‘Leaving Twitter’ ben-evans.com

This piece from Benedict Evans is wonderful — one of his best, I think — but I wanted to highlight a smaller and less consequential point than the one Evans ultimately makes toward the article’s end:

Meanwhile, lots of people tried to build a better Craigslist and a better Twitter, but though a better product was pretty easy, the network effects were too strong and none of them really worked. Instead, we unbundled use cases one by one. As Andrew Parker pointed out in 2010, a whole range of people from Airbnb to Zillow to Tinder unbundled separate pieces of Craigslist into billion dollar companies that didn’t look like Craigslist and solved some individual need much better. This is often the real challenge to tech incumbents: once the network effects are locked in, it’s very hard to get people to switch to something that’s roughly the same but 10% better — they switch to something that solves one underlying need in an entirely new way.

Twitter was, of course, created from a single feature in a completely different product, in a sort of self-inflicted version of unbundling.

Now, it is Twitter which is finding itself unbundled. People have moved their short message conversations to different pockets of the web: for some, Mastodon has the right audience; for others, Bluesky or Threads works better. People have realized the value in keeping some conversations private in places like Discord and Slack, and found joy in blogging. That is just the written word; there is a whole universe of audio and video, too. None of these things needs to totally dominate for it to be successful for its audience.

There is that long-running joke that any social network is mostly made up of screenshots of all the other ones. This seems to be intended derisively. I see it as pretty excellent. It is a sign of a healthy web that these platforms are decreasingly insular, and that any of them is comprised of different pieces from elsewhere. Yes, there are problems of attribution and linking to sources, but there is also joy that comes from our feeds becoming a giant mashup. A remix.