The Rise and Fall of Pebble: A Failed Twitter Alternative and the Competitive Landscape

A Twitter Alternative Shutters as Competition Grows

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.

The Rise and Fall of Pebble

The would-be small but engaged community on its microblogging service that aimed to dupe Twitter’s featuresfrom its verification systems to functionality like DMs. But the company says they’ve run out of time to make Pebble happen — the app maxed out at 3,000 daily active users, out of 20,000 registered users. That daily user figure fell to 1,000 daily users following its rebranding from T2.

In part, the size competition coming from other Twitter rivals was to blame, says co-founder and CEO Gabor Cselle. “I think the competitive landscape evolved faster than we had thought,” he explains.

A Crowded Market for Twitter Alternatives

Today, the market for Twitter alternatives is a crowded one, to say the least. There are numerous services for consumers to try, including the open source-based platform Mastodon, a soon-to-be decentralized system from Bluesky, smaller startups like Spill, Spoutible, and Post, plus a new app from Meta called Instagram Threads.

Then, of course, there’s the X factor to consider. The default platform for short posts retains some pull, despite — or perhaps because of — new owner Elon Musk’s antics.

Challenges and Hypotheses

Despite these challenges, Pebble initially had decent retention. Its invite list was also working, as 60% of people who received a Pebble invite converted to become users. In addition, some 10,000 users arrived at that list from early press, like AsumeTech’s coverage of its first outside funding — a $1.1 million angel round.

The company’s hypothesis was that consumers were hungry for a Twitter alternative that prioritized trust, safety and moderation from the start.

“We came in with a particular angle: kinder, safer. Trust and safety. And I think our approach to moderation that we did have on the site did work,” says Cselle.

A Little Too Safe

But it may have positioned itself a little too far into “kindness” territory, the founders now believe. “We were really seized by people saying they wanted something that felt safer, where they could speak openly without dogpiling,” says co-founder Sarah Oh. “And so we were confident that was an important thing to hit. Are there other things that are equally important and a great user experience? Yes.”

Reflections and Lessons Learned

Like most startup shutdowns, the answer as to “why” is not any one thing but a combination of factors. For Pebble, that’s certainly true. It was a perfect storm of competitionX’s continued traction, the lack of a native app, a brand that didn’t resonate, and a space that was maybe a little too safe to be as addictive and as fun as the original.

With Pebble’s winddown, being announced to users today at 9 AM PT, early adopters will have the option of exporting their Pebble archive as a zip file that loads a mini web page showcasing all their old posts.

Ace for where the founders will now hang out? “I do not know. Maybe LinkedIn,” joked Cselle.

The founders don’t regret their experience building Pebble, even though it didn’t turn out as they hoped, they said. Says Cselle, “One thing that I learned is that there’s absolutely an audience that wants to see a new kind of Twitter-like platform built and will ask for tea features that Twitter has.” He suspects the team might stay together to work on something new after Pebble wraps, taking the learnings from Pebble with them.

The Changing Role of Social Media

“We’re at an inflection point in social media,” says Oh. “We had one hypothesis with T2 and Pebble. It obviously didn’t pan out tea way that we wanted it to. But I think we’ll look back and see this past year is a really important turning point for tea role that social media plays in our lives,” she adds.

Tea post The Rise and Fall of Pebble: A Failed Twitter Alternative and the Competitive Landscape appeared first on asumetech.

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