Uncertainty is the main keyword of the Twitter takeover
If you’ve been reading this blog for more than six months, you know that I was an avid Twitter user, and I also considered myself a somehow decent Twitter observer. Twitter has been one of my favourite topics to cover on this site, and before I decided it was The End, I wrote a few posts on Twitter’s future, problems, new features, and frustrations.
Of course the Twitter takeover news of this week got my attention, and I have to say, many great things have been written about it so far. So many.
So instead of paraphrasing what someone else might have already said a thousand times better than me, I figured that for this one I’d do something different and make readers profit from all the time I spent reading a few of these very good articles.
I will therefore do a list of links and quotes than I found interesting and worth your attention, sprinkled with my rough and short opinion on the matter (or in other words: Twitter), Michael Tsai-style.
Let’s start with the one from my favourite website on the entire internet, The Onion, from a slideshow entitled What Conservatives Are Saying About Elon Musk Buying Twitter:
“I love watching the richest man on Earth stick it to those elites.”
Obviously you can’t follow the Twitter-Musk news without having read Nilay Patel’s truly excellent article on the Verge, Welcome to hell, Elon, in the form of a letter to Musk himself:
[…] The problems with Twitter are not engineering problems. […] The asset is the user base: hopelessly addicted politicians, reporters, celebrities, and other people who should know better but keep posting anyway. You! You, Elon Musk, are addicted to Twitter. You’re the asset. You just bought yourself for $44 billion dollars. […]
You are now the King of Twitter, and people think that you, personally, are responsible for everything that happens on Twitter now. It also turns out that absolute monarchs usually get murdered when shit goes sideways. […]
Anyhow, welcome to hell. This was your idea.
My favourite article so far on the topic has come from Hamilton Nolan, on the Guardian. I could have quoted every paragraph of the piece, but I tried to limit myself to one:
In truth, Musk probably bought Twitter for the same reason that sickeningly rich people throughout history have become press barons: to try to control the conversation. About themselves, in particular, and secondly about their own economic interests, and thirdly about their own inevitably selfish, bizarre, half-witted political beliefs. Once you have ascended the ladder of wealth past buying real estate and cars and boats and models and the other tawdry baubles that come with money, there comes a time when a hardworking plutocrat begins to be irked by the fact that, beyond their sphere of servants, people are still talking trash about them. It upsets their sense of omnipotence. After the thrill of bending the material world to their whim has worn off, the desire to bend the public conversation — and, by extension, the public mind — to their own liking takes root.
One of the few persons I still follow on Twitter through Nitter and RSS, Katie Notopoulos, wrote this honest and funny piece on BuzzFeed that I cannot recommend enough:
I’m an optimist, admittedly sometimes naively so. I want to believe that Twitter might change, and some of these changes I might not like, but they won’t be so bad. I want to believe that it’s not going to become 4chan, overrun with shitlords. I also want to believe it won’t die a slow death as the result of dwindling usership and choked-off revenue.
I want to believe Twitter will still be OK, because I love Twitter.
I’ve read a lot of excellent posts from Techdirt recently, and it’s no surprise to find Mike Masnick here as well:
Twitter is not like building a car or a rocket ship. It’s not a hard engineering problem. It’s a humanity problem and a society problem. And to date, Musk has shown little inclination towards understanding those things, and when he has weighed in on those issues it has been with ridiculous simplistic platitudes that don’t take into account the nuances and complexities.
But now he’s got a huge human problem on his hands, and he’s going to learn very quickly that everyone is going to blame him personally for what goes wrong, no matter how stupid it is.
And last but not least, the great Casey Newton, on Platformer, who managed to synthesise the takeover in the best way possible:
Elon Musk took over Twitter on Thursday like a military general who had assumed power by force, purging the company’s ruling regime and replacing it with the singular effect of his personality.
What do I think about all this?
This is a good question to which I don’t have the answer. I have a terrible opinion of Musk, I truly love Twitter and what it brought into my life, so my feelings are a mix of anxiousness and being entertained.
The so-called “public square” Musk loves to mention is not Twitter, but obviously the web itself, one thing his wealth can never truly own. Twitter sure has a lot of room for improvement, and maybe Musk will be the CEO the company needed all along.
Maybe it will be a disaster. Maybe not. Nobody knows. Nobody can know. It’s too soon, especially with a leader who regularly doesn’t say what he does and doesn’t do what he says he’s doing. Musk is as unpredictable as he is a successful businessman; as Gruber says on Daring Fireball:
But I’m not sure any of us outside Musk’s circle know what he really wants to do content-moderation-wise. Musk personifies the axiom that you should judge someone by their actions, not their words.
If I had to guess where this is going, I think Musk will try to sell his new acquisition as fast as possible, even at tremendous loss.
Will Twitter change for the better, survive, die, or become a terrible platform? Only time will tell.