3 Twitter alternatives, in case you’re looking
Get in, loser, we're going back to Tumblr.
After a week of tedious will-they-won’t-they, Twitter has accepted Elon Musk’s $44 billion bid to buy the company, making the richest man in the world the owner of one of the biggest social media platforms in existence. Some users have a problem with that.
While many people—including Twitter founder, Jack Dorsey— cheered the decision, a sizable portion of the tweeting population cringed at the idea of the Tesla and SpaceX CEO—himself an avid Twitter user—taking control of the platform. Unhappy, they tapped out their intentions to flee if the deal goes through. But where to?
Well, we checked, and some of the countless available social media platforms do have the potential to feel a bit like Twitter. If you’re thinking about where to set up shop next, these should be your first stops.
Even before news broke of the Twitter-Musk deal, users started tweeting about dusting off their old Tumblr accounts. If you never experienced the good ol’ days of peak Tumblr, the best way to understand the platform is to think of it as Twitter’s and Instagram’s forbidden love child.
Tumblr’s design makes it more of a visual-first platform than Twitter, but you can post all sorts of content: text, photos, videos, GIFs, and even audio. You can also interact with posts from people you follow by reposting (retweeting) them and replying to them just like you would on Twitter.
In the beginning and during its heyday, this platform was a haven for women, fandoms, artists, and the LGBTQI+ community, who were free to post all sorts of content, some of it tagged as erotica. Tumblr’s decline began when Yahoo bought the platform in 2013, but the biggest hit came when Verizon acquired the site in 2017. The telecom company set up stricter community guidelines that purged all adult content from the site (including that of an artistic or educational nature), driving a lot of users onto other platforms, like Twitter.
Does Tumblr feel like Twitter?
Yes, sort of. Just like the bird app, Tumblr has a history of dealing with problematic user behavior—including pornography, trolling, and the glorification of self-harm. But the company has cracked down on a variety of tags for iOS (including #me and #selfie due to their perceived proximity to banned behavior), and its community guidelines are not as lax as Twitter’s. Also, you won’t find as many people here, but maybe that’s what you prefer.
Mastodon was officially born in 2016, but a lot of people stumbled across the name for the first time after Musk’s bid for Twitter ceased to be a rumor. The platform is a lot like Twitter with one major difference: it’s open-source and decentralized. This means that instead of one server or environment where everyone interacts with each other, Mastodon has many (they’re called instances). This prevents any one person or company from owning the platform. But it also means you’re more at the mercy of the multiple people who run the servers you join.
You can interact freely with everyone else at a “federal” level—meaning regardless of what community you or they belong to—or join more than one server at a time. If you change your mind, the platform allows you to move your entire account, including your followers, from one community to another.
All this makes the Mastodon concept a little difficult to understand up front, so the learning curve for new users is a bit steeper than other platforms. Still, the best way to truly see if Mastodon is for you is to create an account and dive in head first.
Does Mastodon feel like Twitter?
Definitely. You get two timelines (one local and one “federated”) which can be confusing at first. But the interface is similar to Twitter’s and although you don’t tweet, you toot. Another benefit: there seems to be way less toxicity on Mastodon compared to Twitter, so finding your place on the platform may be a gift to your mental health.
With only 123,900 users as of February 2022, Pillowfort is a small social network, and its size might be both a strength and a weakness when it comes to choosing a place to set up camp outside Twitter. The platform launched in 2017, and it became a real alternative to people who left Tumblr after the community guidelines changed.
Pillowfort was highly attractive to those users for two main reasons: its interface is similar to Tumblr’s (especially because it gives more space to photos and videos) and it allows adult content. This is why the platform currently has a thriving fandom community that found a place for posting after Tumblr purged the NSFW tag from the site.
Still, even though Pillowfort is friendly to adult content creators, it’s more than that. The site emphasizes content filtering and giving users the ability to interact with a handpicked group of people. Sign up, and you’ll be able to blacklist bothersome accounts, preventing them from seeing your posts or contacting you in any way—even through reposted content or instant messaging. Users can also filter out NSFW posts by toggling a switch. The problem is that the definition of what falls under this category is murky at best, and it only seems to include porn and sex-related posts, leaving gore and violence, for example, to run free on your timeline.
Right now, Pillowfort is in an open beta stage, and new users can only create accounts if they’re invited by an existing member of the community (members can send three invites a month) or they pay a one-time fee of $5. This, the developers say, allows the platform to stay independent and continue to freely support adult content. If you are not friends with anybody on Pillowfort and you’re not sure you want to pay, you can take a tour of the platform as a “demo user,” which will give you a pretty good idea of what you’ll encounter if you decide to join.
Does Pillowfort feel like Twitter?
In all fairness, Pillowfort feels a lot more like Tumblr. But since Tumblr is already a bit like Twitter, we think it’s close enough for you to consider it as a replacement. Pillowfort’s user base is still pretty small though, which may be a problem if there’s a highly specific community you want to find in there.