Elon Musk’s Twitter Overhaul Is Panicking Users and Good News for Alternative Platforms

Twitter could become chaotic under Elon Musk, and there are plenty of social platforms looking to take its place.

Mastodon app displayed on mobile with Twitter on screen in background
Elon Musk is blessing for Mastodon. NurPhoto via Getty Images

On the same day Elon Musk purchased Twitter, Mastodon, a smaller competitor, gained 70,000 new users. As Musk begins to implement his plan to make Twitter a haven for free speech, which could include reinstating Donald Trump’s account, it seems he’s also driving Twitter users to new platforms.

In the week since the deal finalized, Musk has fired many company executives, announced the formation of a content moderation council and is consulting with his friends on business strategy. He also seems to be live-tweeting his decisions as they’re being made, including debating author Stephen King over the price of account verification.

The future of Twitter is very much a question right now. Before Musk’s purchase, some right-wingers criticized the platform for perceived strict content moderation against conservative voices, which led to the creation of various right-leaning social networks promoting free speech and limited censorship. Now, some fear Musk will “turn Twitter into a right-wing cesspool that could hand Trump 2024,” as Vanity Fair wrote, referring to the next presidential election. And if Musk continues his chaotic tweeting as he builds the platform into the super app he envisions, some users might flock for more stable communities on smaller social media apps. Here are the some of the other players:

Mastodon

Mastodon is decentralized, so users join specific “servers,” similar to Facebook groups, which determine their username and the guidelines they must abide by. It has no advertisements.

  • User count: 817,000
  • Founded: Oct. 2016
  • Founded by: Eugen Rochko, who began developing the site as a computer science student at the University of Jena in Germany 
  • Users: Germany has the largest number of users followed by the U.S.
  • The site is free and open sourced, and the platform is maintained by volunteers 
  • There is no central organization to report content to. The servers can create echo chambers of similar ideas
  • On the day Musk bought Twitter, Mastodon saw 70,000 new users sign up
  • Because of the platform’s decentralization, it can be difficult to find friends online

Cohost

Cohost looks like Facebook but embraces different fonts within posts and supports user-created games within the feed.

  • User count: 39,000
  • Founded: June 2022
  • Founded by: Colin Bayer, a former Microsoft employee, and Jae Kaplan, a software engineer
  • Owned by: Anti Software Software Club, which is a software company owned by the founders and Aidan Grealish, who now works at Cohost
  • Primary funding by: an undisclosed investor
  • Users: largely English-speaking millennials
  • Cohost gained 16,000 new users last week leading up to the Musk deal, which is larger than its launch numbers

WikiTribune Social

WT Social is meant to spark conversation about the day’s news. Users post in community discussions through “SubWikis,” which are similar to Reddit threads. The platform has no ads.

  • User count: 450,000
  • Founded: Oct. 2019
  • Founded by: Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia co-founder, and Orit Kopel, human rights activist
  • Funded by: donations 
  • Investors: Nesta, a U.K. early-stage investor 
  • Users: Those interested in discussing the news and correcting misinformation

Ello

Ello displays art in a feed made up of side by side posts similar to Pinterest’s home page, and it doesn’t have ads. 

  • User count: 1 million 
  • Founded: March 2014
  • Founded by: Todd Berger, graphic designer, and Paul Budnitz, who also founded Kidrobot, a collectables retailer
  • Owned by: Talenthouse, which oversees a network of creative platforms 
  • Primary funding by: Techstars Ventures and Foundry Group, both of which are U.S.-based venture capital firms
  • Other Investors: FreshTracks Capital, a U.S.-based early stage venture capital firm
  • Users: creatives, photographers, graphic designers 
  • The site makes money by offering purchasable features for users to customize their profiles
Elon Musk’s Twitter Overhaul Is Panicking Users and Good News for Alternative Platforms