This article is about T2 and the allegorical role it plays in "corporate" social media. Corporate social media being that which is owned by a company in a means to generate revenue or is a product. This article is a commentary on my interactions with the website, but also will be a commentary on the meta-narrative around 'alternative' platforms like T2.
- Starting off weak
- What's the point of a name anyway?
- Getting on with it
- Going for gold
- When the Yaseen Is Sus!
- Who up forcing they positivity rn?
- Fall from disgrace
- A sinking pebble
- The Mastodon in the room
Starting off weak
In November 2022, the landscape of microblogging social media changed forever when Elongated Muskrat took over Twitter. Elon Musk is a person who has the maturity of a tadpole and whose level of culture is less than that of a yoghurt you forgot to throw away after six weeks of being in the fridge.
This did lead to a lot of panic – Musk's stewardship of his other properties (Tesla, SpaceX) was marred by people having to jangle keys in front of his face to make sure he was paying attention. But do not worry, a man who removed yellow safety markers from his Tesla site in California because he didn't like the colour is someone we trust to run Twitter.
It is difficult to ascertain Twitter's reach. Twitter, before Musk, only had about 150 million users. This is smaller than Snapchat, a platform that has been out of vogue for half a decade that it tried to launch smart glasses that made you look like someone whose idea of hipsters are from 2007.
But enough of that. The real question is: what did people do after Twitter? Many people stayed. But some decided to forge ahead. Start a new path. Begin a new adventure.
History may not repeat, but it certainly does rhyme. This is the story of one little, plucky upstart and my journey through it.
What's the point of a name anyway?
In November 2022, Sarah Oh and Gabor Cselle were unceremoniously kicked out from Muskland and got to work. What if they could re-imagine social media? What if they could create a kinder, safer place? What if they just made Twitter... But without the harmful stuff? Now, reader, "Twitter without the bad stuff" is a ridiculously hard bargain to drive. I can only assume that the two of them did not do any creative work during their time at Twitter; because to have "T2" as your placeholder name is pigeonholing you into being "Twitter but better", rather than anything distinctly unique.
Getting on with it
Now, here is where I come in: In November 2022, I decided to sign up for the waiting list for this T2 out of sheer curiosity. I was not attracted to T2 for any particular reason; I was merely curious about it. In that time I joined the Fediverse, assumed that I would never see T2 again and that is really it. However, it was one beautiful afternoon in June that I got this email.
This was over seven months since that website launched, and so here comes the beginning of the story here. Note the timestamp here is 27 June 2023 at 18.47 UTC+1.
Yes, really. The website would send you a 2FA code to your email, but seemed to error out when you tried to enter the code in. It kept punting me back to the home screen. Oh yeah. We are dealing with some big boys here. The core basic of any web system – to certify if you are a human account – did not work.
But after repeatedly hammering the page, we finally got in. Fantastic. But what greeted me on my initial entry into the website was worse than anyone could ever imagine.
You could spend $5 to get verified, but it would at least verify you as yourself, instead of just a subscription blue tick. You would get a call with Ms Oh, and she would make sure you are the real deal! That's... Okay sure. But we will get into verification a little bit later. The person who seems to be a constant, irritating presence is this person Limhi. He is a central character in our story, but not in the way you think.
A good question you may be asking is, what was I trying to do on this platform? I initially wanted to treat this like any social media. I was merely curious as to what it was like. I completed my profile, with my location, name, and a short bio depicting me as a "shitposter, cake-lover, and friend of all".
Now, the first thing I wanted to do was get some highfaluting shitposting going. However, I soon ran into an interesting problem with the site's limitations.
Yes. The website was so bare-bones in terms of media that I could only upload jpgs. Not even a single gif. My plan was to copy-paste text and images from my snowdin.town account that I thought were funny and share them with the nice people of T2. But I managed to persevere. I replied to a handful of people, only to be met with dead conversation. I tried posting some amazing bangers, but I got extraordinarily little traction.
I even dropped the motherfucking lobster image on them and did some primo trans-posting. Thankfully, @email@example.com had posted a few of my bangers on his account, which I managed to preserve here.
I only got one like on the lobster post. The thing is that I was not posting anything different from what I usually post on the Fediverse. The real problem was that nobody was interacting with me. I was the only one who was legitimately posting anything. Whenever I did try to engage with others, it just fell flat. But perhaps it was because... I was the coolest person on that godforsaken platform.
In any case, without the ability to use pngs, videos, gifs, polls, or any other kind of rich media except for a jpg (of which, uploading one broke consistently 30% of the time), I could only rely on text. However, even that too was gimped: in T2's attempt to be "Twitter but better", T2 limited the max character count for a post is 280 characters. W- what? What an arbitrary number? Not two hundred? 500? 1000? 280???? I could not shitpost at length! If you recall, 280 was the limit for Twitter... Even at the time of this, Twitter increased the limit to four hundred characters, meaning their stubborn attempt to be "Twitter but better" really was stuck in the past.
I did actually comment on this on T2, and it was received very... Um. How do I say this politely? With the most cringe responses known to humankind.
