New social media outlets prove the viability of indie social.

The invention of the printing press made mass media possible. Printing houses produced popular books and bibles, but they also spread the writing that powered the Reformation. Major newspapers became was the dominant media for decades, but there have always been community and independent newspapers. Self-publishing, indie music, art house films and college radio are all forms of independent media.

Economy of scale1 pushes these systems toward consolidation. But as these media outlets consolidate into a few major players, there is always a market for an alternative. Why should social media be any different?

When the internet became popular, personal sites and blogs were the ultimate form of independent media. Economy of scale kicked in like it always does. Large news sites dominate and Google Search drives the traffic to the largest most well established sites.2 Blogs became less popular, but there are still many independent blogs and personal sites around the internet.

With social media, consolidation drove us to a handful of sites. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, TikTok and Snapchat. The funding model drove this as well… Venture capital investment bet on the next big social media winner, and sites either made it big, or disappeared. (RIP: Path, Vine, Periscope, Gowalla, Google+, Google Wave.) I wasn’t sure there was space for independent social media.

All of the attention right now is on Meta’s Threads and the cage match with Twitter, but there’s a lot more going on in the space. Elon’s purchase and erosion of Twitter3 has opened the doors to alternatives. ActivityPub is starting to take root that will allow some interoperability between sites. I’ve been a Micro.Blog subscriber for years and it’s a wonderful independent social space.4 Mastodon and Bluesky are both putting forward their visions for an open web. And users are adapting Discord and other sites to create smaller, independent communities.

These sites now have a large enough user base to stick around, and technical solutions like ActivityPub allow easy access to creators on other networks. The businesses aren’t (currently) poisoned by the venture capital desire to grow fast and get rich. This is how a healthy independent social media ecosystem develops.

Bob Wertz is a creative director, type designer, Ph.D. student and researcher living in Columbia, South Carolina.

  1. The idea that businesses become more efficient as they get larger. ↩︎

  2. Or the ones that have loaded their sites with SEO friendly keywords. ↩︎

  3. Or is it X? ↩︎

  4. And blogging platform. ↩︎