Social media titan Twitter’s abrupt shift on Monday to a rebrand known as “X”, or the “Everything App”, has been met with considerable disagreement. Despite the management’s confidence in the new direction, many industry professionals and users express concerns that this rebrand could lead to negative outcomes.
Amidst a slew of controversial decisions and escalating user dissatisfaction, the open-source social media platform Mastodon has been quick to seize the opportunity, positioning itself as a viable alternative.
In July 2023, a significant increase of +67% was observed in the number of monthly active users of Mastodon, reaching 2.1 million. The number is edging close to its peak of 2.5 million users in October 2022. The uptick in user growth provides a contrast to the decreasing user base of Twitter, which has been a trend since Musk’s leadership.
The Everything App’s Loss, Mastodon’s Gain
Mastodon’s increase in its user base is likely attributed to the dissatisfaction among users of the Everything App. The interplay between Twitter and Mastodon often reflects in their user numbers, with Twitter’s missteps often leading to a growth in Mastodon’s user base. Mastodon’s numbers haven’t consistently grown, however. There was a decline from its peak in October 2022 to 1.7 million by the earlier part of this month.
Despite this, the user base of Mastodon is once again experiencing a growth trend. Various factors could contribute to this increase, including missteps from Twitter or heightened interest in ActivityPub, the protocol that facilitates Mastodon’s decentralized social networking functionality.
Other platforms like Instagram Threads have begun incorporating ActivityPub, raising awareness about decentralized social networking. Besides, Mastodon is gaining traction with tech companies like WordPress, Medium, and Flipboard, which have opted to integrate with the network.
Newly developed third-party clients like Ivory and Woolly are also enhancing Mastodon’s appeal against the Everything App. These have simplified the platform’s navigation and made it more user-friendly.
The Transformation of Twitter into “X”
The newly appointed CEO of X, Linda Yaccarino, affirms the success of the company and its future prospects, despite a rising chorus of complaints and an apparent slump in user numbers. In a 21 July memo leaked to CNBC, Yaccarino contends that usage of X’s service is at an “all-time high,” without backing up the claim with any concrete metrics.
Data from third-party web analytics firms such as Similarweb and criticisms from market analysts cast a long shadow over these optimistic claims, however.
X, under the guidance of owner Elon Musk, has been striving to redefine itself as an “everything app” rather than just a social media platform. The billionaire tech tycoon’s vision for X, first revealed in October 2022, entails creating an app capable of facilitating content monetization for creators, integrating payment services, and potentially even venturing into banking.
Buying Twitter is an accelerant to creating X, the everything app
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 4, 2022
The plan was further hinted at during a Twitter Spaces livestream in November 2022, where Musk brought up the subject of offering high-interest-rate money market accounts through the app to draw consumers in.
Yaccarino echoed these broad strategic outlines in her memo, promising to “delight our entire community with new experiences in audio, video, messaging, payments, banking – creating a global marketplace for ideas, goods, services, and opportunities.”
Already, some components of Musk’s vision for the Everything App have been put into practice. In May, X began allowing subscribers to upload videos as long as two hours, a feature that many users promptly leveraged. The controversial former Fox News host Tucker Carlson also took advantage of this feature to post lengthy videos until instructed to halt by the network. Additionally, earlier in July, X commenced sharing advertising revenue with verified creators, an example of the content monetization Musk had touted.
Unsettling Signs and Rising Competition
However, not all appears well for the Everything App. Third-party measurements reveal a noticeable decline in user traffic on X. Data provided by web analytics firm Similarweb shows that X’s web traffic fell 5% within two days of the rollout of the rival platform, Instagram Threads. Additionally, a comparison with the previous year’s figures reveals an 11% decrease in traffic. Another red flag was raised by Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince, who tweeted a graphic illustrating a sharp decrease in traffic to the X domain.
Despite the mounting evidence of X’s struggling user engagement, Yaccarino maintains an optimistic stance, citing a large usage day in early July. However, her claims lack specific metrics and data, and are clouded by reports that X had been discreetly blocking links to Threads.net on its platform.
In addition to traffic woes, X’s future also seems to be in question. Market analysts from Forrester predict that X might cease to operate or be acquired within the next 12 months, based on current trends. This belief is shared by many critics who foresee the X rebranding as a failure. Yaccarino, however, continues to applaud the efforts of her team in her memo, vowing that X will “impress the world all over again,” just as Twitter once did.
Mastodon’s user base growth amidst Twitter’s rebranding controversy highlights the delicate balance in social media platforms’ evolution. While X strives to redefine its identity, competitors are quick to seize opportunities, showcasing the user-centric nature of the industry. Despite undeniable signs of dwindling user numbers, X’s leadership remains defiant, asserting a bright future, a claim that rings hollow in the face of the current data trends. It will be intriguing to monitor the unfolding dynamics between these platforms.
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