Who says that success should be measured by Twitter? It may be that no other social network approaches Twitter and Facebook in size given their dominance, but that doesn't mean that there can be no other social networks.
In my opinion, one-size-fits-all social was a mistake to begin with. Smaller niche spaces (like HN) are much more interesting.
To think of it another way: did your favorite local bistro "fail" as a restaurant because it didn't become as large as McDonald's? Which one would you rather eat at?
Big social media companies are now seen as responsible for the destruction and compromise of democracy and have many more problems which wouldn't exist if they weren't so universally adopted.
I hope the future is full of many smaller niche social media sites that cater to a smaller group instead of trying to appeal to everyone.
I personally don't have any major social media accounts, just small ones like HN - but I understand why people feel the need to use larger ones.
What matters is the people I want to interact with, and in Seattle they are on Mastodon. Not everyone needs to be on it, and frankly if close to everyone were on it you'd potentially drive away a good subset of users. That being said, by design I can retain my feed of friends on Mastodon without fear of some corporation or eternal spring of new users wrecking it.
I too was 'logged off except' a wealth of university-related groups. Then I was 'logged off during' writing up my dissertation, and finally just 'logged off'.
(And now I'm still contributing to user count, while continually thinking I should just log in to delete my account, as I've heard a couple of times from people that thought I was 'on Facebook' or 'what happened to your profile' and maybe more people that think I'm just ignoring them than I'm aware of.)
I'm not a big Facebook user, but my parents have been caught up in the bush fires currently raging in Australia and got cut off from power and internet (no power for satellite internet, and the mobile mast ran out of backup power), and finding a local Facebook group created to discuss the fires was fantastically helpful, I got in touch with their rural route mailman and people in the local village and found a bunch of good local news sources.
In comparison there was nearly nothing on Twitter (one Sydney reporter who was tweeting from her dispatch for two or three days). Main-stream news sites were utterly useless with no detail in their reports. Without Facebook I would have had drastically less information and more worry.
There was a clear, forum-inherited structure to most groups. It kept me coming back, day after day.
Google+ had a similar appeal - I dont know you, I dont care. I like what you have to offer, so I'm getting to know you.
Bridging that into meatspace relationships by frontloading them first? Was straining - I realized how little my peers cared for what they even do. Flooding that feed with game-spam? Negated the premise. And turning it into infinite-scroll of bad takes to drive engagement just turned me temporarily, but deeply misanthropic.
Turning online into afk relationships and friendships made all of this worthwhile. Facebook had that for a bit with their "events" features... But those got nerfed into being useless without an advertising firm's budget.
I, for one? Am happy to join somewhere that respects my time.
That's literally why I added the caveat of saying "Mastodon isn't a failure" -- but it hasn't overcome the incumbent and it won't and that may not have been the goal, but that is certainly the story that was told/sold "this OSS de-centralized app is going to replace Twitter," if not by the founders, than by the press/people excited by the idea.
The differentiator behind Mastodon is federation via the ActivityPub protocol. And Mastodon is just one implementation of ActivityPub. More are being built every day.
It's likely that a world with ubiquitous ActivityPub would look very different from the social media landscape of today -- Mastodon is a little like Twitter, Pixelfed is a little like Instagram, Peertube is a little like Youtube, but they all syndicate their content to each other. So as ActivityPub grows the conventional categories blur. What happens if WordPress decides to add ActivityPub support to the Core?
I can't read the future but I think the real metric to look at is ActivityPub adoption. No one is tracking it very well right now to my knowledge. And if it hits a certain critical mass I think it will start to reconfigure the current categories of social media. It will also bring down barriers to entry which may discourage the rise of incumbents similar to today's crop.
My main gripe with it is that potentially writing a spec-compliant server in an enterprise-y language like Java almost feels like a fool's errand (I tried it in Dart, which is very Java-esque).
On that note, I don't even think that the main focus should be on which protocol is used, but rather the features of platforms in the "fediverse," and reasons other than the blanket term "privacy" that the average person would consider switching.
Like I said, I'm a fan of ActivityPub and its concept, but I think it's fair to say that spec is more complex than what it needs to be, and would have been better off strictly defining the shape of data it can handle.
Are we talking about that? I don't think so... why must everyone "overcome" the incumbent?
Sure, Facebook is the goto for "general purpose" social networking between friends and family. On the other hand, Facebook is terrible for following and discussing the news, unless you like a huge heap of bias and low-quality clickbait. WT Social is planning to address that niche. Facebook is also terrible if you want to keep up with a huge volume of tech news and follow interesting discussions on those topics with lots of expert contributors. HN fills that niche, but sometimes there is too much politics here, so Lobste.rs exists for people who prefer smaller, more focused conversation.
The "long tail" in the social space is huge. Not every venture needs or wants to be the next Amazon in its space.
> if not by the founders, than by the press/people excited by the idea.
And that's the problem. The press doesn't know what they are talking about.
It’s scale allows niches to spontaneously coalesce and grow stronger over time.
In this case, if all your friends hang out at McDonalds, you're not gonna want to sit at your local bistro alone.