Instagram (with “earthquake” stories going up within seconds) and good old Facebook. And today, a friend of mine who is trying very hard to adopt Mastodon came back to Twitter because “no one talks about cricket here.”

twitter vs mastodon
Image: The Star

That really sums up the problem any site or app going up against Twitter will face – the fact that there is no other social network out there that can match its sheer dynamism, reach, and presence. Even after all the hue and cry over the Musk era, the fact is that things seem to happen much more on Twitter than on any of its alternatives. It is not just about getting alerts about events around the world. However, other tasks too – users still take to Twitter to get quick responses to problems with brands and their products because those brands are on Twitter in an official capacity and often respond swiftly.

Governments, banks, institutions, celebrities…there are so many of them on Twitter. Walking away from Twitter is not just walking away from the empire of Mr. Musk but also a whole world of convenience and familiarity that many users have built over the years. A Twitter handle is part of the contact information for many people. Even the traditional media tracks Twitter as a sort of barometer of online public opinion.

It ain’t perfect, it has Mr. Musk, but there ain’t anything like Twitter…yet

Twitter is not the only social network or service to have this sort of reach. There are a number of search engines out there, but people keep going to Google. Instagram may butcher image quality and restrict video length, but it remains the social network of choice for many when it comes to pictures and videos. And yes, all the fears about WhatsApp giving user data to Facebook do not seem to have driven users away from the messaging service.

simple (bitter) truth: there is no real alternative to twitter…not yet! - tweet tweet
Image: Reputation Today

The longer an app stays popular, the less it becomes about what it does, and the more about who and how many use it. And Twitter has been around for a while now. Any app or service looking to take its place will not just have to replicate its features but also its reach. A number of people are on Twitter because, well, there are a staggering number of people on Twitter. That’s just how it is. And barring a mass exodus because of some dramatic event – something we cannot rule out under the aegis of Mr. Musk – that is not likely to change soon.

If what you are seeking is simply a place to express your thoughts and have discussions, then there are no end of options out there. But if you are looking to get something close to the complete Twitter experience on another app or service right now, the truth, which some might consider bitter, is that there is no real option out there. Not yet, anyway. On the bright side, nothing is stopping you from moving to another service and building up your community. Just do not expect your experience to hit Twitter-like levels soon. It is not about you but all the other folks who are on Twitter.

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