Would a Nonprofit Twitter Clone Work?

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Many people have said that Facebook has gotten so big it should be considered a public utility. I think this applies much more so to Twitter given the penetration and speed a single tweet can achieve for both local and global news. Forget major cities and tech hubs, even the most remote parts of the world get their news via tweets.

This utility-like nature has been threatened and damaged many times before by decisions Twitter has made. Some of these decisions due to what’s in their best interest as a for-profit business. They have an obligation to make money, I understand.

But what if they didn’t?

Many, many, many (did I say many?) people have attempted to make Twitter clones. In the scope of this blog post, I see two large problems with these clones.

  1. They are for-profit startups. Or worse, not businesses at all. Too many VCs have invested money in Twitter to want to let it fail now by investing in a competing project. Also, being for-profit brings the same troubles Twitter has now. Balancing privacy concerns and user freedom with the need to make a buck.
  2. Many “clones” aren’t really clones anyway. These projects tend to create their own take on Twitter. That’s fair, that’s their right as makers and entrepreneurs. Personally, I mostly like the way Twitter works and would like an exact clone. It’s gotten as big as it has for a reason, right?

So can we do it?

How possible would it be to create an identical Twitter clone, where the backing company is a nonprofit or foundation? Where making money isn’t one of the underlying goals but instead a sustainable communications and news platform for the world is?

If I remember correctly, one of Twitter’s largest problems in the past as been scaling their infrastructure. That remains an issue and for a nonprofit, paying for that infrastructure will be as well.

Still, I’m excited about the thought of cloning Twitter into an actual, public, technology infrastructure. Even if it’s just a pipe dream.

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