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Meta confirms decentralized Twitter rival in the works

Where there's disaffected twits there's potential revenue, and Facebook parent smells blood – er, profit

Not content to sit on the sidelines while Twitter falters, Facebook parent Meta is working on a text-focused competitor, based on the decentralized bones of fediverse favorite Mastodon.

Reportedly dubbed "P92" internally, the app may well interoperate with Mastodon by supporting the ActivityPub protocol, and could be Instagram-branded and accessed via that social media juggernaut – if it ever clears the "wouldn't it be cool if" stage. Existence of the project was revealed exclusively by Indian business news website Moneycontrol, which said it spoke with insiders and also saw a copy of an internal P92 product brief.

Meta didn't deny the scoop. In a statement to The Register, the Silicon Valley giant even said it's working on something decentralized and Twitter-adjacent. "We're exploring a standalone decentralized social network for sharing text updates. We believe there's an opportunity for a separate space where creators and public figures can share timely updates about their interests," a Meta spokesperson told us.

We're exploring a standalone decentralized social network for sharing text updates

As to whether it would be based on ActivityPub or simply compatible with it, how far along in development the project is or anything else about it, for that matter, Meta kept mum. 

There's definitely blood in the water

Meta's admission that it's exploring an entry into Twitter's territory marks an escalation in the saga of what is increasingly looking like the eventual collapse of the bird site, partial or otherwise, if money woes mean it can't keep the servers on.

Mastodon, a federated, decentralized alternative to Twitter that had already been around before Musk's takeover of the tweet biz last October, enjoyed a surge of interest from users unhappy with Musk's antics at the beginning of the year. While there's been some decrease in daily active users on Mastodon as time has gone on, plenty of folks appear to have happily set up shop over there and have remained regular users.

Plenty of other alternatives to Twitter have spun up, or gained traction, in the wake of Twitter going "hardcore" and stripping down to a skeleton crew. T2, founded by former Google and Twitter leader Gabor Csele, has pulled in more than $1 million in angel funding, while Post News, which has tried to create a journalist-centric version of Twitter, has received an undisclosed amount of capital from Silicon Valley investment firm Andreessen Horowitz.

Even Twitter founder Jack Dorsey is involved in a Twitter competitor, and his is decentralized, too. 

Bluesky began as a Twitter experiment in 2019 to build a "decentralized standard for social media," Dorsey said in a tweet. It now exists as its own separate company with Dorsey on the board, and is working on what's been widely described as a bare-bones Twitter clone currently available in private beta. 

Bluesky has its own AT Protocol, which the biz seems to see as an upgrade to, and replacement for, ActivityPub because it makes user migration between servers easier, Bluesky said. 

With Dorsey backing ATP and Meta potentially getting ready to enter Mastodon's ActivityPub fediverse, it'll be interesting to see if either gain traction. Both have a long climb if they hope to reach into Twitter's user base: While reportedly down around 9 percent since Musk's takeover, Twitter still has around 450 million monthly active users, meaning the fediverse, with an estimated 2.6 million monthly users, is still a drop in the Twitter chum bucket, which is definitely leaking, mind you. ®

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