President Donald Trump
Image: The White House

You can't handle the Truth Social

Source Code

Good morning! You don’t have to squint too hard to see that Trump’s new social media app, Truth Social, is just Twitter with different vibes. I’m David Pierce, and I just learned how to solve a Rubik’s cube. Once. And it took me all day.

Nothing but the Truth Social

I'm @davidpierce on Truth Social. Or at least, I will be when I get off the waitlist. I'm #169,866 in line, according to the app. (And #89,866 according to an email I got yesterday, which really doesn't make any sense.)

Truth Social launched yesterday, and it seems to have gone about the way most social app launches go. There were lots of bugs, a long waitlist, and a lot of promises about how things will get better soon. In this case, according to Devin Nunes, the former congressman and current CEO of Trump Media & Technology Group, Truth Social should be "fully operational" by the end of March. It's not yet in the Google Play Store, but that's apparently coming soon, too.

So what is the app? Well, picture Twitter. There, that's it, you're done. It's Twitter.

  • Based on what we've seen, and early user reports, the app mimics Twitter almost exactly. The profiles look the same, there's a timeline, you can like and reply and retweet (sorry, ReTruth). There are no tweets, only Truths. But it's really just Twitter. And in case you're wondering? No, you can't edit Truths, either.
  • Mastodon's tech underpins the whole thing. Before its launch, Truth Social got some backlash for using code from the open-source social network without attribution. Now the terms of service acknowledges that its "codebase is free and open sourced, derived from the Mastodon project."

What makes Truth Social different? The vibes. The service calls itself "the Big Tent of social networking," and compares itself to a wedding where you're hanging out with your crazy uncle and kooky cousin and still having a good time. Mostly, though, it just promises to be "free from political discrimination."

  • The platform does have rules, though. Truth Social's terms prohibit "false, inaccurate or misleading" content, along with anything "obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, violent, harassing, libelous, slanderous, or otherwise objectionable."
  • Most of Truth Social's Terms of Service appears to have been copied and pasted, though. I found a near-identical page on thousands of sites, and many sections of Truth Social's page are a perfect match for a Termly template. Its platform rules seem to be more of a legal cover than a statement of purpose for Truth Social.

This is the first step in Donald Trump's quest to be a tech tycoon. Remember that slide deck from last year in which TMTG promised to take on Twitter and Facebook, Netflix and Disney, CNN and iHeartMedia, and just for good measure, AWS, Azure, Stripe and Google Cloud? The company is planning to go public via a SPAC, though that's still very much not guaranteed to work. And Truth Social seems to be the linchpin of the whole plan.

The whole alternative social media space wants this to work. For all the upstart social platforms and livestreaming apps, the vast majority of public online discourse still happens on Facebook and Twitter. All of these companies have positioned themselves in direct opposition to Big Tech, so any company that can upset that duopoly could open the market for everyone else, too.

  • "The more the merrier!" Gettr's Jason Miller posted on Gettr. "It's coming out of Facebook and Twitter's market share!"
  • "Best of luck to @realdonaldtrump and Truth Social," Gab CEO Andrew Torba posted on Gab, "this is a huge day for Alt Tech and a terrible day for Silicon Valley!"
  • These platforms and others pushed hard to get Trump to join, which would have almost certainly brought a big boost in users and effectively crowned a champion in the free-speech-Twitter wars. No matter what you think of Trump, you can't deny that he's unusually good at making people care about what he has to say. For a budding social platform, that's priceless.

So far, it looks like a solid debut. Truth Social was No. 1 on the App Store even as the app had issues and hardly let anyone in to use it. I'm not sure how much I trust the waitlist numbers, but it's clear that there's some pent-up excitement for the app. The question, as with all the others, will be whether it can sustain the interest, or if Truth Social is destined to be abandoned on home screens everywhere.

  • Here are some benchmarks to look for: MeWe, which was conceived as a free speech alternative to Facebook in much the same way Trump is positioning Truth Social against Twitter, is leading the alternative social pack and has been downloaded about 13 million times, according to Sensor Tower. Parler has 11.3 million installs, Gettr 6.7 million, and Rumble 4.6 million. Those aren't active user numbers, just app installs, but they're the best comparison we have so far.

