By Jon Cohen:
The world of social media is constantly evolving, with new platforms emerging and old ones changing their focus. In the past year alone, we have seen several significant changes in the social-media landscape.
One of the most notable changes is the rise of short-form video. Platforms such as TikTok, YouTube Shorts, and Instagram Reels have become enormously popular as users increasingly turn to social media for quick and easy entertainment.
Another major change is the decline of Meta’s Facebook. The company has been losing users for several years now as younger generations gravitate toward newer platforms. Facebook is trying to regain its footing by investing in new features and products, but it remains to be seen if these efforts will be successful.
The acquisition of X (Twitter) by Elon Musk has also been a major change in the social-media landscape. Musk has promised to make X (Twitter) a more open and free platform for speech, and he has already implemented several alternations. One of the most conspicuous changes implemented has been the removal of certain content moderation practices, which he argues were stifling free speech. Under Musk's leadership, X (Twitter) has become more lenient in terms of content policies, allowing a wider range of opinions and viewpoints to be expressed on the platform. While this has been a welcomed change by those advocating for unrestricted free speech, it has also raised concerns about the spread of harmful and/or false information on the platform.
Additionally, since Musk acquired X (Twitter), he has introduced a paid verification service. This service allows users to pay a fee for a verified badge on their profiles. Historically, X (Twitter) offered verification only to prominent figures, celebrities, and influential personalities; this new feature expands verification to a broader user base, meaning anyone can be verified as long as you pay a monthly fee. This leaves X (Twitter) open to fake verified profiles and could potentially lead to a two-tiered system on the platform, where those who can afford it can have more credibility.
The implementation and impact of these changes will be closely watched as X (Twitter) continues to evolve under Musk's leadership.
In addition to the stalwart platforms of the past few decades, we have also seen the emergence of many new social networks. These newer platforms offer some unique features and experiences that appeal to different users while using many of the familiar design styles, thus giving users a look and feel that they are already used to. Only in time we will see if these new platforms will be a serious threat to the mega social-media companies.
In this article, we will look at some of the emerging social networks, namely Bluesky, Mastodon, and Instagram Threads.
Bluesky is a project funded by X (Twitter) that is developing a new decentralized social-media platform. Bluesky is still in development, meaning it is a closed beta and therefore new users can only join by invitation. It is designed to be more open and transparent than traditional social networks. Bluesky will also focus on addressing some of the challenges of social media, such as the spread of misinformation and hate speech.
By using a decentralized architecture, Bluesky will not be owned or controlled by a single company. Instead, it will be a network of independent servers that are run by different organizations. This will make it more difficult for any one company to censor or manipulate the platform.
Some features include:
An open-source code base: The code for Bluesky will be open-source, which means that anyone can contribute to its development. This will make the platform more transparent and accountable.
A focus on groups: Bluesky offers several groups so users can tailor their feed to the content that they want to see. So far, these groups range from cat pics to Queen Bookworms to Treksky (a Star Trek feed).
Because Bluesky is still beta, any and all of these features can change in the future.
Mastodon is a decentralized social network that is already in use by millions of people around the world. Mastodon is based on the ActivityPub protocol, which is another open-source communication protocol. Mastodon is similar to X (Twitter) in terms of its features, but it is more decentralized and, for some, not as user-friendly and not as easy to start using.
Some of the key features of Mastodon include:
A distributed architecture: Mastodon is a distributed network of servers, which means that there is no single point of failure. This makes it more resistant to censorship and manipulation.
An open-source code base: The code for Mastodon is open-source, which means that anyone can contribute to its development. This makes the platform more transparent and accountable.
A focus on community: Mastodon is designed to promote community and collaboration. Users can create their own instances of Mastodon, which can be customized to meet the needs of their community.
Mastodon stands as a prominent, decentralized social network utilized by a substantial user base worldwide. With an emphasis on community engagement and resilience against censorship and manipulation, it continues fostering vibrant and customizable communities. As Mastodon continues to gain traction and evolve, only in time will we see what the worldwide adoption is.
Threads is a new app, built by the Instagram team, for sharing text updates and joining public conversations. It's a text-based social-media platform that allows users to post and reply to threads that can include text, links, photos, or videos.
Threads is designed to be a more casual and intimate way to connect with friends and family. It's a place where you can share your thoughts and feelings without having to worry about curating your feed or getting the perfect photo.
Threads is a breeze to set up because it uses your existing Instagram credentials. Once logged in, a feed displaying threads from your followed accounts will be accessible alongside recommended content from emerging creators. Threads posts can be up to 500 characters long and include links, photos, and videos up to 5 minutes in length.
Some of the benefits of using Threads:
It's a great way to join in on conversations about the things you're passionate about: Threads has a variety of public threads where you can share your thoughts and ideas on a wide range of topics.
It's easy to use: Threads is a very user-friendly app. It's easy to create and post threads, reply to other threads, and like and repost threads.
It's available on both iOS and Android: Threads is available for download on both the App Store and Google Play.
If you're looking for a new way to connect with your friends and family, or if you're looking for a place to join in on conversations about the things you're passionate about, then Threads is a great option.
Current Social Media Trends
An increasing focus on privacy: Users are becoming more concerned about their privacy, and this is leading social-media platforms to make changes to their privacy policies.
The growing popularity of live streaming: Live streaming is becoming increasingly popular on social media as users want to connect with others in real-time.
The rise of social commerce: Social commerce is the use of social-media platforms to sell products and services. This trend is growing rapidly as users are increasingly using social media to discover and purchase products.
In the ever-evolving world of social media, we have witnessed remarkable changes in recent times. Short-form video content has taken center stage, with platforms such as TikTok, YouTube shorts, and Instagram Reels captivating users seeking quick entertainment. Simultaneously, Facebook faces a declining user base, and the acquisition of X (Twitter) by Elon Musk leaves a question of how its long-term impact will unfold, especially among younger generations.
As a result, mainstream social-media companies rejuvenate their platforms with new features and technologies. This, combined with an overall shift to a more open and free speech–focused platform, is bringing intrigue to the future landscape of this industry. Furthermore, the rise of new social networks—such as Bluesky, Mastodon, and Threads—showcases the diverse and evolving options available to users, each with its unique features and potential. As privacy concerns escalate and live streaming and social commerce gain prominence, the social-media landscape is set for intriguing shifts, promising an exciting journey in the years ahead.
Jon Cohen’s contributions can be found on radio, TV, and print media. Jon makes “geek speak” understandable for the masses and has been a voice in the tech community for over 20 years. A former “Geek Squad” member as well as an “Apple Genius,” he offers a fresh perspective on technology, photography, and social media. Twitter: @cohenHD