Former president Donald Trump’s new Truth social app faced a host of launch challenges as it rolled out on President’s Day, but can it bounce back from a troubled start?
Despite interest in Truth Social, especially coming from right-leaning communities, users are experiencing signup error messages and other bugs, download issues and an overall underwhelming design and functionality. With only the iPhone app available at launch, and no options on Android or desktop, some believe Trump’s media company rushed the rollout to get the holiday publicity.
“The launch was tied to President’s Day more than to the completion of the product,” Iliya Rybchin, partner at consulting firm Elixirr, told TheWrap. “It has all the characteristics of a PR stunt to raise awareness and the media took the bait, given how much coverage there has been… The fact that the Android version is not available suggests a premature launch.”
As the app is meant to displace Twitter, many users ironically went to Twitter to complain and seek customer support. People found that the app repeatedly crashed or didn’t allow them to get past a signup page. Currently, the vast majority of users seem to be only getting as far as the wait list, with promise of full access sometime next month — defeating the purpose of opening up an app to the public.
But those hiccups so far haven’t stopped Truth Social from climbing to the top spot in the Apple app store on Monday. Intelligence firm Sensor Tower said there were no preliminary download estimates yet, but the Twitter copycat apparently already gained at least 150,000 signups for its waiting list. The fledgling site was leading Talking Ben the Dog, HBO Max, TikTok and YouTube in the top five of free Apple store apps.
Truth is the latest release in a series of social apps aimed at providing alternatives to Big Tech platforms like Facebook and Twitter — including Gettr, former Trump aide Jason Miller’s Twitter lookalike app, which has claimed 1.9 million daily users.
The idea for the Truth app was born after Trump was suspended from Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and a handful of other social media apps last year for violating their standards of conduct. Countless other Republican public figures – from Dan Bongino to Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene – have also been booted off major platforms recently.
Unsurprisingly, Greene joined Truth ahead of its launch to the public on Monday. But she too shared thew news on her official (not personal) Twitter account: “As the only Member of Congress to have had my personal @Twitter account banned, I understand what millions of conservatives have gone through having their personal freedom of speech stolen from them by Big Tech for not parroting the approved messaging.”
The instant interest in Truth appears slightly greater than that of its competitors on launch day. “For Parler, MeWe, and Rumble, the apps didn’t see a significant surge in installs until after their initial launches,” Stephanie Chan, mobile insights strategist at Sensor Tower, said.
When Miller’s Gettr launched in July 2021, it saw approximately 132,000 worldwide installs across both app stores, according to Sensor Tower. Parler rolled out in August 2018, but didn’t gain traction until later in December and picked up around the 2020 presidential election. MeWe released in October 2014 and saw a major increase later in 2016, then similarly surging around the election and in January 2021. Rumble, the YouTube alternative platform, launched in January 2020 and also began to see growth in late 2020, peaking to 91,000 installs in January 2021.
Bearing Twitter’s layout, Truth is aimed at providing a platform for conservative voices who feel their freedom of speech is not upheld by Twitter, Facebook-now-Meta and other channels. Instead of being run by Big Tech, the app said it has a “Big Tent” approach, touting the inclusiveness of its network:
“Think of a giant outdoor event tent at your best friend’s wedding. Who’s there? The combination of multiple families from all over the United States, and the world. Uncle Jim from Atlanta is a proud libertarian. Aunt Kellie from Texas is a staunch conservative. Your cousin John from California is a die-hard liberal. And guess what? They’re all together to have an amazing time and share their different viewpoints on the world. Although we don’t always agree with each other, we welcome these varied opinions and the robust conversation they bring,” its app store page said.
Trump Media & Technology CEO and former Republican Congressman Devin Nunes said the goal is to get Truth “fully operational” by the end of March in the U.S. Yet the fact that a straightforward social app has run into so many basic issues, like the challenge in creating accounts, has raised questions about who is actually building the app – and if the development is being outsourced.
“TMTG is really a shell and has no tech employees. It’s unquestionable that they farmed this out to an agency,” Rybchin said. And despite currently being abroad, Rybchin said he was able to download the app — which the company has said should only be available in the U.S. This suggests that the app developers may not be very experienced in operating with app stores or mobile product launches, Rybchin said.
A glance at current global installs for all the alternative social sites also suggests that conservative-focused apps have been growing in size, especially perhaps as the 2024 campaign season approaches. However, they still represent only a fraction of Facebook’s 1.9 billion daily users or Twitter’s 210 million daily users.
According to Sensor Tower, MeWe has reached more than 13 million global installs across both app stores to date. Parler reached around 11.3 million global installs, while Gettr has some 6.7 million global installs. Rumble has about 4.6 million installs. Yet the challenge for Truth and its counterparts will be attracting influential users to sign up and scale the user base.
“The big question for the future of Truth is not how many people come on this week or when it fixes bugs or launches on other platforms, but how many personalities will come,” Rybchin said. “Trump alone may not be enough to sustain the product, but if it gets a critical mass of leading personalities to drop Twitter and come over, I think it does have a solid chance of achieving meaningful scale.”