Does Mastodon Need Twitter to Die to Succeed?

Is Twitter dying? I don’t think it matters anymore. Mastodon is growing and people are discovering that there is an alternative social network to the bird site owned by the egomaniac billionaire.

I believe Mastodon has nearly reached a critical mass or inflection point where it can go from fringe alternative for geeks and nerds and will become something that anyone can, and will use.

The average person has now at least heard of Mastodon. They know it’s a Twitter-like service. They’ve heard of the fediverse and at least have a sense of how Mastodon is different from the centralized Twitter service. It’s all over the mainstream press and not just the tech blogs.

A few things could happen in the next little bit that would have significant impacts on Twitter and Mastodon.

1. The World Cup or another event brings back the fail whale – historically, large sporting events like the World Cup have put signficant strain on Twitter. Between the recent layoffs, firings and resignations, it’s possible that a significant event might lead to downtime. If Twitter goes down, there will be further and significant influx of users to Mastodon.

2. Trump reinstated – Elon Musk could reinstate the account of Donald Trump. If Trump returns to Twitter, it may very well be “a last straw” for some users. Until recently, there wasn’t a viable option for them, but Mastodon is growing quickly and many of these users who quit Twitter will head to Mastodon. UPDATE: Trump was reinstated not long after I posted this.

3. Brands and celebrities join – a few brands have waded into Mastodon, and if Twitter continues to implode, more will follow. Similarly, some of the “nerd” celebrities have joined or moved to Mastodon. Mainstream celebrities will naturally follow if they see the platform grow.

4. The media joins – Twitter is widely seen as a place to get realtime news and information. Right now Mastodon is not there yet, although as more users join, more info, videos and photos about significant events like storms, accidents, etc. will show up on Mastodon. If journalists and media outlets start to join, this will have a big impact on what kind of content can be found on Mastodon.

5. Bots – there are a ton of bots on Twitter sharing weather warnings, earthquakes, news, quotes, and fun stuff. Mastodon welcomes bots and makes it easy for users to create them. There are already bots on Mastodon, but not the breadth of what’s available on Twitter.

6. Apps and sites integrate Mastodon features – so many apps and websites have things like “Share to Twitter” built in. If Mastodon gets enough users, app makers and website owners will add “Share to Mastodon” making it far easier for users to quickly share content.

Mastodon has very little control over these things. But users of Mastodon can have a big impact on adoption.

We can quit Twitter and make a point of saying why we’re leaving and that we are going to Mastodon. We can push brands and celebrities to make the switch through tweets and encouragement. We can do the same for media outlets and journalists by suggesting they at least join Mastodon and cross-post. We can build bots to bring news, weather, alerts and other information to Mastodon. We can push app makers to add “Share to Mastodon” buttons and suggest to websites that they do likewise and we can add that functionality to our own sites.

This is the best chance we have to bring the fediverse and Mastodon into the mainstream. It’s not going to be a single event that does it, but a series of events that are used to build momentum that will take it to critical mass. Once we get there, it’ll be unstoppable.