Best Alternative to Twitter

The Best Alternative to Twitter for Photographers?

What is the best alternative to Twitter for photographers? I’ve been looking for an alternative for some time as the prospect of the platform falling into the hands of the world’s richest man fills me for some reason with dread. In this article I’m looking closely at two candidate replacements, Vero and Tribel. I opened accounts on these platforms in order to compare. That doesn’t necessarily mean I’m endorsing them! I’m not going to talk about Mastadon, even though it is direct replacement for Twitter because it is simply a messaging app, not really image centric.

Social Media for Photographers

Why do we use social media? Well, as a photographer, in addition to my website, I need a social aspect to my digital presence. I like to find other photographers and see interesting and inspiring work. Also I get jobs through social media and sell prints of my own work.

So what is important to me is that my images look good (which pretty much rules Facebook out) and that I m visible to others. If I had to list my requirements as a photographer in order of priority, it might look something like this.

  1. Good looking images – Facebook’s compression is notorious for crushing the life out of images. Instagram forces certain aspect ratios on every photo.
  2. Visibility – I’d like viewers to have an even chance to see my pictures. No exclusion algorithms pushing me towards paid advertising..I’m talking about you, Facebook.
  3. Social – I’d like to be able to interact with those that like my work and I’d like to discover new photographers as well.
  4. I’d like to curate my own feed and I don’t want to be harassed by wannabe influencers.

I currently have over 5000 followers on Twitter (none of them bots) and a Facebook page. The Twitter account is thriving, Facebook is algorithmically challenged – unless you actively promote a page with ads, Facebook throttles the visibility to friends. Having said that, all of my friends and family are on Facebook so between them Facebook and Twitter will be difficult to replace.

Facebook, Instagram and Twitter

The social media landscape is dominated and has been for many years by Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Facebook is a social site, Twitter is fundamentally a messaging app but has benefitted in the last six months from photographers fleeing Instagram which is an image/video sharing site with social built in.

Facebook and Instagram are owned by Meta, plaything of billionaire Mark Zuckerberg. Twitter is owned by Elon Musk, self anointed ‘visionary’ and champion of right wing demagogue Donald Trump..

Photography Sites

There are plenty of sites to post photography on. Here’s a quick overview of the two biggest sites.

500px

Mostly high quality, very polished images. 500px is very popular with north american photographers in particular. In the beginning, popularity depends almost entirely on what time of day you post. The “Pulse” algorithm assigns a score to every image based as far as I can tell on the activity around that image in the first few hours after posting.

Free account with basic functionality is available.

Flickr

Flickr was ubiquitous back in the day and worked really well until it was acquired by Yahoo. Photographers left in droves. A huge range of photography on the site of variable quality.

Free account with basic functionality is available.

You can also post images for sale on sites like DeviantArt , SmugMug and Redbubble.

The Curse of the Algorithm

Why would you flee Instagram? Well algorithms can be and are gamed. I can’t abide the platform personally. Its ridden with bots and ‘like’ hounds whose favourite tactic is to befriend hundreds of people a day, hoover up a collection of return friendships and then drop the lot of them so that they can demonstrate what they believe is evidence of a healthy ‘following’ : ‘followers’ ratio.

Facebook changes its algorithms with baffling frequency and, judging by the user experience, with only one aim – to maximise ad revenue. Twitter fills my feed with politics and ads, regardless of the fact I follow no politicians and engage with little other than photography.

All of these platforms are now prioritising financial growth over user experience. And that is inevitable since the traditional model adopted by startups is to build an audience with a free offering and pay the wages with venture capital. The problem is, as a user of these platforms it’s rare that I see anything in my feeds that remotely interests me.

Other photographers have pretty much woken up to this and have for a while, Twitter seemed like an answer to the problem for a few months, the user experience is good, it doesn’t demand a great deal other than regular posting and if you curate your feed well, you can turn up some great photographers, commentators and connections.

