Twitter, both as a company and as a functioning service, is hurtling toward the unknown. In the weeks since Elon Musk took control, users have been fleeing to whatever platforms they can regroup on: Instagram, Mastodon, Cohost, Substack. (It turns out no one wants to go back to Facebook.) Rising rapidly among those ranks is Hive Social, a three-year-old company run by an excited, if not slightly overwhelmed, trio now faced with a massive influx of new users.
Hive’s functionality echoes much of Twitter’s, from profile pages and header images to long stream-of-consciousness threads. But it’s also more customizable, allowing users to change profile colors, add pronouns, post songs to their pages, and hold Q&As with followers. For anyone who wants Twitter without Musk, Hive offers a respectable replica. Even before Musk bought Twitter, Hive was gaining traction. But as users have migrated from the bird app, many—particularly those in the gaming community—have landed on Hive. So much so that the app surpassed 1 million users on November 21, more than doubling its user base, and it continues to grow.
But with great expansion comes great responsibility, and for Hive, an upstart entering the social media arena, the road ahead is difficult. The app itself is a bit, well, busted, crashing often and crawling when it does move. The team, according to founder Raluca Pop, has been working around the clock to squash bugs, improve performance, and keep up with demand. They’re also busy answering user questions and moderating the platform’s content. Pop has been resting about two hours per night recently. “Honestly, none of us have really gotten that much sleep,” she says. “But the app is something we’re passionate about, so it’s fun right now.”
Fun, according to Pop, is what Hive wants to bring back to social media. A self-taught coder who launched Hive in 2019, she wants to return social media to its so-called golden era by “making it a happier place for people … a safe place for [users] to express how they feel, a safe place for them to post content.”
With a team of just three—though Pop says they’re looking to bring on a fourth person “just because we’re scaling really fast”—this won’t be an easy task.
New-platform growing pains aside, if Hive is to succeed it needs to be more than just stable. It’ll have to have more protections in place for users and be moderated more vigorously than it can be currently. Left unchecked, platforms can easily become overwhelmed by harassment, hate campaigns, disinformation, child sexual abuse material, or violent images. To avoid that, a platform like Hive needs to be building in those safeguards now.
For proof, look no further than the pitfalls experienced by other social media platforms. Consider Clubhouse, the chat-driven app that gained popularity in the early days of the pandemic. As it grew, so did its problems with harassment, racism, anti-Semitism, and more. “There is a cycle,” says Daniel Kelley, director of strategy and operations at the ADL Center for Technology and Society. “This idea of building to scale growth and stapling on safety as an afterthought once [founders realize] ‘Oh, this is a problem.’”