I used insulting language here, and I get someone trying to be like "oh, it's not all bad". Motherfucker, even baseline Mastodon gives you five hundred. My instance gives almost a hundred thousand. 280 is basically poverty at this point. The second person's reply makes no fucking sense in context, and I think they just were happy that someone was posting on there. The last response was such a piss-poor attempt at humour that I think that it may have permanently made me less funny.
Going for gold
After getting little traction on anything I posted – posts that netted me a few likes and replies on Fediverse but nothing on T2 — I began to do a mild amount of tomfoolery. But I would only post things that I would only post on Fedi, of course. If it was good for Fedi, then it would be good for T2.
However, even if I did get any traction, I would have no way of knowing. You see, T2 existed as a website, but not as a web app. This meant there was no way for the website to send push notifications to you. How did you know things were happening? Oh, by email. Like it was the 1990s. A basic function of any website online and they did not even add it. But why could this be? Well, the site had been in closed beta since April 2023, and only just opened for interested parties (like me) in July 2023. The website had been in full-scale operation for only two months (having been closed alpha from Dec 2023). This effectively meant that they were laying the tracks while the train was running. That means I was there to drop a cluster munition in the locomotive unit.
This had to be my favourite post of the entire evening. As Hazel said, "this genre of shitpost being completely new to someone is so funny, now I'm imagining them genuinely believing what you said". I can only think they took me seriously. That is not even a real registration plate. Regardless, June said "this is a very good shitpost bc it’s obviously fake but provides enough detail to be believed by people who are A.) dumb. or B.) don’t know you ". It was an exceptionally good shitpost, and that was the perfect response to my tomfoolery.
But alas. All good things must come to an end.
When the Yaseen Is Sus!
In the end, some of my posts got too spicy for some people, and this post was the final nail in the coffin of my experience on T2.
If you have been keeping track — I joined at 18.47 UTC+1. This post is from 19.53 UTC+1. I lasted just over an hour before I got reported. An entire hour of shitposting, drawn to a close by that kind of post. I knew I had been gotten. There is no way I could come back from Mr No Fun Allowed Soyjack telling me I could not issue death threats to the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. ACAB includes Limhi.
It seems the reports sent to the moderators are taken without any sense of humour because it was only a few hours after, at 23.17 UTC+1, that my account was officially excised from reality.
I tried to log-in again after this, but instead of telling me my account was suspended, the website would merely boot me back to the login screen over, and over, and over again. Truly a wonderful website. You get kicked off and the website just crashes instead of telling you to fuck off.
Who up forcing they positivity rn?
To understand any product, you must understand what they tell you about themselves and read what it does not say.
From T2's "About":
A place to have the authentic conversations we’ve always wanted to have.
We believe in the basics: offering simple tools and creating space for human conversation. We’re working to build an elegant, sustainable, and hospitable place that recaptures what we all used to love about the internet.
Right now, we offer a 280-character format with familiar features. But what lies underneath is something special. From day one, our platform has been built on the belief that trust and safety must be integral, and that a positive user experience is paramount.
The scaffolding is still up and the architects are hard at work. Add yourself to our waitlist and we’ll hand you the keys as soon as we’re ready to open the gates.
We are building in the open and welcome your feedback. Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your thoughts.
I did not experience any authentic conversations, and nor was my authentic self ever really preserved here. There was no elegance because so much stuff was god-fucking-broken. It looked nice but ran like dogshit. Their focus on "trust and safety" was more like a neutering of anything that was not milquetoast liberalism. Indeed, the TOS states that you warrant that "Your Contributions are not obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, violent, harassing [...]". So, no posting nudity or pornography. Well, that may be also because T2 has no way to spoiler images... How unfriendly is that, huh?
To be honest, perhaps I went for the wrong people with that post. I should have gone for the homeless.
The problems with T2's milquetoast governance goes further than just their overzealous attitude to anything that goes against a Puritan-inspired social order. If you did not have an invite to T2, you could instead link your Twitter account for pre-screen verification, allowing you to join up — if someone verified your account to be True and Real. However, being True and Real is going to be a subjective matter, and for one potential user it was a symbol of peak liberalism.
As I commented on here the use of "pre-screen" was transphobia. But let us break that down a little further: we have a human deciding to "pre-screen" someone based on a limited set of information. They then see that information and assume that this account cannot join. It can only be surmised that this is due to being "fictitious" — as Andi stated it. What a "kind and safe" community.
But it does not end there, of course. Because the website broke GDPR.
Fall from disgrace
There was no way for me to delete my account. There was also no email to ask them to delete my account with. In fact, the TOS explicitly says that by using the website, I consent to my data being transferred to the USA and being held under the jurisdiction of the USA. This is absolutely against GDPR — under the UK GDPR (which is a modified version of EU GDPR, post-Brexit), UK user data is subject to the jurisdiction of the UK. However, since I was already in bad blood with the site owners, I do not think that there was a chance I could get them to listen to me, and the ICO requires you to contact the site owners first. Oh well.
