Tesla CEO Elon Musk purchased the platform for $44 billion at the end of October after a months-long saga. Since, Musk has been suggesting changes to its functionality, introducing policies like a subscription fee, and messed with the site’s verification badges, prompting a flood of fake accounts impersonating public figures and brands.
Since his initial bid to buy the company earlier this year, Twitter users have expressed concern for changes coming to the platform. And on Nov. 4, Musk began laying off thousands of the company’s approximately 7,500 employees, including many engineers responsible for keeping the platform running. Among the layoffs reportedly include the team dedicated to human rights, the accessibility team that worked on Twitter’s experience for people with disabilities, and the team working to reduce bias and harm. Staff responsible for information security, privacy, and trust and safety have also resigned.
In the wake of the changes, a reported million internet users have made a move to 2016-founded social platform Mastodon. The platform was built on the premise of creating independently run small communities called “instances” where members can talk to each other, rather than reading an endless stream of content in the form of a timeline. Posts are called “toots,” and they can be up to 500 characters long. Rather than retweeting, you “boost” posts.
Over 1 million people have joined Mastodon since October 27. Between that and those who returned to their old accounts, the number of active users has risen to over 1.6 million today, which, for context, is over 3 times what it was just about two weeks ago!
— Mastodon (@joinmastodon) November 12, 2022
In 2018, Indy Hall’s Alex Hillman created Jawns.Club on Mastodon, where Philadelphians still converge to discuss local topics.
“I was frustrated with the latest moves that Twitter has been making: from their unwillingness to effectively address abuse and ban bad actors, to killing the remaining third party apps, I don’t trust it anymore,” Hillman said then.
Four years later, Hillman is still going strong on the platform with fellow moderator Nelson Pavlosky. Hillman said in an email last week that he hasn’t been active the entire time, and after that seed of doubt about Twitter in 2018, most people “went back” to Twitter. Upkeep has been nominal, including a few hundred dollars in server fees, and Pavlosky has taken on a lot of responsibility in the infrastructure, Hillman said.
“We’d see a small bump anytime something bad would happen on Twitter, but like most social platforms, people gravitate to where their friends are,” Hillman said. “Myself included.”
Starting the Mastodon instance was an experiment more than anything else, he said, which still feels like the case in 2022. Hillman said he’s not convinced anything will “replace” Twitter. Mastodon doesn’t work just like Twitter does, though it does look similar. But he appreciates the “local,” almost neighborhood-like timeline that lets him see posts from everyone on their server. It’s more curated, Hillman said.
Since the Twitter purchase, Hillman said Jawns.Club has gotten its biggest influx of new members and activity since it launched in 2018, now with almost 700 members total — about 150 of which joined this past weekend alone. And folks are eager to keep the community going: When Pavlosky posted that the growth of members was going to cost him a bit more each year to run the server — around $300 — he quickly got more than enough donations and headroom for further upgrades that could be needed, Hillman said.
Has the purpose of the group changed in the last few weeks since the Twitter timeline has started falling apart?
“Maybe — hopefully — this is more of a chance for people to evaluate what they want and what they get out of social media,” Hillman said. “I see my role with jawns.club like any other community space that I lead — nobody can force this things to stick, the best I can do is observe and listen and within the bounds of what I can control, try to make it a good experience for everyone that shows up.”
Not every Twitter user is jumping ship, and it’ll likely take more time to figure out what the alternative platforms can offer. Do you have feelings about the Twitter situation, and if you’ll stick around there? Or just have a really good meme about the situation you want us to see? Let us know: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Leave Twitter just because it's fallen into disrepair under terrible leadership? Babe, I'm a Philadelphian
— Leonard Bonarek 🚎🚲🚎 (@LenniBug) November 13, 2022
When someone explains how Mastodon works pic.twitter.com/nbGUnKPBJS
— Casey Stegman (@cstegman) November 5, 2022
like no matter what
the last thing I want is another instance of a federated anything to manage
just not for me for reasons many others have articulated better already
— human barometer, M.M. (@laurenancona) November 6, 2022
If nothing else Mastodon is introducing people into the whole Open Source tradition of trying to be enthusiastic about something really bad that doesn't work at all because you don't want to be rude to the maintainers and the thing you really want to use doesn't work anymore.
— Naomi Wu 机械妖姬 (@RealSexyCyborg) November 7, 2022
It’s called Mastodon, T. It’s this app that people are joining in case Twitter gets whacked. It’s got all these servers and communities dedicated to different topics and shit. It’s fucking confusing to use. pic.twitter.com/AxGkJXjyZN
— 𓆙 𝔟𝔦𝔯𝔡𝔰 𝔫 𝔟𝔬𝔬𝔷𝔢 𝔬𝔲𝔯𝔱 𓆙 (@_ourt) November 13, 2022
Do you have feelings about the Twitter situation, and if you’ll stick around there? Let us know: email@example.com.
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