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Celebs and Politicians Join Mark Zuckerberg's Twitter Clone Threads - Why Didn't They Join the Fediverse Instead?

When the news that Elon Musk had acquired a controlling stake in Twitter broke in April 2022, I immediately left the platform.

I had joined the birdsite ten years earlier and I really enjoyed it until 2016, when political events and the newly introduced engagement algorithm turned it into what — in my personal opinion some will disagree with — was a cesspool of anger, outrage, disinformation, shallow takes and tribalism.

Threads. Google Play Store screenshot

Nuanced and constructive debate became nearly impossible. Ideologically homogeneous microtribes hostile to any form of disagreement, engaging in online feuds and dunking contests, proliferated. By 2021 I had grown tired of it all, spending less and less time on the platform.

However, Musk's purchase of Twitter was the last straw. I quit it altogether and moved to Wikitribune Social and to the fediverse.

I became a big fan of the fediverse (a portmanteau of "federation" and "universe"), which is an ensemble of interconnected (federated) servers independently hosted but able to communicate with each other.

The concept behind the fediverse is that it is decentralised. Each server is run independently, therefore no single corporation can control it. Servers usually run on a non-profit basis, funded by donations.

I thought that Musk's takeover of Twitter might perhaps awaken people to the danger of the internet being controlled by oligarchs with dubious motives and authoritarian political views. I hoped that pro-democracy politicians, the White House, influential people like Barack Obama, Robert Reich, Ruth Ben-Ghiat and celebrities would join the fediverse and tell their millions of followers to do the same. If that had happened, Twitter would have imploded and been relegated to the status of yet another far right echochamber like Parler.

However, that did not happen. The big accounts mostly remained loyal to Twitter. It turns out that they had invested so much time in the platform and amassed such a huge following that they had become addicted to and/or dependent on it. They could have broken the shackles of corporate control. But the shackles were too strong.

Then, on July 5, 2023, Meta launched its Twitter clone Threads.

Within the first seven hours it gained over 10 million users, according to a post by CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Plenty of celebrities jumped onboard the new platform. Among them are:

•Ellen DeGeneres, 75.4 million Twitter followers. Her first post on the new app was: "Welcome to Gay Twitter!"

•Bill Gates, 62.9 million Twitter followers.

•Shakira, 53.8 million Twitter followers.

•Jennifer Lopez, 44.9 million Twitter followers.

•Oprah Winfrey, 42.2 million Twitter followers.

The most puzzling one to me was Democratic lawmaker Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has 13.3 million followers on Twitter. Her first Threads post was:

"Alright, let's do this thing! May this platform have good vibes, strong community, excellent humor, and less harassment."

For months, there was a non-profit alternative to Twitter. To my knowledge, only very few big Twitter accounts, like George Takei, moved to the fediverse (I'm not counting mirror accounts that automatically reposted their Twitter content on the fediverse).

Considering AOC's very left-wing opinions (far to the left of me), I find it baffling that she waited for another billionaire oligarch to offer her an alternative to motivate her to jump ship.

I marvel at why a non-profit solution did not manage to go mainstream, to grow into the public town square that is not owned by any single corporate entity. Perhaps it will at some point. Yet thus far Threads seems to be catching on much more quickly.

Having said that, I am not an absolutist. I am active on various corporate platforms. I welcome more competition, which is essential. I don't like oligopolies. The fediverse is far from perfect and I had to take breaks from it. However, it remains a huge opportunity that so many influential people ignored or chose not to seize.



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