Most people use Twitter the way I do: To subscribe to people or brands which post updates on Twitter. Since we aren't using Twitter to broadcast anything ourselves -- or, perish the thought, writing apps which depend on Twitter -- we largely haven't noticed how Twitter's been "turning the screws on sharing information," as The Next Web's Matthew Panzarino put it.
Instagram users noticed it first, when Twitter disallowed them from importing their friends lists from Twitter. Now it's doing the same for users of the popular Tumblr microblogging service, which lets you post messages longer than 140 characters. And the authors of popular third-party Twitter apps like Tweetbot, many of which helped make Twitter popular to begin with, are now being forced to comply with new rules that make their jobs more difficult.
The revolt against Twitter is largely being started by the software developers who write apps like those, and aimed at people like them. But if you're more into the social side of Twitter than the "keeping up with the brands" side of it, take a look at these up-and-coming Twitter alternatives:
App.net bills itself as "a real-time social feed without the ads," which in plain English means that it's a service like Twitter where you pay them to use it instead of seeing "sponsored tweets". How much do you have to pay them to sign up? $50 per year, and you need to pay your whole first year's payment up front.
App.net has raised more than $800,000 largely from that affluent demographic, however, and may be on its way to becoming a real competitor ... for people who have $50.
"Tent is a protocol for open, decentralized social networking", Tent.io explains, which basically means it's a roll-your-own version of Twitter where everyone's Tents can talk to each other. The Tent Manifesto explains the founders' belief that "Every user has the right to host their own social services," and that all such services "must be treated equally," regardless of how big or popular they are.
As of right now, no one can use Tent.io yet. But the site promises that you'll be able to download the Tent software soon, or sign up for a free account on Tent.is (which doesn't exist yet).
While App.net and Tent.io are newcomers, Identi.ca has provided a free (and ad-free) service for several years now. It works much like Twitter, except that it's open-source like Tent.io is, and anyone can create their own version of it and continue talking to people on Identi.ca from their own servers.
The downside? Very few people are using Identi.ca, compared to Twitter. And its features are geared towards the large corporate clients that its parent company, StatusNet, caters to.
Jared Spurbeck is an open-source software enthusiast, who uses an Android phone and an Ubuntu laptop PC. He has been writing about technology and electronics since 2008.