The bad side of Twitter has always been the deranged ravings of conspiracy theorists, right wing nutjobs and demagogues. It’s relatively easy to avoid them but one slip of the finger and your feed becomes polluted. I think under the pilotage of Musk, it’s about to get a lot worse.

What are the Alternatives?

Vero

Vero best alternative to Twitter
Vero Profile

Is Vero the best alternative to Twitter?

Well, like Twitter, Vero is free. The intention is to charge eventually but current users will be free for life.

What is Vero?

Vero is a content sharing platform first. You can share images, links, music, books, movies and places. Visibility is primarily via hashtag and chat between friends is supported. Like Twitter, Vero is an app and aesthetically speaking, a very well designed one. Photographs look gorgeous. If you want your work to be seen and liked, Vero is pretty good for that.

Vero is Ad Free and Algorithm free. Posts are sorted chronologically and that’s it. You can filter your feed to see just photographs to just movies and there are no ads. That bears repeating. There are no Ads.

Who owns Vero and what is their story?

Vero was founded by Lebanese billionaire Ayman Hariri, the son of former Lebanese prime minister Rafic Hariri. The app launched officially in 2015 as an alternative to Facebook and Instagram. The name means “Truth”.

So far, so good. But Donald Trump launched “Truth Social” and Elon Musk now owns Twitter so let’s not take anything at face value here. What’s Ayman Hariri’s story?

A cursory search turns up that Ayman Hariri was deputy CEO and deputy chairman of Saudi Oger, a construction company founded by his father and the source of much of the family’s multi billion dollar fortune. This is where the story gets interesting. The company shut down in 2017. Reports at the time mentioned Saudi Oger workers going unpaid and being abandoned with no money, food or water,

However, according to Vero, Hariri left Saudi Oger in 2013 “to pursue other initiatives” and subsequently had no operational, management or board level oversight of the company and was not involved in any decision making.

As far as Vero itself is concerned, the closest thing to a scandal is the fact that they used Russian software engineers in the first phases of the app (which in the beginning was widely known to be super buggy). That in itself isn’t a crime, until March 2022, IBM (to take just one example) had substantial operations in Russia and maintains a search laboratory in China to this day.

Vero is funded by a billionaire. It’s a fact of life that murky stories will surface about successful people, that’s the nature of business. Whether Hariri is any more toxic than Zuckerberg or Musk is a matter for you to decide. Certainly the Vero manifesto comes across as more credible than Musk’s or Zuckerbergs, majoring as it does on inclusivity, equality and trust.

Good Looking Images?

Vero – Good Looking Images?

Vero is currently the best looking photo site in town. The colours are well represented and a single click on the image itself renders it full sized a near black background. The app shows you just what you need to see, likes and comments are easily accessible, The image is right click protected so people can’t download it easily.

Vero has come under fire for its terms and conditions, with critics claiming that they amount to an IP grab. I could find no evidence of this, in fact they have clarified the passages that were singled out for criticism so that it is clear that IP resided with the original owner.

This is the passage in question

In accordance with your choice of the privacy settings offered by the Service, by posting or otherwise making available any User Content on or through the Service, you hereby grant, and you represent and warrant that you have all rights necessary to grant, to Vero a limited, royalty-free, sublicensable, transferable, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive, worldwide license to use, reproduce, modify, publish, publicly perform, publicly display, list information regarding, translate, distribute, syndicate, make derivative works of, or otherwise use your User Content, including (without limitation) your name, voice, and/or likeness as it is contained within your User Content, in whole or in part, and in any form, media or technology, whether now known or hereafter developed.

Vero T&Cs

and this is the text that clarifies.

This license is being used by Vero solely as necessary to provide the Service, and for such other limited uses identified in our Privacy Policy. This license is not being used by Vero to sell your User Content to third parties or otherwise profit off of your User Content in any way that would be unrelated to Vero providing and promoting the Service, and it does not give Vero any rights to own your User Content or limit your ability to use your User Content however you wish outside of the Service.