If it doesn't work? Trump reportedly shut down his blog in part because he was mad about coverage of its small audience. And after months of delays, Trump is also reportedly frustrated with the current state of Truth Social. Suffice to say, its runway may be a little shorter than your average social startup.

— David Pierce (email | twitter)

On the calendar

The dawn of the tech union

What are the key drivers at play leading tech workers to form unions? What does this mean for employers? How can companies better adapt to the needs of their workers? Protocol’s Anna Kramer will chat with tech unions about their needs, companies about their strategies at the bargaining table and labor experts about how workers and employers can best collaborate at 10 a.m. PT Feb. 22. RSVP here.

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People are talking

Brian Armstrong said Coinbase’s Super Bowl ad came together last-minute:

  • “Constraints breed creativity … you can empower your team to break the rules on marketing because you're not trying to impress your peers at AdWeek or wherever. No ad agency would have done this ad.”
  • But ad exec Kristen Cavallo took exception to that: “Except an ad agency did do that ad.”

Peloton’s layoffs felt like an “amicable breakup” for some workers, said Brandon Carroll, who was affected by the cuts:

  • “Things had kind of not been going great for a while.'

Nvidia’s failed Arm deal doesn’t affect its strategy too much, Jensen Huang said:

  • “Any strategies that would have come from the combination were never talked about. And so our strategy is exactly the same.”

Coming this week

Meta’s Inside the Lab event is tomorrow. The company is expected to reveal the work it’s doing on AI technology.

Steam Deck sales start Friday. Customers who reserved theirs will receive an email that day and have three days to place their order.

The HBS Tech Conference is Saturday and will include keynotes from execs at TikTok and IBM.

The Samsung Galaxy event at Mobile World Congress is Sunday. It’ll be streamed on Samsung’s YouTube channel.

“Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber” is also out Sunday. It’s the first installment of a Showtime series that looks at different stories shaping the business world.

In other news

Better.com plans to lay off more employees, sources told TechCrunch. The latest cuts may come next month and could affect up to 50% of the staff.

The investigation into Activision Blizzard is getting bigger and more complex, sources told The Wall Street Journal. California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing is subpoenaing current and former employees and execs, as well as local police departments that may have records on Bobby Kotick.

Apple workers want to unionize. Groups from at least two Apple retail stores are preparing to file union paperwork with the NLRB, and a few other locations are talking about unionization plans. And they're using Android phones to do it.

Chamath Palihapitiya is no longer Virgin Galactic’s chair. The “SPAC king” who helped take Virgin Galactic public is departing at a time when blank-check companies aren’t doing too well anymore.

Virgin Hyperloop, meanwhile, is pivoting to cargo. It laid off half its staff, and plans to focus on moving stuff at fast speeds rather than moving people.

FTX is getting into crypto gaming. It wants to be a "crypto as a service" company for game makers around the industry. The idea of crypto-powered games continues to be a controversial one, but it's definitely a lucrative one.

Salesforce workers don’t love the company’s NFT plans. Hundreds of employees signed a letter pushing back on the company’s anticipated NFT cloud service because of environmental and economic worries.

Reese Witherspoon wants NFTs to be part of Hollywood. Witherspoon’s media company, Hello Sunshine, is working with an NFT collective called World of Women to make NFT characters into educational events, shows and feature films.

Have a super productive week

Superhuman’s Rahul Vohra could talk about productivity for hours, but Protocol’s Lizzy Lawrence said he won’t, because that would be a waste of time. Instead, he has some tips for how you can prepare yourself for a productive week based on how Superhuman workers get stuff done:

  • Establish daily rituals: Vohra starts his day meditating to clear his mind before a busy day. He keeps an empty inbox to eliminate distraction, and writes down each time he starts, switches or takes a break from a task to keep track of how he spends his time.
  • Stack meetings: Companies could ensure meetings take place on certain days of the week so workers have entire days dedicated to deep work.
  • Confront procrastination: Visualize what it would feel like to get a task done versus what it would feel like to watch TV or make a coffee. Getting the task done usually feels better, Vohra said.

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Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to sourcecode@protocol.com, or our tips line, tips@protocol.com. Enjoy your day, see you tomorrow.

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