Here’s a question I’ve been wondering about:
Are Elon Musk and Twitter trying to take down Twitter?
I’m not sure why the new owner of the social media app would want to do that. Yet, if the decisions he’s making are any indication, it almost seems like that’s the plan.
Musk is too focused on blue check verification, for starters. If this vanity symbol is supposed to be a revenue generator, the “real” user base is not buying it. Literally.
It has an distinctly 2010 look to it. That was when some of us cared about verified accounts, which became a possibility around that time (or at least that’s when some of us started thinking about it — the blue check system actually launched in 2009).
It’s also about when Klout debuted, the vanity system to let others know how important you are. I’m not sure when we stopped caring about it, but the progression went something like this: First, we thought verification and Klout scores meant something. Then we started monitoring our social media accounts and posting regularly to increase our following. Some of us, including me, realized that it was all a waste.
It was also clear that Twitter has two kinds of users. There are famous people and then there’s the rest of us. We all know that apps don’t die or live based on Kim Kardashian’s post schedule. This is true democracy. It’s when the masses flock to an app and it becomes part of the culture. That’s when real progress happens. Twitter has stuck around, and so has Kim, but I’m starting to doubt whether it has any real cultural cachet anymore.
Musk did what else? Remote work was banned. Half of the employees were fired, along with a handful of executives and the CEO. Everyone was told that the future is tough, and that bankruptcy is possible. Suggestion that Twitter subscriptions must account for 50% of the company’s revenue. (By the way, that’s like saying half your revenue should come from people paying for junk mail.)
And then there’s the failed advertising model. Musk may be trying to kill it rather than enabling it. Maybe he doesn’t think nurturing advertiser relationships is that important. Musk, at Tesla, is skilled in making products that are worth purchasing. Twitter is free. It barely even makes a product. We’re the product.
For a company like Twitter that’s built entirely on the idea of making money when you show ads to users, you would think advertising would be a little more of a focus.
Elon Musk almost views Twitter like a democracy zone. It is a space for free and open speech, accessible to all. However, this also holds true for Linux, Wikipedia and your local library.
Twitter is a commercial company. It can’t be entirely open and free, unless it wants to be a non-profit. You also can’t have both worlds: a commercial business trying to sell blue check verifications and a non-profit trying to claim openness and freedom. They can’t co-exist.
Musk posted recently about the dumbness of Twitter. Musk recently posted about how Twitter will do a lot of dumb things. It seems he is hinting at the possibility of a rebuilding. To grow, the company must reinvent itself. There will likely be collateral damage.
Unfortunately, I don’t think social media users think that way. Apps like BeReal are exciting because it offers something different and enjoyable. We don’t want or expect anyone to do a foundational realignment or work on the architecture. If there’s work to do on an app it’s already too late. We also don’t care how the company makes money. Either the product is worthwhile, or it has outlived its usefulness. There is no middle ground.
So, what’s Elon Musk up to?
It’s a question I often wonder about. Perhaps he purchased the company to fire his executive team. Perhaps he thinks that the open source software model is still viable, despite its low revenue potential. Perhaps he simply likes creating memes, and wanted to ensure that it was possible.
I will say: I’m fascinated by the dumpster fire.
I want to see if Twitter can become the Tesla of social media, but I’m also curious if this is just another apocalypse of technology. This is not just Facebook.