New York City November 17, 2020

Is social media going indie?

Bobby Burch @bobburch

If you're an indie hacker, you're probably using social media for distribution.

And even if you haven't concerned yourself with recent debates over privacy and censorship, the implications of those debates will affect how you reach people.

The concept of Twitter, for example, I just don’t like the fact that we have to give up all of our privacy and overall digital lives.

That's @hiramfromthechi, an indie hacker. And he's not alone. People are demanding alternatives to Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. And as the market answers that demand, audiences will splinter across a more distributed set of platforms.

Mastodon has emerged as a viable, albeit small contender to Twitter. The open-source, micro-blogging network enables users to self-host “instances” that they can make public or private. Launched in 2016, Mastodon’s decentralized platform already has 4.4 million users.

Parler has billed itself as the “free speech” alternative to Facebook and has welcomed an exodus of conservative-leaning users that claim their views have been censored. Already with more than 2.5 million users, the platform keeps personal data confidential and doesn’t sell to third parties.

And if Parler is the right's answer to social media censorship, Telepath is the left's. It's still in closed beta for now, but it will enforce a series of rules aimed at countering abuse and disabling the spread of fake news.

The emergence of all of these platforms — and others like MeWe, PixelFed, and Diaspora — also create opportunities for indie hackers to create new audiences. How such companies could face risks to their reputation by leveraging such platforms remains to be seen. However, there is a clear opportunity to reach a burgeoning digital audience.


Stay updated on all the indie businesses taking on Big Tech.


Another consideration for indie hackers — and consumers generally — is the shifting landscape of how platforms are policing content. Under Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, social media companies have broad protections from the content their users post on their platforms.

That social sanctuary, however, may soon shift as both Republicans and Democrats agree that something needs to change. In late October, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter's Jack Dorsey, and Google's Sundar Pichai virtually testified before the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee regarding prospective legislation to amend the law.

But in a typical polarized fashion, the two parties disagree on the root of the issue. The GOP sees social platforms censoring conservative viewpoints, while Dems contend that revisions to Section 230 should make companies more accountable for moderating hate speech or misinformation.

Regardless, any changes to Section 230 would have a significant impact not only on social media giants but also on platforms such as Wikipedia, Reddit, Quora, and even indie hackers’ social media products. For example, new social media products or discussion boards like Indie Hackers could face a spillover effect where they’re prevented from policing user-generated content, or conversely, forced to beef up their moderation practices.

What do you think about indie alternatives to typical social media?

  1. 2

    Good post and I tend to agree that some users will find value in indie options. It is why I started building https://kids30.com so families could have an alternative social app separate from larger apps like the ones you mention.

  2. 2

    Hey Bobby, thanks for the mention. This is a space that’s incredibly fascinating to me because it affects billions of people, and in really sly ways. Yet, not everyone is aware. And many feel powerless. No doubt in my mind we’re gonna continue to see more of this in the coming years. Privacy is a fundamental human right, and with the exponential rise of surveillance capitalism, it’s only bound to cause more friction. It’s gonna take a lot of education, collective will, and legislation to get us back on track.

  3. 1

    social media is one of these applications that benefit from having winner take all dynamics. Like youtube, the value is that its a main destination to get social media. So indie alternatives to things like instagram and twitter wont stick in my opinion. Niche networks like clubhouse, etc do have a shot.

  4. 1

    For news sharing (without much social), you might give https://upstract.com a whirl.

  5. 1

    I think the next social media platform won't look anything like the ones that exist today. It will likely be a whole new twist or take on things that makes better sense for the current times.

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