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  • Writer's pictureElliot J Harper

The Twitter Clone Wars

Updated: Dec 21, 2023

“Begun, the Clone War has.”


Well, I did it. I wrote another blog! I have to say, I’m a tad surprised. I thought I might have already given up… again… but it turns out that I’m quite keen on this blogging lark now that I’ve committed myself to it. 

Unlike my self-imposed ban on doomscrolling, which, alas, dear reader, has already fallen onto rocky ground. I’ve certainly logged on far less than I did, and I stoically avoid the news and politics – so I guess, it’s just scrolling, without the doom, and it’s not half as bad - but, in my defence, I picked an awful time to pull back. Twitter is falling apart, and pretenders to that peculiar throne have climbed out of the dark forest of the internet and laid siege to the realm.


Of course, if you don’t know what Twitter is and don’t pay attention to the nonsense that occurs online via the plethora of social media accounts that are now available, you won’t know what I’m talking about. So, I’ll sum it up very quickly (and poorly.) 

Elon Musk, the Tesla guy and all-round twat, accidentally bought Twitter for $44 billion, and now he’s sort-of, kind-of trying to do something with it… honestly, I’m not sure anyone – including himself – truly knows what he’s doing. Some think he’s trying to make it profitable, but if that’s the case, then it doesn’t appear to be working because users and advertisers are fleeing in droves. He’s tried to get people to pay for it (11 quid a month, HA!), and then he restricted those who aren’t daft enough to subscribe, so that they can’t tweet much or read their messages. He then decided to change the name to X, without checking to see who had the letter copyrighted (a lot of people seem to) or even had the Twitter handle. It’s been one giant, weird, boring, cluster-fuck, one that has pushed people like me into the waiting hands of the Twitter clones that are gleefully salivating at the prospect of new users.

And they have stepped up, and surprisingly quickly.

BlueSky is a practically a twin of Twitter. It’s still in the beta phase and is invite-only, but I got my hands on a code. It’s been put together by disgruntled former Twitter employees, and because of that, it looks the same as Twitter before it was X’ed. It’s much quieter and has fewer features or reach, but it might be useful for networking and there a far less trolls on there. It’s hard to predict where it’ll go because it’s new and small, but I’ll hang around to find out.

Threads, on the other hand, has the potential to steal Twitter’s coveted throne. It’s an offshoot of Instagram, cobbled together because of the real-life – sigh - feud between Musk and Zuckerberg. (These two billionaires reckon they are going to have a fight… Yes, that does sound insane. But, perversely, I’d like to see it. Just imagine those two pallid, doughy clowns flopping around the mat/ring/cage trying in vain to beat each other in a show of toxic masculinity. It would be like that scene in Friends where Chandler and Ross arm-wrestler to a stalemate because they are both as weak as each other. The difference being that they are two of the wealthiest people in the world… how depressing.) Threads has the reach, the financial backing, and the social media experience to probably go and win this ridiculous war. It just needs to work on some features, like curating your feed and creating lists, but it’s already garnered quite a following in the short time it’s been around (124M as of 16.08.23 compared to Twitter, which boasts 450m users. Considering it’s only been around for a month, that’s not bad for the new kid on the block, … Of course, they both pale in comparison to Facebook, which has a staggering 2.95b users (of course, this benefits Threads because it, FB and Instagram are all part of Meta.)

Those are the two likely contenders, but there’s also Mastodon (where you toot rather than tweet) and Spill, which is a kind of meme version of Twitter. I didn’t like either, so I deleted my accounts, leaving me with a total of six social media apps… SIX!

There’s also TikTok, but I have a feeling I am too old for this shit (A Lethal Weapon quote, baby!)

You might think that none of this madness matters, especially in the face of some pretty scary global events, but from my very specific point of view, it does. 

You see, indie publishing and the authors it has spawned (including myself) has thrived because of Twitter. It used to provide a free space for self-promotion and to build communities (and in some respects, it still does. It’s just harder to wade through the dross), where small presses and new and experienced writers can come together and support each other. 

Now, that Twitter/X is on the decline, or destined to become a poor man’s WeChat replica (China’s answer to a social media app, with in-house purchasing and over 1.2B users), the emergence of Threads and BlueSky is massively important for the health of the indies. The Big 4 publishers that dominate the publishing domain have their vast networks and masses of cash for promotion, but the grafting indie needs the digital word of mouth to sell their books. It’s argued – and quite rightly – that the indies do the leg work of the publishing industry. They are the ones that take the risks. They are the ones unearthing new authors and getting them onto the publishing ladder. Without the hard-working indies, we would have to rely on the Big 4, who tend to stick to their playbooks and avoid risk like the plague. 

Not the indies. It’s balls out of the bath for them (an I’m Alan Partridge quote, no less!) The niche is their substance. They gorge themselves, sating their hunger like the literary gluttons that they are. You want New Weird, you’ve got it. You want books with a political edge, it’s yours (my own publisher, Fly on the Wall, included.) You want strange subgenres, like splatterpunk and bizarro, look no further. You want publishers aimed for minorities or LGBTQIA+, you’ve come to the right place! 

The indies have it all and then some. This is why the Twitter Clone Wars are not just some strange, tedious footnote in the weird history of the Internet. Without the space to promote our work, indie publishing may find it very hard to sell books, and the literary world will be much poorer without it. 

When you play the game of clones, you win, or you die. There is no middle ground (a sort of Game of Thrones quote.) So, for good or ill, I’m a pawn in this war, tweeting/xeeting/posting/threading/tooting/whatever-the-fuck-elsing, until someone rises above and takes the crown. 

To the victor, go the spoils! 

Thanks for reading.

Elliot J Harper

Author of the soon-to-be-released New Gillion Street by Fly on the Wall Press.


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