Was there a Twitter exodus or just a Twitter break? Did it even matter? New data examines how a range of ‘Twitter alternatives’ have fared in the months since Elon Musk’s acquisition of the popular microblogging network, now that the flurry of new installs driven by his takeover s ‘is reduced. The data indicates that many apps continue to grow to a lesser degree while other apps have experienced a decline in growth. But it also shows that Twitter itself has never been significantly impacted, at least in terms of new app installs.
Downloads, of course, are just a window into the bigger picture. But it’s a metric that can be assessed independently, using third-party data, instead of relying on companies to report their own metrics — many of which don’t.
Interest in a group of Twitter alternatives began in late October, when Tesla and SpaceX executive Elon Musk officially closed his $44 billion Twitter acquisition. Continued chaos on the microblogging site has been the rule ever since. Amid controversial policy decisions and overnight changes, a subset of Twitter’s audience decided to head to other sites to get their social fix — or at least experiment with different options for a while. .
In November, Twitter alternatives like Mastodon as well as established social platforms like Tumblr were seeing rapid and significant increases in both downloads and active users, according to reports.
Now that the dust has settled – well, Twitter is still chaotic, but we’re used to it by now I guess –– it’s worth coming back to see how some of these Twitter alternatives are doing today.
The data, curated for TechCrunch by app intelligence firm data.ai, is not a comprehensive overview of Twitter’s full alternative app landscape. For obvious reasons, it doesn’t take into account some of the trending but yet to be publicly launched apps that have raised money for their Twitter-like experiences, such as Post, T2, and Spill. For the same reason, it doesn’t include Bluesky, the decentralized alternative that Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey has in the works. A few smaller apps and Trump’s Truth Social are also not included.
However, the company has taken a look at some of the toughest challengers for Twitter users’ attention, including Mastodon’s connected app Fediverse and others.
Recently, a Wired report indicated that Mastodon’s growth spurt has come to an end, as active users have shrunk by over one million. They suggested that many Mastodon newcomers have decided the app isn’t a viable replacement for Twitter. The platform grew in two months to 2.5 million monthly active users from 380,000, the report notes, but fell to 1.4 million active users in January. However, as Techdirt’s Mike Masnick pointed out, the Fediverse as a whole – that is, the group of interconnected servers where Mastodon and other applications reside – has grown from 600,000 active users at the time. pre-Musk at around 2.6 million. Barely a crisis, he says.
Data.ai’s analysis of app installs worldwide on iOS and Android also indicates that Mastodon’s app continues to grow, albeit to a lesser degree.
Its installs are down from November’s peak of 2.9 million monthly downloads. It still managed to gain 180,000 new installs in January, which is 169,000 more installs than in September 2022. Of course, that’s not enough to topple Twitter by any means, but that’s not yet. in decline. (Of course, we understand that app downloads do not correspond to active users, as Mastodon’s first-party data shows. Downloads are just a signal of user interest, but many apps never make it past first launch, if they’re open to everyone.)
Mastodon’s mobile traction is more complicated because there’s a large and growing ecosystem of third-party clients for users to try out, in addition to the web. A popular alternative to the official Mastodon app is Ivory, Tapbots’ newly launched client, whose Tweetbot Twitter app was killed by Musk’s Twitter API changes. Ivory is only a few weeks old, so it’s not suitable for this analysis, but it could have siphoned off some of Mastodon’s downloads for a brief period when it launched.
While Mastodon continues to hang on, other Twitter alternatives have seen their download growth stagnate or slow.
Reddit and two more politicized alternatives, Tribel and GETTR, have seen download growth decline since September 2022. Reddit’s downloads have fallen by 20,000 since September, while left-wing Tribel and right-wing GETTR downloads have fallen by 36,900 and 42,000, respectively.
To be fair, Reddit is still a massive app, adding 4.2 million new installs in January, up from 4.7 million during the November peak. For this reason, it’s unclear whether Twitter’s chaos had much impact on its growth or decline, beyond perhaps a slight increase in installs, as people decided to spend a little of their free time elsewhere.
Tribel and GETTR, on the other hand, do not fare so well. The former only saw 1,100 total new installs in January, while the latter saw 48,000.
That 48,000 is far more than Hive, another Twitter alternative that quickly gained traction after Musk took over Twitter.
The social app is more of a cross between Myspace, Twitter and Instagram, and has appealed to a younger audience. Hive quickly landed in the US App Store’s top 20 in November after seeing one million signups, it claimed at the time. But Hive then had to shut down for an extended period to rewrite its software following serious privacy and security issues.
Figures from Data.ai, however, seem to support Hive’s claims of a boost in November, as it saw 1.1 million new installs that month, compared to just 300 (!!) the previous month. Hive is still growing, albeit slightly. It had 10,700 more installs in January than in September 2022, but that’s only because it only had 300 installs that month (as in October).
Two other apps that many believed would benefit from Twitter’s shake-up were Tumblr and Discord.
It turns out that Twitter’s changes didn’t seem to play a role in its growth or decline. In fact, Discord’s installs grew from 8.3 million in October 2022 to 8.0 million in November, even as other apps surged. It then increased the number of installs to 8.5 million in December and 9.7 million last month. Similar to Reddit, this move does not appear to reflect a bump from an exodus from Twitter or a drop in newcomers who subsequently abandoned the service. Discord is fine on its own.
Tumblr’s numbers, however, are more interesting. The company itself said it gained traction from the exodus from Twitter. Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg – whose company acquired Tumblr from Verizon in 2019 – told The Atlantic that Tumblr’s iOS downloads increased 62% the week after Musk took over Twitter.
Looking at the iOS and Android data combined, as data.ai’s numbers do, there’s definitely a November bump to be seen. Tumblr saw 880,000 new downloads in November, compared to 450,000 and 500,000 in September and October, respectively. This trend has since normalized, although Tumblr is still slightly above the previous benchmark, with 510,000 installs in December and 480,000 in January. The company also made waves in November, when Mullenweg announced that Tumblr would soon add support for ActivityPub, the decentralized social networking protocol that powers the Fediverse.
Finally, as for Twitter… have you heard the expression “Any press is good press?”
It looks like Twitter has benefited from the increased attention — or the rubber, perhaps.
Global mobile app installs increased by 3.7 million in January compared to September 2022. Notably, Twitter installs did not decline in November. Instead, it gained new downloads even though some of its users apparently left for other apps. In other words, any exodus from Twitter may have been offset by newcomers to Twitter. Active user data would tell a better story here, but Twitter is no longer a publicly traded company and it’s unclear whether Musk is user data analysis like Twitter had done before, which would allow for a direct comparison. But his claims of a flurry of registrations in November might be directionally true, as the month saw more app installs than October.
Data.ai found that Twitter went from 16.6 million installs in October to 18.6 million in November when Musk took over, then dropped in December to 16.9 million. Last month, it jumped again to 18.6 million installs. This means that it has the same download growth rate of 24.8% as in November.
The broader set of Twitter alternatives, meanwhile, increased downloads by 35.6% in November and that figure fell to 8.1% in January.
As it turns out, there’s no real winner yet in terms of Twitter alternatives.
Bigger apps like Reddit, Discord, and Tumblr continue to have large user bases and will continue to grow, but they haven’t exactly picked out a portion of Twitter’s user base for themselves. Small apps failed or returned to normal.
If anything, the biggest boost to the wider ecosystem hinges on new user awareness of Fediverse and Mastodon, even if the app hasn’t turned into a dominant force. Fediverse growth could ultimately be a trend unfolding over a longer period than just a few months after the Twitter acquisition, as more apps join the decentralization bandwagon.
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