fwd: R.I.P. Social Media
Meta launches an alternative for Twitter. But it's too little, too late. The age of social media is over.
With Elon Musk giving a masterclass in driving Twitter into the ground, competitors are out for blood. This week: Meta launches its clone, Threads. I’ll touch on what makes Threads interesting in a bit, but that is beside the point: social media as we know it, are over.
The precise time of death will be discussed by future historians, but the writing is on the wall: the age of online public squares has been on a slow decline for a while now. And talking about writing, here’s a quote Hemmingway I find particularly fitting for this piece: 'How do you go bankrupt? Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.'
Facebook has been haemorrhaging active users for years. Twitter, which was once described by Zuckerberg as a clown car that ran into a goldmine, is now just run by a clown. Not a week goes by where the Troll in Chief doesn’t make a decision where he doesn’t shoot himself in the foot with a bazooka. This week: limiting the number of tweets a user can read per day to 1000. And Reddit, which was lovingly called ‘the last good place on the internet’, seems to have been inspired by Musk. In an effort to finally make money, it managed to alienate almost its entire user base, causing a revolt among the community that built it.
"Facebook has been haemorrhaging active users for years. Twitter, which was once described by Zuckerberg as a clown car that ran into a goldmine, is now just run by a clown."
The people are pissed off, and jump ship. But where to?
The ‘fediverse’ maybe? Short for ‘federated universe’, platforms like Mastodon or BlueSky provide social networks just like Twitter, but run entirely by decentralised instances. While still able to connect and engage with other entities, instances set their own house rules. Goodbye, being at the whims of the king. Hello, interoperability.
That is what makes Threads interesting: it will support ActivityPub, one protocol underlying the fediverse. Meaning it will play well with other social networks.
Will we truly achieve that grand vision? A global network, not controlled by any one corporation?
"Some are more reluctant to linger around than others. But people are leaving the town square."
I dream. But it doesn’t matter. People aren’t looking for more of the same. Some are more reluctant to linger around than others (it’s not easy to say goodbye to your thousands of followers), but people are leaving the town square.
To veg out in front of the TV, for instance. TikTok (or YouTube Shorts and Instagram Reels) are not social media. They’re entertainment platforms, with some social veneer at best.
Meanwhile, apps like Artefacts (by the Instagram founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger) or Post.news (by Waze founder Noam Bardim) are no longer organising themselves around people to follow but around topics and content.
And who needs networks anyway? Group chats on Telegram, Signal, and WhatsApp are buzzing. The latter even embraces this with more Community-oriented features. If social media are chaotic, sprawling Megacities, here are small villages, and they’re thriving.
The future isn’t clear, so I won’t make any predictions on what the next thing will be. But I’ll say this: at least the future feels exciting.
The past feels like something that already went stale years ago, so I’ll call it: time of death for patient ‘social media’, 2023.