Journalism realizes the replacement for Twitter is not a new Twitter

In 2023, Twitter will diminish in relevance.

In response, news organizations and journalists will learn to stop asking, “What is the new Twitter?” and start running spaces of their own that provide safety and value without being vulnerable to the whims of unhinged billionaires.

That doesn’t mean that each org will have to run its own Twitter, because these spaces will connect to a wider ecosystem and be enabled by new aggregation apps that emerge in 2023.

This new type of app isn’t a platform itself but instead pulls together various platform and content streams to offer a single, seamless networked experience. It’s more like a podcast app or SMS or an email inbox — that is, compatible with certain content types published by multiple sources, instead of providing a single, walled-garden experience.

The technology underpinning these apps will be protocols — RSS, ActivityPub, and others, along with APIs and webhooks — allowing disparate communities and platforms to publish side by side in one place. This is how we get network effects while offering real choice in community, publishing tools, moderation, and filters.

Let me give you an example of how this will work. Imagine an app — let’s call it Chirper. It’s one of many that launch in 2023.

Chirper users connect the different accounts they have in various communities, just as you might connect your bank to Paypal. And it provides each of the core benefits of Twitter in very different ways.

Once you’re using Chirper, you can:

Quickly and easily publish to an audience of your followers across platforms. It doesn’t matter if your text is stored on a Mastodon server or a CMS or some other community space. Chirper lets you choose to publish everywhere or restrict a post only to closed groups or paying subscribers.
Get instant feedback/dopamine rushes via likes, mentions, and replies. It’s not only posts that are syndicated. Engagement is, too, depending on the Chirper settings and filters that you control. Chirper also provides meaningful, actionable analytics, finally realizing the vision of ThinkUp.
You can connect with and contact people privately. Thanks to an ecosystem enabled by protocol-based systems, Chirper connects to trusted, opt-in directories and anonymized, filtered mailboxes for mentions and DMs.
You can have community conversations in public or with select groups. Chirper lets you bring people together for consent-based chats, either ad hoc or ongoing. Instead of trying to manage these discussions and notifications across many spaces, Chirper can bring them together into a single place or into logically separated work/play/family spaces, each with their own settings. One-touch sharing across communities on Chirper becomes seamless when you want it, and almost impossible when you don’t.
You can read the experiences and ideas of people like you, and not like you; you can join a movement, a trend, a shared experience in real time. Through algorithms you can understand and control, Chirper lets you see what’s happening across different aspects of your network, similar to Nuzzel. You can find key hashtags/people/orgs, and see what is trending across networks. Third-party “trending topic finder/explainer” subscription services are also part of the Chirper ecosystem — paid for by ads, they help broaden your thinking without being overwhelmed.
You can have built-in verification of reputation, identity, and status.: If you’re a member of your organization’s community instance, you can reveal that on Chirper — or hide the specifics but confirm your industry. Trusted third-party services on Chirper maintain verification and protect against fakers without making you vulnerable.
You have powerful filtering and blocking tools.: Chirper has core tools that work like Block Party to provide individualized anti-troll/abuse filters alongside opt-in connections to third-party AIs and community-based moderation to remove, block, or mute certain individuals or instances.
You can make money as an independent creator. Chirper lets you make your posts into private/subscriber-only feeds, with optional ads inserted also before reading/watching/listening. Subscribers to your site can automatically be granted access without giving Chirper any of your information.

Most importantly, Chirper is not a single monopolistic space run by a thin-skinned, VC-backed CEO who takes all of our data in exchange for begrudgingly speed-learning moderation principles on the cheap, yet again leaving marginalized people to be abused on their platform.

In the Chirper world, there is still a need for human-based moderation on a platform/community level, but this doesn’t need to scale in the ways that single platforms do.

Chirper isn’t just a pipe dream. Tweetbot creator Tapbots is already working on an app called Ivory to turn Mastodon into a simpler, Twitter-like experience. European lawmakers may also use the implosion of Twitter to put pressure on platforms to adopt open protocols.

We have to face the truth: We cannot trust closed platforms to keep us safe, protect our data, or act in the best interests of journalism. The economics of Silicon Valley just don’t work that way. We need to see beyond single platforms to an ecosystem of spaces, some of which we can build and control, and then we can decide when and how the benefits of network effects outweigh the drawbacks.

In 2023, journalism starts to realize that the replacement for Twitter is not a new Twitter. Instead, we can go beyond the current restrictions to tear down the fences and turn these walled gardens into a park.

Andrew Losowsky is the head of community product at Vox Media.

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