Last updated on November 20th, 2022 at 06:24 pm
Amidst a takeover and fast-paced changes, many folks are wondering what the future of Twitter looks like.
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
By now, it’s not news to anyone that Elon Musk has purchased Twitter for a whopping $44 billion. And while the news doesn’t seem to indicate it was a very business-savvy decision, it makes me (and many others) wonder where that leaves the future of Twitter both as a company and as a social media giant.
A few years ago, I talked about the possible demise of Twitter and spoke to many of the same issues that Musk complained about on the platform. But will his proposed solutions do more harm to the platform than good?
Why Did Elon Musk Buy Twitter?
If you ask Musk himself, he’ll say he bought Twitter because it should be a beacon of free speech or a “town center” where all things can be discussed. But there’s a more realistic reason: he’s addicted to it.
Musk has been a prolific Twitter user for years with a huge following. It’s likely that he yearns for the Twitter of 10 years ago where there was very little content moderation and only the most profane accounts were banned.
It’s worth noting Musk’s political leanings have begun to skew more and more to the right over the past few years, and as those on that side of the political spectrum have begun having their accounts slapped with fact-checking and banning based on what they’ve tweeted, he views this as an attack on free speech.
It doesn’t look like a good business move. Twitter hasn’t been a consistent profit generator; while it has some profitable years under its belt since going public in 2013, it’s been far from a safe bet for investors. Considering Elon paid significantly more for Twitter than it’s current valuation, it’s fair to say he’s already starting this venture far into the red.
What Are Elon Musk’s Plans for Twitter?
We don’t know, but the future of Twitter definitely doesn’t involve losing money. Since advertisers are leaving the platform in the short-term, Twitter’s primary income stream has been hamstringed. This leaves Musk in a position where the main priority has to be focused on increasing revenue and finding new revenue streams.
What we do know is that several high profile accounts which were banned in the past, such as former President Donald Trump, will likely be reinstated. Edit: by the time I finished writing and editing this, it already happened.
Oddly enough, the reinstatement decision wasn’t decided by looking at Twitter’s existing policy, but by a poll of its users (many of which may not even be real people).
Elon’s Very Public Push for a Free Speech Digital Town Square
Elon Musk has stated multiple times that Twitter should be a free speech location, a town square, where essentially anything can be said free of censorship. However, as the saga has marched on, it seems he has changed his tune.
In one Tweet, he even stated that bad Tweets would be hidden (read that: censored) without explaining anything as to what the process would be. Every moderation scheme would at least involve some level of bias, that’s a reality that all social media networks have had to deal with.
So considering that the town square idea is likely to bring Twitter to exactly what it has already been, a heavily moderated social media site, what are Musk’s other options for making Twitter more profitable?
It already hit the news on day #1 of the takeover that Elon fired most of the executives and and large number of other Twitter employees.
As of the last update on his post, Twitter only has a couple hundred employees left. Thousands of employees have either been released or opted to take their 3-month severance and leave.
While a company the size of Twitter no doubt has some fat to trim, an exodus of this size is guaranteed to include engineers and programmers who were critical to the company’s day to day operations. Those left behind will be tasked with picking up the responsibilities.
Low staff may not have an immediate effect on Twitter’s performance, but small and unfixed bugs tend to build up over time. I’ve talked many times about how programming, engineering, and systems administration work are all part of an invisible service – a service that is barely noticeable until something goes wrong.
Charging for the Blue Check Verification
I predicted this a while back in a previous article about Twitter’s slow death. Charging for the elusive blue check would be a way to potentially raise significant amounts of revenue for Twitter.
That doesn’t mean it’s free money though.
Within 24 hours of opening up this option, Musk had to begin thinking about backtracking because so many fake accounts were ‘verified’ that the credibility offered by the blue check no longer existed.
In more than one case, verified fake accounts posing as big companies made entire markets move. If anything, these events have shown that Twitter can be a force to be reckoned with, and it’s also more ripe for abuse than ever.
Selling More of Your Data
This is undoubtedly where the money will be made. Remember, if you’re not paying for a product, then you are the product.
Your online data is valuable, in fact it’s so valuable that entire companies can survive just by selling your data to advertisers and other companies. While it’s one of the most invisible methods of raising money as far as the end user is concerned, it’s by far the most far-reaching.
The sale of personal data has been a massive problem across the internet for over a decade now with social media sites being at the forefront of the information-gathering and selling industry.
So What is the Future of Twitter?
While it’s imposible to predict, it’s a pretty fair bet that Twitter is going to experience changes at a rate that may be unsustainable both financially and technically. And while I’ve been predicting the death of Twitter for years, no one truly knows what’s going to happen.
Many products such as Mastodon are already working to fill the potential vacuum that would be left behind by a Twitter crash. People have plenty of options and the more that are available, the more time they’re likely to spend away from Twitter.
Twitter’s demise may be less of a fiery crash-and-burn and more like a years-long descent into a bin of much less popular social media sites.
Sharif Jameel is a business owner, IT professional, runner, & musician. His professional certifications include CASP, Sec+, Net+, MCSA, & ITIL and others. He’s also the guitar player for the Baltimore-based cover bands, Liquifaction and Minority Report.
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