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End of Twitter

End of Twitter

A growing field of challengers are seeking to supplant Elon Musk’s Twitter.

Long stories short

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End of Twitter

This week Mark Zuckerberg will launch a new social media app called Threads. The Meta founder will join a growing field of challengers seeking to supplant Elon Musk’s Twitter. 

So what? Twitter has far fewer users than either Facebook or Instagram, but it punches well above its weight. It has become a town square for 21st century power, with politicians, celebrities and journalists broadcasting directly to 240 million people. Right now, it’s vulnerable.

Big blue mess. Since buying the company Musk has dismantled Twitter’s moderation policies as well as its staff numbers. As a result, more than half of Twitter’s top 1,000 advertisers have pulled ads from the platform – including giants like Coca-Cola, Jeep and Unilever. 

The exodus has crashed Twitter’s global ad revenue. In the five weeks from April 1 to the first week of May it was down 59 per cent from the previous year at $88 million, according to the NYT. For users, Twitter is less of a premium experience: fewer ads for trainers and more for dodgy vitamin supplements and bitcoin schemes. 

Musk’s efforts to wean Twitter off advertising (ads account for 90 per cent of the company’s revenue) have also failed. Twitter Blue – his subscription model – has become a badge of shame for most, while “verified” accounts have published horrendous misinformation. 

In the past two weeks Musk has cut off academic access to Twitter’s API (the website’s backdoor coding) and, most recently, limited the number of tweets which a non-subscriber can read to 600 posts per day. The changes are “remarkably bad for Twitter’s users and advertisers”, according to Forrester analyst Mike Proulx.

Who’s challenging? The chaos at Twitter has led to challengers keen to eat Musk’s lunch. These include:

Bluesky: a Twitter rival backed by former Twitter founder Jack Dorsey. It experienced “record high traffic” on Saturday after Musk imposed his new tweet limits. Bluesky is in beta phase but already has more than 50,000 users. 

Mastodon: a decentralised messaging app where each user has their own “server”. Mastodon has about 7 million users, although only about 1.3 million appear to be active. 

Spill. Founded by ex-Twitter employees, Spill’s goal is to build a social platform for diverse communities. The company said more than 100,000 people created accounts last weekend, including Questlove, the musician from the Roots. 

A credible threat. Only one challenger will keep Musk up at night. Zuckerberg’s Threads appears to function much like Twitter; users will be able to log into Threads using their Instagram account, giving the app a potential audience of more than three billion. 

“We’ve been hearing from creators and public figures who are interested in having a platform that is sanely run,” Meta’s chief product officer said in an all hands meeting recently, first reported by the Verge. 

Musk hit back – pointing out that Meta’s app will collect a lengthy list of users’ information, including health and fitness data and other “sensitive information”. 

Musk and Zuckerberg are still promising to fight each other in a cage match. But winning the battle to control the global town square would be the real victory.

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Alexi Mostrous