Is Post.News a Better Twitter?

A new competitor to Twitter has started rolling out, and it's a promising alternative from people who know how to build technology at scale

Is Post.News a Better Twitter?

Early Saturday morning, I received an email alerting me that I’d been accepted into the invite-only beta for Post.News, a new Twitter-inspired site devoted to improving the moderation experience of users, while also allowing tipping via micropayments translated into redeemable points.

I began poking around, and it’s clearly early days — but improving fast. Initially, there were few people I recognized. This changed quickly, so that by Sunday morning, I could find familiar faces easily. One benefit of the early days is that Kara Swisher — a hero of mine on the journalism and truth-telling front — was one of my first followers, and reposted at least one of my posts. I’ll have to nurture this virtual “brush with greatness” as I recede from view as her fanbase and activity are restored to megastar levels on this new platform.

Her presence alone may be an early indicator of success.

Basic functions like search were just being rolled out this weekend, and the scrolling experience is jumpy. The developers are obviously learning to deal with scale, and the founder and his team are being very open about it. They sound a lot nicer than some other tech moguls.

And, a reverse-chronology feed rather than an algorithmic feed?

Sign me up. A reverse-chron feed feels a lot calmer, that’s for sure.

I’m not alone. According to those behind the new site, more than 100,000 users had joined the waiting list, with ~2,000 being admitted per day.

Post was founded and is helmed by Noam Bardin, who was CEO of Waze from 2009-2021 (from 2013-2021, he was “Chief Wazer” within Google, which acquired Waze in 2013 for $1.3 billion). An operations and strategy person, Bardin resigned from Google in February 2021 because he was “worn down by the nature of the beast.” Bardin seems a very practical serial entrepreneur — one venture he started didn’t work, and he describes it simply on his LinkedIn page: “Failed, shut it down.” He announced he was developing Post in May 2022.

Options on the social media front have been scant, but the urgency to develop and transfer to something new increased suddenly and steadily as Elon Musk took over Twitter and became King Twit. It culminated for me Saturday evening with the news that Musk has allowed Donald Trump back on Twitter, a move that Musk telegraphed months ago. If only he were man enough to just do it, but instead he resorted to hiding behind a bad-faith survey, which ended with a 52/48 split including an unknown number of bots and an unreliable reporter conveying the results. This only added to the childishness of the Musk era at Twitter.

I was already headed for the exit, but this pushed me to leave permanently — not necessarily for the politics, but for the meddling and immaturity coming off Musk. My personal account has been deleted.

The micropayments aspect of Post is interesting as a way for content creators to make money from the platform. It’s based on points, which can be redeemed for $0.01 each, but which cost $0.014 to buy (down to $0.0126 if you buy 10,000 points). If this margin between the cost of points and the redeemable value is a way to make money, or just a way to cover Stripe charges, isn’t clear, but I think it’s to cover Stripe and credit card processing fees because those redeeming points pay the fee on the way out, so Post appears to be covering its costs here. It’s also not clear that this is going to remain the exchange rate, but the redemption value is so common sense that I think it will stay this way for a long time.

As a new user, you get 50 points banked, to spend as you see fit. You can tip another user, or you can spend points on paywalled content. This weekend, I saw articles from Reuters and others interposing micropayments in front of content, but only on the mobile version — the desktop experience may becoming next.

To redeem points for dollars, you have to have $50 worth of points. Currently, you email someone to request a withdrawal. I’m sure as the technology advances, the minimum will fall, and the automation will increase.

Posts can be longer on Post.News, and can contain subscription buttons, registration buttons, and more. It’s more like a feed of articles in many ways, not just a feed of thoughts with links. As one early adopter noted, Post feels like Twitter and Medium had a child.

How will Post make money? It’s uncertain, but I might be convinced to pay $4.99/month for something like this. Media players may also be willing to pay to push content and generate micropayments. The “lease and subscribe” model I speculated about more than two years ago might prove viable here.

The typography of the site is an improvement, with a serif font in place of the sans serif in most newsfeeds. This has a mixed effect. When posts are short, the font can seem huge and unwieldy, while longer posts read better. You can also use bold, italic, and bold italic, which is nice. I hope the team continues to pay attention to the typography, because it’s mysteriously important to good communication experiences.

If there are moderation problems, posts can also be flagged, as can users. The community is its own guardian, an approach that doesn’t work well at scale, so this is a point of vulnerability to watch. And while those involved sound sane now, I was initially enthusiastic about Substack and its ethical posturing, which was abandoned as soon as enough money appeared before them if they decided to be just a smidge transgressive. We’ll see if Post can navigate the seven deadly sins any better.

There are glitches. I posted an article from “The Geyser,” and the preview rendered correctly. However, hours later, I posted another, and while the headline was correct, the site grabbed the text from the earlier post from its cache. I’ll try again, as it is early days and glitches are inevitable.

That said, development seems to be moving rapidly, and in interesting directions. For instance, last night, a build was deployed that added the ability to choose between seeing posts from people you follow or exploring posts from the entire site (including people you follow), with an easy toggle at the top of the feed:

That’s a deft, user-centric design choice, and an elegant implementation.

For everyone fleeing to Mastodon, which I am loathe to try given reports of technical load on the user, Post.News may become something worth watching if you’re uneasy about Twitter. Of course, not everyone uses Twitter, and social media as a hot commodity may be fading overall as people absorb its implications and decide to push away from the table. My hope is that Post.News or something like it can elevate social media more toward media, and that will take mediation of a new kind — based on real identity, non-exploitative commerce, and good content moderation.

To join the waitlist, you can click here.

Things are changing fast in the social media space, and at Post.News — hopefully for the better.