Pebble, a startup that tried and failed to take over Twitter, has found new life in Mastodon

stone, a startup that took on Twitter and failed, is back from the dead — as an example of Mastodon, it seems. The company announced last month that it was shutting down the Twitter/X alternative citing the increasingly competitive landscape, X’s ability to retain users and its own failure to gain traction with a wider audience. . But after deliberately avoiding any plans to join the decentralized social network Mastodon during its time as a startup, Pebble is now giving itself a fresh start as a dedicated Mastodon server called and stone. social.

At first it was unclear whether Pebble’s new server was a community-led attempt to keep the small network afloat or something more official. Despite the clear display of Pebble’s branding and tagline, there isn’t any information on who started the Pebble instance or why.

But TechCrunch confirmed today that the Pebble example was recently built by Pebble co-founder and CEO Gabor Cselle as a new social experiment. However, Pebble community members are involved in server moderation.

Cselle told us that the community asked the founders to set up a subreddit and an instance of Mastodon so they would have something to go to when Pebble shut down, so they did.

“And then something really interesting happened, that after we started Mastodon, a bunch of people came,” he said. One of them, a user known only as “Blobcat” (@blobcat@pebble.social) posted a link to their GitHub repo where they styled the Mastodon instance to look like the old Pebble. So Pebble.social got a new look and has since grown to several hundred active users, as well.

“This is a true testament to the power of open source,” Cselle said.

After restyling the server and learning how to use blocklists to keep unwanted content and trolls out of the wider Mastodon network, Cselle put several people in charge of managing the instance’s moderation as he faced the winding down of the Delaware C-Corp that was the old one pebble.is.

At its height, Pebble reached just 20,000 registered users but its usage dropped to around 1,000 daily users after its rebrand from T2, a placeholder name intended to indicate its position as a Twitter clone. The startup mainly copies Twitter’s user interface and features, down to DMs and a checkmark-based verification system, but aims to differentiate itself by focusing on trust and safety as a key factor. to sell. As it turns out, that message didn’t sit well with would-be T2 users — or at least, it wasn’t enough of a draw to get them excited about abandoning one app for another.

As part of its mission, the company has chosen not to partner with Mastodon or other decentralized social networks. As Cselle once said, “It’s very, very difficult to do trust and safety in these (federated networks).” He said that if you are federated with other servers, you should block an entire instance (that is, another server) if it hosts content that does not match your own trust and safety instruction. “This leads to a Balkanization of the network,” he said.

With Pebble.social, which has now added several hundred users to the wider Mastodon network, the goal is simply to experiment with social and community in a federated space. No big plans, but it’s not uncommon to see a social startup community alive, after the company itself shuts down.

“I think it’s great to see that the community is finding value in this and that we have a real community at Pebble,” Cselle said.

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