A Look at Twitter in the Post-Musk Era
Here we take a look at all the chaos and hoopla surrounding the bird app with Elon Musk, the chief Twit, at the helm.
03:59 28 March 2023
Less than two decades ago, Jack Dorsey, a California-based technopreneur in his late twenties, strung together a bunch of characters into a tweet and hit send nonchalantly.
“Just setting up my twttr,” he put out the first ever tweet into a quiet corner of cyberspace. It marked the official debut of Twitter, a microblogging platform that would become a humongous online destination serving up an acceleration of news and missives from the who’s who to hundreds of millions worldwide.
With millions of tweets sent out every 24 hours by a diverse mix of political leaders, A-listers, influencers, and commoners, Twitter is now a cacophony of sorts. And, a far cry from the modest SMS broadcast app that it was meant to be when Dorsey built it seventeen years ago.
But the last few months, since the day Elon Musk arrived unceremoniously at the Twitter headquarters carrying a sink, have not been kind to Twitter, although his fanboys may argue otherwise.
Musk Rings in the Changes, Keeping Everyone Guessing
Among Musk’s major motivations for taking over the company was to unshackle all the content moderation practices stifling Twitter’s ability to operate as a free speech platform, to combat the spreading of misinformation, and to stop Twitter from becoming a breeding ground for hateful speech.
In some ways, though, it seems like Musk’s intentions are in the right place when he says he wants Twitter to be a common digital town square, but one cannot help but think that he doesn’t know what he needs to do to get there.
After his takeover, Musk made it clear that Twitter would do a lot of ‘dumb things’ in the time to come. And sure enough, the man lived up to his word and has gone on ringing in the changes.
Each and every decision that Musk has undertaken as part of the company-wide overhaul has to some extent, kept Twitter in the spotlight. But sadly, for the wrong reasons.
This is what Musk got up to in his short stint as the Chief Twit.
Dissolving the incumbent board, booting out key executives, cutting thousands of jobs and roping in a battalion of skilled engineers from Tesla to tweak the algorithm the way he wants, proposing fresh changes to user verification, polling users for their feedback on reinstating Vine or unbanning an account of a former president, and whatnot.
ExpressVPN looked at the number of employees in detail and figured that after several rounds of layoffs, the current headcount stood at 1800, less than what it was in 2012.
This begs the question: is there any underlying logic behind all these slipshod decisions, or did Musk simply stick to his tried-and-tested hey-let’s-just-wing-it-and-figure-things-along-the-way approach?
The problem is nobody knows what to expect. Things have been as unpredictable as the kind of tweets that Musk puts out on his timeline. It seems like chop-and-change is the new norm. But whether it is for better or for worse is a totally different thing altogether.
Twitter is Still Alive, After All; But Only Just
A lot of people thought that the upheaval of the Twitterverse would end badly. A raft of technical glitches and security breaches ensued, exposing a chink in the armour of the pared-down workforce that Twitter has to make do with at present. But the platform is still holding together alright.
Technically, the website still runs as it should, but the user experience leaves one wanting more-- bugs, outages, and technical glitches aside. For instance, the “For You” tab, which is one of the new features to roll out, feels like a botched last-minute job ripped off from other platforms. Third-party clients like Tweetbot, and Twitterific, which have had a great impact on the growth of Twitter, have been cut off API access, rendering them basically defunct.
There aren’t enough people around to triage another key challenge facing Twitter: a proliferation of misinformation and hateful content.
The Future is Anything but Bright
The back-and-forth style of leading a company the size of Twitter is unheard of. At least, the advertisers camp think so. Disappointed by the growing instability of the platform, a group of advertisers, including Pfizer, General Mills, and Volkswagen AG, decided to pull the plug on their campaigns. The advertiser exodus continued, and Musk sought to talk them into staying by reassuring them that the unsettling times were over and telling them that normal service would resume soon. But plunging ad revenues show that advertisers are pretty convinced that the disordered platform will only continue to deteriorate.
While advertiser exodus is a cause for concern, this is where it gets worse for the thinktank at Twitter. Apparently, users are following suit and fleeing the platform: according to a Similarweb study, there is a 2 percent decline in traffic in January and around a 5% decline in February on a year-on-year basis. If such a steep upward trend in user churn were to continue, Twitter would end up bleeding. Naturally, the changes that the platform is going through have prompted a large number of people to leave for good and more to consider leaving.
Keeping an unfettered platform running while cleaning up the unhygienic aspects of the site is a daunting challenge in itself. But to crack this code with a leaner workforce while facing renewed pressure from advertisers and users will take a lot out of Musk and his team. It would be interesting to see where the company winds up in three years when it turns twenty. Will Twitter pan out to be a turnaround story? Or will it devolve and dwindle into the quiet corner of cyberspace that it was when it all started?
We’ll find out. One thing is for certain, though; Musk’s takeover has changed the very fabric of Twitter, stripping it down to a mere fragment of the idea or entity that it was before.