Twitter alternative T2 launches new verification program, hires Discord engineering head as CTO

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As Twitter begins its shift to a "pay to play" business model, a new Twitter alternative is preparing to take flight. T2, the seed-funded Twitter rival developed by Google and Twitter veterans, is ready to capitalize on Twitter's upheaval with the launch of a verification program specifically targeting those who are poised to lose their checkmark under Elon Musk's new Twitter policies. T2 is also today announcing a notable new hire with the addition of Discord's former Senior Director of Engineering Michael Greer as its new Chief Technology Officer (CTO).

Greer joined Discord in 2017, initially as director of Engineering, which touched on a number of areas, including revenue, growth, apps, community servers, design systems, messaging and more. He was promoted to senior director of Engineering just last June. Prior to Discord, Greer worked as the CTO at Tapp Media and The Onion for multiyear stints.

At T2, Greer will now oversee the development team and guide the company's technical growth.

"Michael’s deep experience across news, entertainment, and social platforms maps perfectly to our vision for T2,” said T2 co-founder Gabor Cselle, who sold his prior companies to Twitter and Google prior to starting T2. "At the Onion and Tapp, he and his teams built platforms that generated engagement from millions of users. At Discord, he directed his teams to create tools that have successfully maintained safety and civility -- even in energetic, raucous communities," Cselle added.

T2's development has been fairly rapid, having only committed its first lines of code in November 2022, then raising its first outside funding with a $1.1 million seed round this January. While there are a number of Twitter alternatives now gaining traction in the wake of Elon Musk's chaotic takeover of Twitter, one of T2's biggest differentiators is its co-founding team.

Cselle previously sold his Y Combinator-backed email startup reMail to Google and his second company, native ads startup Namo Media, to Twitter. Meanwhile, Sarah Oh was Twitter’s former human rights advisor and has a wealth of experience, including time spent on Facebook's Cambridge Analytica-focused crisis team.

Oh says she was intrigued by "the possibility of centering a new platform that was simple and elegant around trust and safety."

"I found it so compelling to start from scratch -- build in all the lessons from the last five to 10 years," she explained to TechCrunch in a chat ahead of today's announcements.

"On the rules side, I think there's a lot of space for growth and closing the enforcement gap," Oh continues. "We have really clear rules that we're beginning to consult our communities and users on -- whether or not people feel like these rules are in the right place, where we need to maybe be a little bit more aggressive or less aggressive...But we're very bullish on being very upfront about what we expect on the platform," she added.

This clarity will also assist T2 with moderation as it scales, which will include both human review and AI.

On the face of it, however, T2 as of today looks much like a stripped-down Twitter clone. The currently web-only app has a similar interface to Twitter for writing short posts, adding a photo, posting replies and reposting or favoriting content. There's also a highly visible reporting mechanism indicated with a flag icon beneath each post. Also like Twitter, T2 uses the same follower/following model for building out a network of people whose posts you want to see in your timeline. (As an early tester, I was surprised to find T2 was automatically following people for me -- something it said it was doing to seed people's initial networks.)

Despite its still scrappy nature -- T2 isn't even the startup's final name, apparently, it's only a placeholder -- the company is moving forward to grow its user base. T2 has been starting to test the usage of community invites among different groups, we're told. Once the startup better understands how and why invites are being distributed by users -- and the success rates those invites have in terms of bringing in new members -- it will widen access. This will likely be in one or two months.

“We know that people want to feel immediately connected to their friends and colleagues on a new social media platform," said Oh. "We’re currently testing and rolling out community invites, which will help people connect with and welcome their existing personal networks onto T2. Right now, we're testing with various kinds of users from different cohorts. Once we have a clearer idea of what works best, we'll start rolling out the feature more broadly," she noted.

Image Credits: T2 screenshot

In the near term, T2 is debuting a new verification process with the launch of its "Get the Checkmark" program timed to correspond to Twitter's removal of legacy verification checkmarks across all users who aren't paying for the Twitter Blue subscription. Twitter said its own checkmark removals will begin on April 1st and will include removing the verification from organizations and individuals who had previously qualified as "notable" under the company's prior rules. Ahead of this, T2 users who are legacy checkmark holders can claim their T2 checkmark by filling out this form.

Image Credits: T2

T2 believes this serves as an ideal opportunity to cater to Twitter's disgruntled users. Prior to April 1st (or whenever Twitter actually removes verified checks), T2 will verify its own users if they previously had Twitter verification. The company says that Twitter's legacy process required verifying people's identities, so it will continue to honor those checks on T2. These "Twitter legacy" T2 checkmarks will have little ruffles on them, as well.

Twitter accounts may have been verified if they were a company, nonprofit, journalist, leader or executive, an individual in entertainment, an individual in sports, a content creator or some other public figure or notable individual.

After Twitter removes its legacy checkmarks, T2 will switch over to a new verification flow. For now, while the app is small and in closed testing, this will involve chatting directly with a T2 representative. (A process that would make it very hard for bots to be verified!) Later on, T2 plans to scale this verification using in-app identity and selfie checks. These will be designated as "T2 Authenticated" profiles.

Though T2 remains in closed beta testing, the company has been slowly inviting people to join from its "five-digit" waitlist and has now begun to offer its community members invites they can dole out to others. The plan is to trial invites with a few more communities before a wider rollout begins.

In addition to these changes, T2 also revamped its logo and introduced its own version of Twitter's long-lost "fail whale," which appeared when the site had outages. On T2 it will be a "fail snail" instead (see below). The app's user interface has been polished up as well, with new iconography beyond the logo and other changes to make it a better experience for end users.

Image Credits: T2