Vero T&Cs

I’m happy with that. It is better than 500px and their relationship with Getty images to name just one.

What’s Good about Vero?

There is a lot to like about Vero, the user experience is excellent and as a photography platform it looks very promising. Its been going since 2015 and has addressed most of the technical issues that were reported back then. Am I bothered by the provenance? Not unduly. I’ve researched the platform pretty thoroughly and it seems to work well.

Tribel

Tribel

Is Tribel the best alternative to Twitter?

What is Tribel?

Tribel, as can be seen by the layout above, is pitched as a Facebook replacement. Like Facebook it has a chat function, friends, messages and notifications. Members are known as ‘contributors’ and you can select an audience when you post. This ensures your posts are seen by the audience you want to see them.

A new grassroots social network is finally here, one that has safeguards in place that will put morality, truth, and We the People first — and has innovative new features that will lead social media towards a brighter, better future.

Tribel is the SMARTER social network where your posts immediately reach the right audience, you finally get the recognition you deserve for making great posts — and you can customize your news feed to easily find the breaking and trending posts YOU want WHEN you want them — in any topic.

Tribel – App Store

Who Owns Tribel?

Tribel is owned by Omar Rivero, a democrat activist who personal wealth is measured in millions rather than billions. Rivero runs the influential Occupy Democrats page on Facebook and it would seem that Tribel, attracting as it does, people from the left of the political spectrum, is an extension of that experience.

Good Looking Images?

Image Display on Tribel

Certainly better than Facebook, but I wouldn’t say this is a great interface for photographers. It certainly doesn’t come close aesthetically to Vero.

Terms of Use

Simple and unvarnished. Nothing controversial here.

1. General Ownership

All trademarks, patents, copyrights and other intellectual property rights owned by either party on the date hereof shall continue to be owned solely by such party, and except as set forth herein, nothing in this Agreement shall be deemed to confer any rights to any such intellectual property on the other party. For purposes of clarity:

(i) As between you and Tribel, you shall be deemed to be the sole owner of all Posted Information entered into the Website or otherwise posted by you.

(ii) Tribel is the sole owner of the name “Tribel” as well as the Website and all source code, object code, software, content, copyrights, trademarks, patents and other intellectual property related thereto or included therein. All suggestions, recommendations, bug-fixes, error-fixes or other communications from you to Tribel regarding the Website shall, upon submission to Tribel, be owned solely and exclusively by Tribel. In addition, Tribel shall be entitled to post feedback at the Website (and/or allows others to do so), both positive and negative, regarding any user.

2. Use of Posted Information

In exchange for your use of Tribel, you irrevocably waive and cause to be waived, against Tribel and its users any claims and assertions of moral rights or attribution with respect to your Posted Information. Tribel shall be entitled to display advertising, and/or any other content at locations of its choosing within the website including without limitation adjacent to your posted Information.

Tribel terms of Use

What’s Good about Tribel?

Personally, I like the fact that it makes no secret of being a shade to the left in terms of politics. I haven’t been inundated with loons, although I could have done without the unsolicited “Agribusiness is Poison” comment. I avoid sloganeering if I can on the basis that there’s plenty enough of it already and just because it comes from a sympathetic source doesn’t make it any less negative.

I can see Tribel gaining a foothold, but I don’t see it as an adequate replacement for Facebook for my purposes.

What is the Best Alternative to Twitter for Photographers?

As a photographer, I’ve chosen to look at apps that display photographs well. I’m not sure that Twitter ever scored highly in this regard, it simply benefitted from a movement away from Instagram.

If it isn’t obvious already, of the two apps I’ve investigated, I favour Vero. It is geared towards the visual arts and comes without any political baggage. Perhaps I’ll see you there?

This post is part of my “Business of Photography” series in which I discuss the activities outside of photography itself that photographers are increasingly drawn to in order to sustain a career. To view the other posts in the series click on the category link at the top of this article.

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