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X rival, Pebble, shuts down after failing to gain traction

2 Mins read
  • Pebble, formerly known as T2, has become the latest Twitter alternative to down tools amid tough competition.

Pebble, a microblogging platform aiming to challenge X (formerly Twitter), is closing its doors on November 1, 2023. The social media site, which rebranded from T2 just five weeks ago, announced its shutdown due to a failure to attract sufficient growth. The company cited the competitive market as one of the key challenges.

“We have some sad news to share with you today: as of November 1, 2023, Pebble will be shutting down. We are immensely proud of what our team and our community have accomplished together, and we feel validated that our vision for Pebble proved true: that purposeful growth, supported by a deep commitment to safety, can foster a beautiful online community full of vibrant human connection.”

Co-founded by former Twitter employees, Gabor Cselle and Sarah Oh, Pebble struggled to gain a user base despite early promise. It amassed just 3,000 daily active users out of its 20,000 registered users. This number plummeted to 1,000 daily users following the rebrand to Pebble. The platform’s approach emphasized trust, safety, and moderation, but it failed to resonate with users seeking an alternative to X.

The social media landscape has become increasingly crowded with platforms attempting to challenge X’s dominance. Bluesky, Threads, Spill, and others have entered the arena, but none have managed to significantly disrupt X’s hold on the market. Even Instagram Threads, backed by Meta, continues to struggle.

Pebble’s competitors like Bluesky, with its connections to Twitter founder – Jack Dorsey, and the financial support it received, posed a formidable challenge to Pebble. Bluesky had an early start, launching in beta at a time when T2 announced its plans to challenge X.

Pebble initially demonstrated decent retention, with 30% of users staying onboard by week four. The platform’s unique angle was to create a “kinder, safer” space compared to X, emphasizing trust, safety, and moderation. However, the founders now believe they may have gone too far in creating a space for “kindness,” as it resulted in a lack of authentic content and the appeal of real conversations.

We were really seized by people saying they wanted something that felt safer, where they could speak openly without dogpiling. 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!” Oh said.

On Twitter, you have real people…saying real things, at the expense of using a word that’s overused, ‘authentic.’ And our theory was always if you can create a space where people really feel like they can let down their hair, then you would get that authentic content. We didn’t quite get there,” Oh admits.

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The absence of a native mobile app may have also hindered Pebble’s growth, as it relied on web platforms. The rebranding from T2 to Pebble may have softened the value proposition, making it seem more duplicative of Twitter.

Despite the closure, Pebble isn’t directing users back to Twitter or any other social network. The company is returning a portion of its remaining funds to investors. The founders view their experience with Pebble as a valuable lesson and believe there is an audience seeking new, unique Twitter-like platforms.

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When I'm not reading about tech, I'm writing about it, or thinking about the next weird food combinations to try. I do all these with my headphones plugged in, and a sticky note on my computer with the words: "The galaxy needs saving, Star Lord."
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