This all came to a head recently when I received a remarkably interesting email. You see, T2 decided to change their name to Pebble.is. In fact, they wanted to call themselves Pebble.com, but that URL was owned by Google because they bought Fitbit who had bought Pebble (the smartwatch company). Yeah, I do not know what they were thinking. This renaming was a source of confusion — by doing this name change, user retention dropped from roughly 30% to 10%. Yes, it is that cringe of a name. But anyway, with the name change they offered to re-invite me to their platform — indicating they still had my email on file. Perhaps I should create my account again?
It may have taken an hour to be banned from T2, but I was pre-emptively banned from Pebble.is. Not like it mattered much, anyway, because… their sign-up page crashes and boots you back to their home screen.
Changed the name but did not change how broken the website is.
Of course, because it is late-2023, they decided to include "AI" into their product. Yes, that is right. AI. In a communications app. Whatever happened to "authentic conversations"? The AI would be there to "inspire" you. Inspire you to produce bullshit, perhaps. The AI would take your old posts and help you formulate new ones. Peak. Bullshit. Here. But do not worry. You could turn it off — just no opt out.
I will end this section with this image, which I shall present to you without commentary, except for the fact this image is called "bullshit.jpg".
A sinking pebble
On 24 October 2023 — actually as I was recording The Yascast Episode V (oh yeah, cross-promo!) — Pebble.is announced that it was closing its doors. In their press release they said that "the painful truth, however, is that we were not growing quickly enough for investors to believe that we will break out". Pebble picked up over $1 million in initial funding from investors. With a million bucks, it just was not enough.
But I do not think it is just the money that was a problem.
It is time to consider this point here. With a million bucks, they created a website that half-worked, had overzealous moderation, and catered to a bunch of boring losers and brunch-loving centrists. With an excess focus on "trust and safety", an attempt be a "kinder and safer" community only created a sterile community. Dynamism attracts. Hell, volatility attracts — that's why Twitter still has so many users. You cannot deny that much. You cannot be moral and make money at the same time. The end goal for any commercial social network is to make money for investors and owners – just like any corporation. You can only make money by selling a lot of something, exploiting a lot of something, doing something cheaper than someone else or a combination of all three. It is noticeably clear there was not enough scope for monetisation.
What is the USP of T2 beyond "less bad than Twitter"? Beyond a purple colour scheme, there is nothing that is particularly unique to make it standout against the rest. That is the real problem though: what is the rest? The rest is a litany of things that tried to be "Twitter but better". Spill, Post, Substack, whatever. They are all palette swaps of Twitter, with an attempt to be "better" in some way but without having any real USP. Why go to an unknown, unproven Twitter-alike when you could just... Stay on Twitter. Every platform is trying to be a digital town square, whatever that means.
We then come back to the main issue here: how do you make money? Read this as: "how do you provide investor value?". It is a question Twitter has now evaded because it was bought out — as far as those investors are concerned, they got a massive payday! The other competitors are not going to be so lucky. Investors want a return on investment. Investors want costs as low as possible and value as high as possible — so they get more of their share of the profits. The ultimate point is that all social media platforms are doomed to failure if they do not turn a profit, and quickly. The only way to do that is to scale quickly — and we come back to this question again. What is the USP? What is the point of being on these Twitter-alikes when Twitter is still there?
Leaked documents from Pebble, which I found floating online, show that Pebble needed roughly $5 million of runway to break through to the market. It only got one million dollars. When you are beholden to someone's cash, you are beholden to what they want.
Could Pebble have made it? I highly doubt it. How could it? With little user growth, there is nothing to show investors that it is worth five million dollars. But without five million dollars, there is no way to invest in user growth. You really cannot build a "kind and safe" community at scale because that requires growth rates that are more investor-happy than community-happy.
The Mastodon in the room
Yes, I named this section after Mastodon, but I really meant the Fediverse in general. The Fediverse is proof that you can build a genuinely sustainable, kind, safe, and friendly community without the need for copious amounts of investor money. In fact, you can build an Instance that has working features like the ability to upload gifs and videos without having to put it on some stupid roadmap. My time on T2 was marred by the fact that the god-fucking-damn logo kept blipping in and out of existence, something I have never experienced on my time on the Fediverse. Put simply, any startup wants to act like they are changing the world and re-inventing the wheel because that bold, big language gets investor cash. The Fediverse does not need investor cash, and therefore is only beholden to the needs and wants of each individual instance operator.
Pebble, unfortunately, has resisted calls to open-source (probably because there is nothing of value in the source code lol), and any talk of interoperability with the Fediverse (which would make it a very cool proposition for the two people left online) has been met with stony silence. In short, despite the best wishes of the users — all that is left for them is to return to Twitter, or... in many cases, head over to BlueSky.
We're all dying to know what Limhi thinks about all this.
I did not understand a single word of that.
But do you know what? This entire essay does not matter at all. The real reason T2 collapsed was that they suspended my account.
The moral of the story is that Yaseen always gets the last laugh.
PS: for a brief analysis of that leaked spreadsheet, check this post here.