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Twitter Under Elon Musk

By Guillermo Pablos Murphy

Since Musk assumed control of Twitter, there’s been a lot of discussion about what changes might be in the company’s future.

Twitter will not disappear as long as the internet is a place that people can edit and browse. Admittedly, it’s not because Twitter is inherently special as a brand. It’s simply because Twitter was there first. It is also that environment that Twitter facilitates, the interaction of short texts, that will not disappear. It is the internet crowd. Twitter is the best place for people to be crowds on the internet. Crowds are networks, and you cannot really move a network. Companies trying to convince users to move off of Twitter to their other platforms during these past weeks have found that out. Twitter’s services would have had to go down for days, a possibility we have moved past at this point, or become unbearable, for the networks established on the site to be abandoned. If Twitter is staying then, what is this Twitter 2.0, under Elon Musk, to be?

Not meaningfully different. Twitter is successful, it isn’t a fledgling company. Musk, from the looks of it, is just trying to keep it that way, while cutting some costs (mass firing of staff) & playing to his mission statement (unbanning controversial accounts). Even those acts aren’t markers of change. Twitter found itself having to incentivise some of the let-go staff to return and, as recent events have shown, high-profile accounts will still get banned. Turns out old Twitter staff might have had some relevant experience to the job. Turns out advertisers do not like their ads showing up above or under certain accounts. Twitter will revert to the mean: Costs will still be high, and some accounts will still be banned. Musk the CEO will pursue growth, as the previous leadership did, more accounts to see ads and less Tweets the advertisers would not want.

As for Musk beyond his CEO-role, the acquisition looks like a move into the communications industry. A thread off the pattern of billionaire ownership of media outlets. A money-to-power transaction. There is no motivation to change the nature of the outlets that have already garnered public interest, there is a motivation to control the outlets. Maybe this acquisition will serve as a tool for Musk’s grander motivations, attracting other powerful players and facilitating other ventures.

For users, Twitter is likely to not change the environment for crowd existence. The way it facilitates endless engagement is why it is so successful. In the world of digital texting, no one does it better.

Well, actually. WhatsApp does it better.

If profit is not motive, let us assume its concentration. If we look elsewhere in the industry, we can see the steady assimilation of all things visual media on Instagram. Originally purely about photos, Instagram has incorporated the temporary ‘Stories’ from Snapchat, the long-form video from YouTube in ‘IGTV’, & the short-form video from TikTok in its ‘Reels’. This ensures that users do not need to abandon the established network to interact with content they could get elsewhere. Instagram adopts other forms of interaction to ensure its network stays. An active network invites new users, and so Instagram grows.

Some code in the android version of Twitter found in mid-November showed that end-to-end encrypted Direct Messages might be coming to Twitter. This form of securing messaging exists in Microsoft Teams & Zoom, among others, and helps secure sensitive data. It is also present in WhatsApp.

Expect Twitter to attempt to occupy a central space in messaging. Musk has been making a lot of noise about getting rid of spam accounts and automated users (‘bots’). The continued insistence on reworking the blue checkmarks (authenticity checks) is a sign of a renewed appreciation for user veracity. Veracity is fundamental for direct messaging, and Twitter does not tie its blue checkmarks to a phone number like WhatsApp does.

Fundamentally, Twitter does what has made it Twitter extremely well. New leadership has not changed that, and it will not likely do so anytime down the road. However, if change were to come, expect it to arise from and via a road similar to Musk’s other ventures. Fast, with early crashes, competitive, with very little fluff, and loud, with questionable motives.


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