The lawsuit is eventually going to come down to: is the Fediverse a copy of Twitter or not.
- Mastodon has been around for years and isn’t getting sued. The only thing Threads has that Mastodon doesn’t is quote retweets. But Threads doesn’t have bookmarks or direct messages and Mastodon does.
- Calckey is another Fediverse platform that has had quote retweets for ages. It’s not getting sued either, because you never heard of it. So this lawsuit is purely about fear of competition. Not similarities of features.
- The Fediverse is growing. WordPress is now Fediverse compliant. So is Tumblr. And remember Bluesky from Twitter? It’s an exact clone of Twitter, but open source and Fediverse compliant. But Musk can’t sue Bluesky because he knew of it at the time of sale. Other platforms working to get on the Fediverse are Flipboard and Medium.
Twitter is being left outside in the cold.
People are leaving because of worsening community and user safety standards. The smaller Fediverse platforms have been relying on pooling their user bases to make up for the network effect advantage Twitter had, but have had the usual “I miss the people I used to follow on Twitter” issue that brought them back to Twitter.
Because the Fediverse is kinda geeky and niche. And you can’t follow your fave youtuber or Twitch streamer on there.
So using the Fediverse petered out after its initial spike.
And Twitter felt like they could ride this out. That the small pool of users on the Fediverse wasn’t enough to be a threat. That a new CEO would restore brand faith in the platform and generate user uptake.
Threads by Meta brings a bomb to a knife fight and makes it easy to auto-follow everyone you followed on Instagram in one click.
By the time they were served, they had 55 Million users. *
Suddenly, that tiny rock pool of Fediverse users is now the ocean. (or will be, when Bluesky and Threads go full Fediverse )
And Twitter is looking more like a neglected, unclean pool.
Some take-aways that shouldn’t need saying but apparently do:
- User safety on a platform can never be ignored if you care about sustaining growth. User safety complaints on Twitter long predate Musk’s acquisition of Twitter, but it certainly got a lot worse since.
- If you make the focus of your platform absolute freedom of speech (or conversely, go like Mozilla and prioritise safety and inclusion over it) expect that not everyone will agree with that and go elsewhere. The main thing is to work out if the base you will retain is willing to pay a subscription for it? If not, do you have other financial pipelines that do? If you do, that’s fine. But the fact that he’s suing, means he doesn’t think his chosen niche will do that.
- Either niche or don’t niche. It bears repeating.
- Open APIs work in a post-ad display digital economy, just as they worked before it. Twitter making its API more expensive – to the point where WordPress and other platforms stopped paying for it- was shortsighted and has backfired.
- Activity pub being the free and open API that powers the Fediverse is what’s making Meta so confident that Threads is best for creators. Because you can always change platforms and take your followers with you. That’s an irresistible USP for creators, who frequently complain about biased algorithms.
*Twitter is estimated to have 237.8M daily active users at Time of writing. (Source).
Moodthy Alghorairi is a product designer and digital consultant behind Wyld.Media. She’s been designing digital experiences since 2002. She’s a runner, mama to Floki (8 y.o parrot) and Thais (3 y.o human), and head geek at MadridGeeks.es. Follow her on social media below, or sign up for the newsletter to get new posts in your inbox.