What is microblogging?
The term “microblogging” feels like one of those overly technical terms that academics use to describe digital behavior in a way that nobody else cares about (anybody remember image macros?)
In essence, microblogging is a combination of blogging and instant messaging that allows users to create short messages to be posted and shared with an audience online “source”
The state of microblogging
Up until a few years ago, the laziest way to describe microblogging might have been to say “it’s a nerdy way to describe Twitter”. Now we find ourselves in a world where a few things have changed.
Here’s a recap of what’s happened in the last few years:
- Twitter has been taken over by an unhinged billionaire
- The unhinged billionaire has set fire to Twitter’s reputation and functional status as the “only legitimate player” in the microblogging sphere by removing important user protections, firing key development staff, and putting core functionality behind a paywall.
- Decentralized social media web platforms such as Mastodon, Diaspora, Pleroma, and CalcKey have emerged as open-source, self-hosted microblogging solutions that use the ActivityPub protocol to federate posts between individual networks
- These decentralized platforms became collectively known as the “fediverse”
- Tens of thousands (perhaps hundreds of thousands) of people left Twitter and joined an instance of the fediverse
- Bluesky emerged as the VC-backed alternative to Mastodon (aka a decentralized microblogging service) and created significant buzz as they initiated an invite-only beta deployment of the platform.
- Bluesky does not have a working proof-of-concept for federation. It is in their roadmap and seems to be considered a core feature, but for the moment it only exists in theory.
- A handful of popular Twitter users (dril, AOC, etc.) created accounts on Bluesky.
What is the best microblogging platform?
At the moment, the best microblogging platform is anything that is not Twitter (or it’s faschy compatriots Truth Social and Gab).
Are you on Mastodon? Great! Do you prefer Bluesky because the fediverse gives you a headache? Fantastic!
Where are we going?
The internet is in the midst of a great upheaval where millions of users are finding their way onto various lifeboats as the SS Twitter takes on more and more water.
It is unrealistic at this point for us to expect that a single platform will put Twitter out of business. The answer to “What comes after Twitter” is difficult to answer because nothing is going to fill the void of the platform that carried us through the dumpster-fire nightmare years of the recent past.
There is at least an entire decade’s worth of social and economic capital tied up on the birdsite. Let’s consider a fake company called “Jones Cafe”. Now, the owners of this cafe (lets refer to them as the Joneses) are really good at running a coffee shop, but they’re not web developers. They’re also not marketing experts, but they do know that their company needs a presence on social media.
In our example here, the Joneses paid a local web developer a few hundred dollars to spin up a good looking website through Squarespace. The developer added a widget to the site, which links to the cafe’s Facebook and Twitter pages. The Joneses aren’t exactly power-users, but they do spend some time each week putting fresh content into these platforms.
Now, if we are talking about “the death of Twitter”, imagine how long it will take for the Joneses to change platforms to something new. First, their customers will have to leave the platforms in numbers that large and shocking enough that the Joneses will rethink the amount of effort they put into posting to the platform. Second, once the Joneses have created an account on Bluesky or Mastodon, they’ll need to re-engage that web developer to remove the birdsite logo/link from their website and add the logo/link to their new account.
This kind of shift involves an incredible amount of effort. It’s like turning a giant freight container ship. It doesn’t happen quickly, but it’s not at all impossible.
Leave Twitter. Go somewhere else - doesn’t matter if it’s Mastodon or Bluesky (although I very much prefer Mastodon because it’s not controlled by VC capitalists). Encourage people in your community to also leave Twitter and follow you to the fediverse (or Bluesky…blech).