The Demise of Twitter Alternative Pebble: Challenges, Competition, and Lessons Learned


The Demise of Twitter Alternative Pebble

The grip Twitter, now called X, has on the market may be stronger than some believed. Unfortunately, that’s led to the first casualty among Twitter alternatives, as the startup Pebble (formerly T2), is shutting down.

In part, the sizable competition coming from other Twitter rivals was to blame, says co-founder and CEO Gabor Cselle. Today, the market for Twitter alternatives is a crowded one. There are numerous services for consumers to try, including Mastodon, Bluesky, Spill, Spoutible, Post, and Instagram Threads.

Despite these challenges, Pebble initially had decent retention. By week four, it was seeing retention rates of 30%. Its invite list also worked well, with 60% of recipients converting to become users. However, only 3,000 out of 20,000 registered users were active daily. This figure fell even further following its rebranding.

Competition and Durability of Twitter’s Network Effect

Pebble’s founders recognized that the durability of Twitter’s network effect posed significant challenges. Other platforms like Threads experienced similar difficulties. While competitors tried to replicate Twitter’s function as a breaking news platform and a place for debates, they struggled to match its appeal.

The Importance of Moderation and User Experience

Pebble prioritized trust, safety, and moderation, but it may have leaned too far into creating a “safer” space, according to the founders. They realize the importance of allowing open conversation and disagreement while still drawing boundaries to address unacceptable behavior.

Factors That Hindered Pebble’s Success

Pebble lacked a native mobile app and focused on web development to be agile, potentially missing out on discovery opportunities through app stores. Additionally, the rebranding from T2 to Pebble may have softened its value proposition.

The Winddown of Pebble

Pebble announced its winddown to users, offering them the option to export their archive as a zip file for showcasing old posts. No direction was provided to join X or any other social network.

The Future for Pebble’s Founders

The founders don’t regret their experience with Pebble and believe there is still an audience for a new kind of Twitter-like platform. They plan to stay together as a team, taking the learnings from Pebble to build something new that better communicates with users about great content and how they can succeed.

“We’re at an inflection point in social media,” says co-founder Sarah Oh. “This past year is a turning point for the role that social media plays in our lives.”

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