If you’ve been on Twitter at all since it became an Elon Musk company, you’ve no doubt seen apoplectic users imploding as they worry it’s becoming more of a swamp than it was before—if that’s even possible. In recent days, a barrage of users has lamented the state of blue bird app and collectively asked: What alternatives are there?
In a blog post published on Wednesday, Substack figuratively raised its hand and said what amounts to “Us!” Responding to user backlash over a Post-Musk Twitter, Hamish McKenzie, Substack’s cofounder and its chief writing officer, told Twitter users that they were in a cage on the blue bird app, but that things could be different—on Substack, obviously.
McKenzie went on to explain that, contrary to popular belief, Substack is not just a newsletter company. He compared the communities on the platform, which consist of newsletter subscribers, to “private social networks.”
“In the coming days and weeks, we’ll release a slew of new features that allow writers and readers to hang out with each other, reference each other, share each other’s work, and show their status on the platform,” the cofounder stated.
On Thursday, the company unveiled Substack Chat, a feature that allows writers and creators to chat with their subscribers, more AIM than Gmail. The product seems to be an effort to disrupt chat apps like Discord or Telegram more so than a Twitter replacement. Chat is currently only available on Substack’s iOS app, but will be rolled out on Android and web “gradually,” the company stated.
While I agree that there are communities on Substack, I wouldn’t call them a social network. People go wild in the comments on Gizmodo.com every day, but I wouldn’t say Gizmodo’s comment section is a social network. Nonetheless, McKenzie said, Substack is going all in on making its “private social networks” better.
All in all, if Substack wants to innovate and try to court Twitter’s unhappy users, good for the company. We need innovation in the social media space. However, if Substack wants to be attractive to Twitter users, it should understand one very important thing. There’s a reason Twitter has a character limit. People get bored. They don’t want to read a magnum opus.
My advice for Substack—spend some time on Twitter before you start trying to convince its users to make the jump.