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With Meta’s Threads Booming, Mainstream Twitter Migration is Likely to be Difficult

Since Elon Musk acquired Twitter last year, a number of moves have led millions of users to sign up with rival microblogging services. The latest in this line of decisions was Twitter’s decision to limit the number of tweets users can see in a day on July 1, 2023.

Mastodon’s user base increased as a result of the acquisition and improvements, but they also gave small, already-existing platforms like Hive Social a boost and gave rise to brand-new upstarts like Spill and Spoutible.

In the days following Twitter’s rate limit, the microblogging service Bluesky, founded by Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, had a spike in sign-ups, while Meta debuted its microblogging service Threads on July 5. On its first day, Threads claimed 30 million users. Even very different social media platforms like TikTok are gaining from what many believe to be the impending doom of Twitter.

This reminds me of something I have seen previously, and I am an information scientist who researches online communities. Platforms for social media do not typically last indefinitely. Depending on your age and internet habits, even if a platform is still around in some capacity, you probably miss it. Vine, Google+, LiveJournal, and MySpace come to mind.

When social media networks collapse, online groups that have established themselves there can either die away or move to a new location. Many of Twitter’s users are considering leaving the service as a result of the upheaval at the company. For Twitter users who fly the coop, research on prior social media platform migrations reveals what might be in store.

I oversaw a study a few years ago with Brianna Dym, who is now at the University of Maine, in which we tracked almost 2,000 people’s platform migrations over the course of nearly two decades.

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