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Meta is developing a decentralized Twitter alternative: Here’s what we know


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Since Elon Musk took the helm at Twitter late last year, the company has experienced mass layoffs, paid verification controversies, multiple technical outages, massive ad revenue losses, and lots of drama. Users experienced data breaches and unpleasant online quarrels with the company’s CEO.

As a result, millions of users have left Twitter, and some are looking for an alternative to the app that was once hailed as a digital town square. Competitors are looking to create their own digital town square and are capitalizing on the disarray at Twitter.

Also: Why is Twitter turning millions of accounts into defenseless targets?

Meta, the parent company of popular networking apps Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, is in the process of creating its own Twitter alternative, as first reported by the online publication, Moneycontrol. The project was first named P92, but now we know the company is calling the app Barcelona.

It’s yet to be determined if the app’s official name is Barcelona or if that’s an updated code name for the project. 

In early March, Meta confirmed to Platformer that the company is “exploring a standalone decentralized social network for sharing text updates.” This statement was also given to multiple news outlets, as Meta aims to keep the details of the project close to the company.

Meta says there’s an opportunity for creators and public figures to coexist and interact on one platform. Of course we know that because it was realized 17 years ago by Twitter’s founders.

But the opportunity for new Twitter-like apps is not because of a novel, innovative idea but because of Twitter’s mismanagement, a decline in popularity, and a decrease in revenue, making space for competitors. 

Also: Twitter Subscriptions give creators a new way to make money

Here’s what we know about Barcelona:

According to app researcher, Alessandro Paluzzi, Barcelona will be a separate app from Instagram and Facebook, but you can use your credentials on those apps to sign into Barcelona.

Barcelona will use your Instagram handle as your Barcelona username and text posts posts can have up to 500 characters. The major selling point with this app is that it will be a decentralized social media app, but it’s unclear how Meta will achieve and execute that.

Like Mastodon, Barcelona will be a decentralized social media platform. Decentralized social networks differ from centralized networks because multiple entities control them. On a decentralized network, there is not one sole person that operates the network. 

Historically, Meta has not been a public proponent of decentralized networks for its social media apps. In fact, the company’s apps rely heavily on walled gardens to maximize the profit made from marketing and advertising campaigns targeted at users. 

Also: How to delete your Twitter account and protect your data, too

But the walled garden business model is increasingly becoming scrutinized by lawmakers as antitrust laws threaten some aspects of the model’s legality. But creating a decentralized alternative to Twitter has proven to be a challenge.

In November, Mastodon saw over a million ex-Twitter users but failed to keep them around. At the height of the platform’s popularity, it posed a genuine threat to Musk, as he briefly banned the sharing of Mastodon links on Twitter.

But Twitter’s cult following and name within the industry have kept users on the app despite the significant issues the app has encountered in the last six months. Maybe Mastodon had too much on its plate at once, or people became quickly turned off by the app’s sometimes complicated, decentralized user experience. 

Also: Mastodon isn’t Twitter but it’s glorious

But late last year, Mastodon’s founder disclosed that the company declined multiple investment offers from Silicon Valley to preserve the platform’s non-profit status. It’s no surprise that Meta is a for-profit company and can use that status to funnel funds and resources into its decentralized platform.

Decentralized platforms don’t utilize the typical advertising tactics on Web2 social networking platforms. Mastodon doesn’t have any ads whatsoever, and it’s unclear how Meta’s platform will make its money.

Web3, the next iteration of the web’s infrastructure, currently promotes using blockchain technology to reward customers for participating in an exchange with an online vendor. It’s a convoluted technology that has yet to be widely adopted. 

But it could be interesting to see a company that’s been in many firestorms around its questionable advertising methods and sometimes predatory algorithms pivot to a decentralized platform. Can Meta thrive on a forum that’s devoid of the characteristics of the foundation of its business practices?

Also: Quitting Twitter? How to join a Mastodon server with the official Android app

Meta could be the first Web2 powerhouse to jump to Web3 technology successfully. So, maybe it’s time we brush up on how to use decentralized social networking platforms.


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