Today marks almost exactly a year since Elon Musk first announced his intention to purchase Twitter.
My first day at this job was not a very quiet one.
Since then, I’ve been asked countless times whether Twitter will fail and I always answered no.
Now, I’m not so sure. There are a few reasons.
We are about to witness the birth of a new Twitter. Accounts will now have a blue tick to indicate that they pay a monthly fee, and not because Twitter wants people to know they are real.
Payments are subject to verification, but fake accounts have already been found to make payments in an attempt to impersonate prominent individuals or organisations.
Martin Lewis, an expert in personal finance, discovered earlier this month that a subscribing account under his name was promoting a cryptocurrency scam to thousands of followers. It is obvious that it wasn’t him.
Tweets are allowed.
The new Twitter crowd will be revealed in the next few days.
Twitter hasn’t released any numbers, but an analyst said that the number of subscribers appears to be only a fraction compared to its 300 million users. Will it become boring if user engagement drops because only a few people get virtual airtime?
What is the level playing field?
Elon Musk, the owner of Tesla Motors, said that he didn’t think it fair for Twitter to decide who was influential under the old regime. He may have a point.
There are reports, however, that some people were offered free verification under his supervision. The founder of Bellingcat, an investigation platform, confirmed that his organization is among them.
Musk claims he also paid for subscriptions to Stephen King, LeBron James and William Shatner who all oppose the Twitter Blue monthly subscription plan.
Twitter has also announced that businesses will only be allowed to run ads if they pay for verification. This is unless the business spends more than $1,000 per month (PS807).
This is a lot of money for a small company. We know that the majority of digital advertising revenue comes from small advertisers, not the big brands.
All of this, however, suggests that Twitter, under the leadership of Mr Musk, a so-called “free speech absolutist”, is not a fair playing field at all.
Twitter is a small, chaotic site, but it’s considered influential.
It was run poorly. It was in dire financial straits, and it struggled to control abuse and misinformation. Musk is an entrepreneur who has a lot of money and a large following. I knew he’d be controversial but I thought that he could turn the ship around.
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and NPR are two news organisations that have stopped tweeting due to the changes. Celebrities such as Elton John, Stephen Fry, and Gigi have closed their accounts ever since Mr Musk became the CEO.
The report has said it won’t pay for verification, and it already lost the “gold check” that verified it as a news organization. As a sort of alternative to authenticity, the BBC News Twitter account started following journalists like myself.
It will be fascinating to see if other organisations come up with similar solutions, or if they decide it’s not worth the effort – especially since the new regime has minimal visibility.
Many people were amused by this. On Thursday, a friend wrote in a group chat: “Happy blue tick losing day to all those who celebrate!” Other joked about “being ticked off”, and it’s almost certain that this is the only radio cue I have ever managed to get Beyonce and Victoria Beckham, Harry Kane, and the Pope in the same sentence.
You will have to trust that I am the person I claim to be. Like many others, I’ll be watching the new direction that the platform takes in terms of a work tool and social tool.
Jack Dorsey who founded Twitter is opening a new social network, Bluesky. Its design is unabashedly Twitter-like.
The space is very small and only accessible by invitation, but the excitement is high, especially because in the future it will be interoperable, i.e. compatible with other platforms. It feels like I’m at a party, and we are all admiring the decor.
Bluesky may have an opening in the “small but influential space”. We hope that Mr Dorsey learned something about running a company since he sold Twitter.