Having witnessed the rise and fall of social networks in the past, I am observing with a keen vested interest the shift currently happening to social media platforms.
The reason behind this current shift, to a large degree, is incomparably different: The Twitter steward making degrading changes affecting many demographics that use Twitter as a connection and communication tool continues to be one of the driving forces for users seeking alternative platforms. Many prominent establishments, high-profile individuals along with ‘average consumers’, unhinged from the Twitter platform, no longer fear leaving now that there are multiple viable options to migrate to.
While all these transitions are happening, the user adoption and allegiance to one platform over the other play a key factor in distinguishing the two sets of users. There is a strong sense of tribalism and gatekeeping happening within the platforms, with the same mindset extended and directed towards competing platforms.
Instead of unifying and establishing a stronghold on these new platforms, a section of the user base spends more time being defensive of their platform medium choice by being bitchy and hostile towards each other and the competing platforms.
The fight shouldn’t be among ourselves, but energetically, with conviction directed towards the platforms to transparently address the political, racial, sexual and transphobic issues to protect its users at all cost.
The user, after all, is undeniably the most critical aspect of any platform. A platform's foundation and features are ultimately meaningless without the user's presence and engagement.
As we go through separation anxiety (Thanks, Twitter), we should all seek a place we feel welcomed, respected, valued, protected and safe.
Different yet familiar, or familiar yet different?
It is interesting to observe the different user requirements; some want a direct Twitter clone without Elon at the helm – Bluesky. Others prefer a complete separation from the algorithm-base Twitter experience – Mastodon.
The two platforms share a commonality in spearheading the rapid adoption of migrating users who fled Twitter, which continues to drive the nail deeper into Twitter's coffin.
Decentralisation is the other shared commonality.
Although, in the case of Bluesky (as of writing this), it is currently in an invite-only beta testing stage. The AT Protocol is being built to allow new network/app registrations to be a fully decentralised, and hopefully, a federated system. Whether Bluesky remains the de-facto network for the Bluesky company on the AT Protocol once it opens up for network registrations remains to be seen.
Even though one of the many platforms springing to life right now will be an eventual ‘winner’ in attracting mass adoption and user engagement, the amount of scepticism directed at their survival chances is astonishing, to say the least. It is almost as if numerous people want to see failure.
No platform is perfect. Each will have its limitations and challenges to address.
What do I currently think?
I have been on Mastodon for more than six months and Bluesky for a little over a month. I genuinely like both networks and have no ill wish to see either fail or become obscure.
My focus and interest lie in observing and learning about the stages of building these networks from conceptualising, designing, deploying, harnessing and maintaining growth.
Heading into the new world of social media decentralisation, I have no interest in making predictions neither for relevance nor notoriety about the future of these platforms – I could not give a damn about ‘I was right’.
Whatever is written in the stars for the respective networks, I hope the fortunes are good – because we all win when there are multiple successful social media platforms on the open web to suit the needs of the many.