The rapid-fire success of Threads as a Twitter substitute is more evidence that in the realm of digital media, this Crisis Era belongs to a limited number of Big Tech players.
After “the Twitter troubles” began, numerous upstart sites attempted to dethrone the platform, taking over its particular social media niche. You may have heard of some of them: mastodon, tribel, bluesky, truth social. None were able to reach the size of the established platforms. Then along comes Threads from Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta company and bam! – instant giant new platform.
The logic is simple. It’s a lot of work for users to lift and shift their social media presence from one platform to another. For example, it took me years to build my tiny Twitter following. Having to start over from scratch on another platform that might fail is not an enticing proposition.
But since Threads is linked to Facebook and Instagram, it lets users start with whatever base of followers they have on those other sites. It comes with the established reputation of those other big platforms. You know Facebook isn’t going anywhere any time soon. So jumping to Threads makes a lot more sense, if it’s really necessary to escape a sinking Twitter.
In previous posts, I’ve reviewed a couple of authors who wrote about waves or cycles in technology, where new disruptive technologies shake up existing monopolies, only to eventually congeal into their own monopolies. It happened with radio and television, which for a good while were dominated in the United States by the “Big Three” networks. It’s happened again with the Internet.
After the cultural disruption that came with the 60s and 70s, the media world became much more fragmented, especially with the rise of the Internet. But once Internet usage became a commonplace, consumers started flocking to major brands, drawn to the convenience and reliability which they provide. Thus, only a small number of platforms for social media and video streaming have been able to thrive. Many of those platforms are consolidated under one corporate conglomerate, such as Google+YouTube or Facebook+Instagram. So, we now live in the era of “Big Tech.”
Criticism of Big Tech and concern for the dangers of allowing them their consolidated power abounds, and that criticism is warranted. Big established corporations are motivated to stifle competition. They have the ability to manipulate public perception to favor their interests (did you know that Western Union helped decide the 1876 Presidential election?). They can operate freely outside of the processes of democratic government, but with as much or more power as government has, unless democratic government can be brought to bear to restrain them. But that is so very, very hard to do. It’s so much easier to just check the terms of agreement box and join up with everyone else.
Face it, Big Tech is here to stay, for at least a generation. So maybe it’s best to ride the current monopoly wave, and like and share with the rest of your network, knowing that some disruptive new technology will come along – eventually – in the future.