Big business moves have ripple effects in all kinds of places.
Here at InMotion, we noticed a sudden surge of interest in our Mastodon content. Mastodon, a popular federated social media app, can be hosted on virtual private servers, and boasts many of the same features as Twitter.
Right around the time Elon Musk purchased the Twitter social media platform, and announced plans to make serious changes, some users started looking for alternatives.
The trend surged suddenly, but then dipped back down. Perhaps legacy Twitter users recovered from the shock of the purchase and returned to their favorite app. Perhaps the searchers found what they were looking for, installed Mastodon, or joined an existing instance, and went away happily. The data doesn’t say.
Nevertheless, investigating alternatives is a great way to learn more about open source software. Below, we’ll talk about some pros and cons of Mastodon as compared with other open source options.
Here are the 5 Twitter alternative you might consider for your website:
This list is not exhaustive, but it’s a good start toward getting you to alternative that best meets your needs.
Mastodon is a “federated” open source micro-blogging platform that recently grew in popularity as a Twitter alternative. Instead of “tweets”, you can post “toots.”
Federated apps basically make use of a variety of protocols and APIs to connect servers and users across a vast, decentralized network.
It is in its decentralized nature that Mastodon is most distinctive from Twitter. While Twitter (and other large-scale social apps) are centrally controlled “walled gardens”, decentralized networks have no such control.
This means you can have more freedom, but you can potentially connect with unsavory users who would otherwise be banned from Twitter.
This does not mean you shouldn’t give the federated services a try if you’re interested in doing so.
With Mastodon you can host your own server, or join an existing instance. With your own server, you have ultimate control to enforce your own standards and provide a productive environment for your subscribers.
Like Mastodon, Pleroma is a federated open source micro-blogging app. Likewise, Pleroma offers many of the same Twitter-style networking features such as activity streams, hashtags, private messages.
However, unlike Twitter, Pleroma boasts a nice live chat feature out of the box.
In my experience, I found Pleroma rather easy to install and manage.
Even better, Pleroma is generally considered more lightweight and performant than Mastodon, requiring fewer server resources. This means you could do well with Pleroma, even on an inexpensive VPS cloud server. Mastodon requires Ruby on Rails, NodeJS, and a whole stack of other software, while Pleroma only requires Elixir and a PostgreSQL database.
The BuddyPress plugin for WordPress is most likely the easiest social network to install, because WordPress itself is easy to install. BuddyPress also boasts the same social features as the other apps in this list.
Users on BuddyPress can send friend requests, private messages, and create groups.
BuddyPress is not federated. This means the user accounts in your WordPress site cannot connect to a larger network. However, with a WordPress multisite network, you could create virtually unlimited sites, and users from one node can interact with other sites in that network.
This acts like a federated service, but limited to one WordPress installation. It’s more like creating your own walled garden.
Given the general user-friendliness of WordPress, I’d say BuddyPress is the simplest, most straightforward way to start a social network. And with WordPress hosting plans widely available, you won’t have to spend any time configuring a server.
For something totally different, the federated Pixelfed app works just like Instagram. You can upload high quality photos and videos, and manage the site on your own private server.
It’s not exactly a Twitter alternative, but if your ideal subscribers are more oriented toward sharing photo and video media rather than text, you might consider Pixelfed as a good option.
Like other decentralized social apps, Pixelfed places a lot of emphasis on privacy and security.
However, much of the security and maintenance of your server will be your responsiblity.
5. Email Newsletter
The final open source Twitter alternative is not a social network, it’s good old-fashioned email.
Everyone still has an email account. WordPress offers a wide variety of email newsletter plugins.
Often, the emails will be sent from a third-party network, offloading the email management to a larger provider. This aspect of the process is generally not open source. However, managing your own email server is notoriously difficult.
Email offers a less dynamic, but overall simple and direct way to connect with your subscribers.
Likewise, an email list can stay with you forever, and you can bring it to any service you use over the years.
These are just a few options for open source social networking apps. Investigating alternatives is a fun way to test out open source projects. If you have any questions about these tools be sure to leave a comment below or reach out to our live support team.