Meet Tooter the “Swadeshi” version of Twitter for the Indians

There is an ever-increasing pitch for self-sufficiency ever since the pandemic hit and border tensions with China arose. The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called this a “vision for an Aatmanirbhar Bharat” or a self-reliant India. Tooter is up against a formidable challenge and is appealing to the patriotic fervor of Indians urging them to “join the revolution”.

Ever since the Indian government has cracked its proverbial whip on Chinese digital companies, there has been a flurry of activity in the Indian digital space. Be it Reliance Jio launching its Zoom clone, or fledgling Indian startups jumping in with their products to fill the void left by TikTok.

Tooter Vision:

Tooter’s vision reads as follows: “We believe that India should have a Swadeshi social network. Without one we are just a digital colony of the American Twitter India Company, no different than what we were under the British East India Company. Tooter is our Swadeshi Andolan 2.0. Join us in this Andolan. Join us!” Twitter has a massive user base in India, with all popular personalities making their presence felt on the social media giant.

More into Tooter:

The company is headquartered in Sri City, Telangana. Tooter has been active since July but it has been making waves only recently, with some government bigwigs like Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh joining the platform. One can join the platform with an email-id. The app is currently for web and Android users only, iOS users have to wait for some more time. On signing up, you automatically follow a verified handle called “news”, among other verified handles. From a user interface point of view, Tooter is very similar to Twitter. On Twitter you have tweets, and on Tooter you have… toots! There is a news feed and people who you can follow. So it is very similar to Twitter in the usage department as well. Tooter also has a blue conch as its symbol. There is also something called Tooter Pro, which is available for Rs. 1000 INR. But the payment process is quite clunky and not intuitive. Even the Pro version features are not well outlined.

Twitter clone why?

Twitter isn’t a Chinese company nor do the Chinese have a majority stake in the company. Then what motivated a hitherto unknown company called Tooter to launch a desi Twitter version? Twitter has had multiple run-ins with the Indian government in the last few months, be it map disputes or hate speech and privacy regulations. Twitter has also had issues with the general population with some calling Twitter’s attitude biased.

Privacy and Regulations:

This is one aspect where Tooter has failed to meet the expectations of its lofty vision statement. The terms of service contain the words — “protected by the First Amendment” — which is a US constitution term(the Indian first Amendment has nothing to do with personal freedom) Tooter claims to be India’s answer to Twitter but its regulatory terms do not reflect that fact. There are many other terms and conditions which appear to be riff raffed from any standard US company regulations.

Tooter does not allow children below the age of 18 to create an account (except for California citizens where the legal age is set at 16). This would sit perfectly fine for everyone who is paranoid about a — “A Social Dilemma” type of situation.

However, Tooter does mention that the sole purpose of its creation is free speech and to protect this “God-given right” and individuals exercising this right. The extent of this is not known yet, and its limits will surely be tested soon.

Long run:

Tooter has an open-source code base, which will probably help it in the long run. On the company website, it says that Tooter is forked from the Mastodon project and is licensed under the GNU Affero General Public License version 3 (AGPL3). An open-source code can be edited by anyone, thus increasing the pace at which features are added to the base application. Many apps that have been launched by trying to clone popular ones have failed miserably. Hopefully, the Indian Tooter will not be one among them, and the Indian digital space continues to make waves. There is still a long way to go for Tooter, and it will take inspiration from the fact that it is David up against a Goliath called — Twitter.

Originally published at https://www.yourtechstory.com on November 25, 2020.

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