There has been plenty of hand-wringing over Elon Musk’s stewardship of Twitter, a site where he has fired half the staff and another quarter or so have quit. While no, the site is likely not going to collapse tomorrow, many are worried about its degradation on both the technical site, and in terms of content moderation as Musk starts letting more and more banned figures, including Donald Trump, return, and there are fewer and fewer people left to actually police hateful content.
Enter Hive Social, a new Twitter alternative that has positively taken over my timeline as people flee from Twitter like rats from a sinking ship. Actually, that metaphor’s not entirely accurate, as most people are not fully leaving Twitter, but rather they are making Hive accounts, “just in case,” because it feels like the first meaningful alternative to Twitter that’s appeared since all this started.
Yes, I know what Mastodon is, but Mastodon is half the reason why Hive is catching on. That decentralized social network feels a lot more impenetrable to outside folks, complete with unique instances and tweets that are unfortunately called “toots.”
Hive is instead a lot more basic, which is why four out of every five tweets on my timeline are currently people joining the site, and why it’s the #4 trending topic in the US right now. The best way to describe it is a mix of Instagram and Twitter with a sprinkling of Tumblr for good measure. Your main profile page resembles Twitter quite a bit, and you can tweet (I’m still going to say tweet) without short character limits. It already has editing functionality. It has no ads. It has a “for you page” for new content discovery. And it’s just…easy to sign up and get going over there, as opposed to figuring out the complexities of Mastodon.
However, there is one significant potential issue with Hive, in that it appears to be run by…two people. Yes, that’s correct, Hive was started a few years back by a college student who then brought on…a second college student, and it doesn’t seem like they’ve evolved much past that. According to a message on the app two days ago, they reiterated the entire thing is just two people handling the app itself, marketing, design, literally everything.
While it’s extremely impressive that what is there on Hive has been built and maintained by two people, that raises some pretty serious questions about its ability to scale, and if you spend a lot of time on the app, its shortcomings compared to much more established social media sites are pretty apparent.
- The app feels…fragile, like it’s about to break at a moment’s notice. There’s significant UI and loading lag a lot of the time, and it just doesn’t feel technically stable. That may get worse the more people join.
- There is no desktop version of Hive Social…at all. It doesn’t exist, which is bad since at least half my Twitter time is on desktop.
- You can’t thread tweets, and it’s easy to lose track of comments.
- I don’t think you can embed Hive posts anywhere else.
- Sharing an article on Hive doesn’t even give me a thumbnail preview, just a literal hyperlink.
- You can’t search people by name. Searching “Paul Tassi” or “@paultassi” turns up no results, you have to search “paultassi” only.
- Speaking of @ names, if Twitter’s new verification poses an identity-stealing problem, apparently on Hive multiple people can all claim the same @ name. I’m already seeing things like @Brand accounts that are definitely not the main company. If this gets more and more popular, this is about to start happening at scale, and be very bad.
Again, this is an app run by two people. What they do have is impressive and it’s clear that the idea of a functional, non-complicated alternative to Twitter is something people want. But I see three paths forward for Hive Social here:
1) It collapses under the weight of its newfound popularity and simply cannot scale fast enough to keep up with a new wave of sign-ups.
2) It stays alive but ends up being blitzed by some sort of other launched Twitter alternative from a Big Tech corp. Or Elon Twitter gets its act together and no one actually feels the need to fully leave.
3) It gets acquired by Big Tech, and scaled up that way, given its initially attractive functionality and built-in userbase. This may be the best case scenario?
It’s early days, but for now, it’s a life raft, even if we haven’t left the main ship yet. Buzz me(?) over at Hive, search paultassi.
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