How Twitter and Other Social Media Will Fade Away
There is much buzz about Threads and whether it can be the successor to Twitter. Twitter has been much in the news since Musk bought it, with each of his attempts to make it profitable causing more damage to the platform. The latest is to restrict the number of tweets that a user can see per day.
A lesser-known situation is occurring at Reddit, where there is a struggle between management and the moderators of the community groups that started over management instigating charges for API access. The details are fascinating (to me, at least), but secondary.
These two examples fit well with an influential essay by Cory Doctorow that starts:
Here is how platforms die: first, they are good to their users; then they abuse their users to make things better for their business customers; finally, they abuse those business customers to claw back all the value for themselves. Then, they die. I call this enshittification, and it is a seemingly inevitable consequence…
Threads is ad-free at the moment, but Mark Zuckerberg has said that ads are coming:
make the product work well first, then see if we can get it on a clear path to 1 billion people, and only then think about monetization at that point.
In other words, enshittification is coming to Threads, not to mention that it fails to a) just show posts from people you follow, and b) show posts in chronological order.
Over time, open-source software has taken a larger and larger share of the market. On the internet: Linux, Apache, and WordPress; on the desktop: Audacity, Blender, and LibreOffice.
This will happen to social media platforms, too. There are a number of contenders: Mastodon, Hive, Spoutible, Lemmy, and more, and most of them can communicate with each other with a protocol called ActivitySub. As they grow, improve their ease of use, and federate, they will gain market share from the commercial platforms.
Existing social media live by selling ads and your demographic info. Funding for the alternatives will come from foundations and subscriptions. It is already happening with articles — look at Substack, Medium, and many websites.