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Is there life after Twitter? A rundown of all the alternatives that have cropped up


Facebook's parent company, Meta, dropped a new app called Threads, and it's a huge hit. And you may be thinking, another social media platform? Well, that's what I thought. So we called Naomi Nix. She's a reporter covering social media companies at The Washington Post. Welcome to the program.

NAOMI NIX: Hi. Thanks for having me.

RASCOE: So, you know, first introduce us to this newest edition, Threads. I'm on it. I did get on it. But what is it, and why has it been so successful? Because I'm not really posting on it too much yet.

NIX: Yeah, well, you are among, it sounds like, the more than 70 million people who've given it a try.

RASCOE: Seventy million?

NIX: It's been wildly successful for Meta, even though, actually, the concept of Threads is nothing new. It's like your regular text-based social media app that looks a lot like Twitter, except it's not run by Elon Musk.

RASCOE: You know, Twitter is a place where a lot of people get their news, you know, follow some big breaking news event. But the head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, has said he wants Threads to be more than just a space for the news. What are the possible implications of that?

NIX: It's probably important to kind of draw some distinctions here. Threads is an app that's intimately connected to Instagram. And I think what Adam was hinting at is the communities around Instagram, like, are more lifestyle oriented, right? And Twitter has really had, you know, more of a focus on, like, this is the place where world events happen. This is the place where news happens. And so what Adam, you know, the head of Instagram, is trying to say is, we think we can create a text-based platform like on Twitter but that doesn't have as much news and political content that brings the company so much regulatory scrutiny, so much controversy. And I think he got a lot of pushback from that. You know, they kind of said, look. If it's a text-based app and journalists are here and the newsmakers are here - right? - politicians have already joined Threads - that the political problems that the company has faced on Facebook and Instagram are going to follow to Threads, as well.

RASCOE: So there are other apps out there. Threads is the - seems to be the big, new dog in town. But what about this app Bluesky? What is that?

NIX: Bluesky- it has an interesting backstory. It actually started as, like, a side project at Twitter but has since gone independent. And it's being run by former Twitter founder Jack Dorsey. And it looks and feels a lot like Twitter in that it's, like, text-based. You know, it's part of this sort of new movement of social media apps that are really trying to become decentralized. And so the idea of, like, sort of decentralized social networking is that, like, the social media app won't just be run by, like, sort of one person or one group but that different communities on the site will sort of create their own rules of the road, their own ways of sort of moderating each other.

RASCOE: So who does that idea of, like, that decentralized community that Bluesky is trying to put forward - like, who does that cater to? Like, who are the types of people who would really work well or that would appeal to?

NIX: It definitely appeals to the companies themselves. Social media platforms have long been in a tough spot when it comes to, like, moderating their platforms because Republicans will say in the United States that the tech platforms are doing too much to moderate their platforms and to rid them of things like hate speech or calls to violence or inappropriate misinformation. And then they also face criticisms on the left from activists and regulators who say they're not doing enough. And so one sort of benefit to a decentralized system is that the companies largely get out of the business of having to be the deciders, having to play referee. I think, also, that there's some appeal to users who do want, like, a specific community of people that they're trying to interact with who will know their language. We've heard of Black Twitter or a particular sports, and so they all sort of come together. And so I think, you know, that idea of, like, building communities who understand each other might appeal to people.

RASCOE: You mentioned Black Twitter, but now there's this new app called Spill, and it's a social media site that's supposed to be catered towards Black people but inclusive of everyone. Are we seeing people head to that site?

NIX: Yeah. So Spill is still in beta version, but it was founded by two former Twitter employees. And yes, the idea is to cater to Black Twitter. We're seeing social media sites - certainly Twitter is one example - walk back their content moderation standards. And some people of color on social media have raised concerns that that will create an inherently less safe place to be on social media for people of color and other sort of vulnerable users. And so I think that's another potential pro of an app like Spill, that it might give a sense of security to communities who might not inherently feel as safe on other platforms.

RASCOE: That's Washington Post reporter Naomi Nix. Thank you so much for joining us.

NIX: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.

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