How Twitter Survived Elon Musk

February 26, 2023

In late October 2022 Elon Musk bought twitter. He started by mercilessly firing and laying off staff. He recklessly tweeted conspiracy theories. Advertisers decamped the platform. Some folks concerned about harassment, misinformation, and other issues left for Mastodon. Many folks were writing obituaries for twitter, but I logged in yesterday and found it alive and kicking.

Why It Matters

Social networks live and die by the vote of the feet of their members. Despite a rich market of alternatives from Mastodon to Facebook, a large chunk of folks stayed on twitter. This is not an endorsement of Elon Musk’s political views nor personal habits, but certainly a sign that his decisions from a business perspective were right.

By the Numbers

What I am Seeing

A lot of folks hedged their bets and opened Mastodon accounts in 2022. Predictably there is a robust group of folks interested in Ruby (the language Mastodon is written in) along with Apple products. Independent app developers started making nicer Mastodon clients. Most brands and many people I was interested in following did not bother with Mastodon. I tried following Formula 1 related content and hashtags on Mastodon over the weekend and it was crickets, mostly bot mirrors of official accounts.

What Mastodon is Missing

  • Official brand accounts. There are some, but not nearly as much as twitter.
  • Search and discovery. Mastodon has its own norms and rationale for kneecapping search, but until it figures out how to funnel users to the content they want, it will lose interest fast.
  • News media mindshare. I see lots of articles in my News app that quote and embed tweets, I have yet to see one embed a Mastodon Post.

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This work by Matt Zagaja is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.