The Twitter end game

Neon-blue bird with smoking wings / generative AI by Adobe Firefly.

The phrase “end of days” came to my mind as I reviewed a number of critical news reports during this past week about the current state of Twitter. The forthcoming demise of Twitter, sooner or later, is the strong thread running through all of this content, assessing the situation and arriving at this conclusion from many different routes.

A consistent narrative underpinning everything is a standard view that Twitter has gone to the dogs under Elon Musk’s leadership.

Some reports are fanciful, others ridiculous, but many give us a clear pause for thought, if not actual action, regarding the future of Twitter and us as users or advertisers. In reverse chronological order, these are a few of the more thought-provoking narratives and opinions that have caught my attention that offer clear pointers to Twitter’s pending and probably inevitable car crash:

  • Is Elon Musk a genius or a dud? “What once felt like a free and open public forum has become one in which those who pay the most get to shout the loudest, while others with more thoughtful expressions are pushed to the wayside. To make matters worse, it’s now difficult to tell if many people on the site are who they say they are.” (New Statesman, 30 April 2023.)
  • Move over Twitter… meet Bluesky “Given Elon Musk’s chaotic rein at Twitter, manifested most recently with his uneven removal of the blue ticks of authentication and his tendency to use the platform to settle petty personal beefs, there is a sense that a breach has opened. Bluesky looks quite similar, with profile photos, posts, replies, follower counts, and even a similar blue and white colour scheme … Yet history would say that the odds of Bluesky breaking through are very low.” (The Times, 29 April 2023.)
  • Six Months In: Thoughts On The Current Post-Twitter Diaspora Options “Just sticking with Twitter: This has to be at least mentioned, as many people remain on Twitter, and certain communities don’t seem motivated enough to move. It still remains possible that somehow Twitter will stop making ridiculous decisions. But, the last six months is… well… not encouraging. Still, inertia is a powerful force and it can win. Either way, this is a rapidly evolving space, and I’ve been really fascinated and encouraged by what’s happened over the past six months on Mastodon/ActivityPub, Bluesky, and even nostr. For all the talk of a lack of competition, we’re now seeing a ton, and competition leads to experimentation, and experimentation leads to innovation.” (TechDirt, 28 April 2023.)
  • Musk’s toxic brand is why Twitter is doomed “What isn’t fixable is Twitter’s astonishing reputational collapse under Musk because that collapse is the direct result of the rank politics of its owner. For most people, and for most brands, spending time or money on the platform is now an implicit endorsement of Musk’s political ideology, which includes or has included vaccine denialunion bustinghomophobic disinformation targeting Democrats, hate speech targeting trans persons and other toxic beliefs. Musk is Twitter and Twitter is Musk.” (PR Week, 27 April 2023.)
  • Twitter is dead “Usually when a piece of culture dies – particularly a piece of technology – it’s because it has been phased out for something new, which is doing what the old thing did better (or, at the very least, in a way that has become more exciting and addictive to the average user) … But this isn’t what is happening with Twitter. It isn’t dying because some wildly-improved text-based platform has entered the scene – it’s dying as a direct impact of its owner’s choices. Not only is Twitter dying, nothing is thriving in its place.” (The New Statesman, 4 April 2023.)
  • Twitter is dying “Since Musk took over he has set about dismantling everything that made Twitter valuable – making it his mission to drive out expertise, scare away celebrities, bully reporters and – on the flip side – reward the bad actors, spammers and sycophants who thrive in the opposite environment: An information vacuum. It almost doesn’t matter if this is deliberate sabotage by Musk or the blundering stupidity of a clueless idiot. The upshot is the same: Twitter is dying.” (TechCrunch, 28 March 2023.)
  • How a social network falls apart “Musk looms large as Twitter’s owner. His presence on the site, up to and including picking fights with various individual users, makes him feel less like the CEO of a social media website and more like a tyrannical forum moderator. The tone of the site comes from the top, and it’s difficult to want to post on a site owned by someone who openly believes that ‘the media’ is racist against white people.” (The Verge, 9 March 2023.)

So, seven narrative reports and opinion pieces all of which run in a similar vein that Twitter isn’t a good model for the future of social networks.

I’ll add one other development that fuels my view that the end may be nigh. Overnight I received an email from JetPack, a WordPress toolkit to secure, speed up, and grow your website (owned by Automattic which also owns WordPress), telling me that important functionality connecting a WordPress blog with Twitter will no longer work automatically from the 1st of May.

A JetPack blog post explains what’s happened.

Twitter decided, on short notice, to dramatically change the terms and pricing of the Twitter API. We have attempted to work with Twitter in good faith to negotiate new terms, but we have not been able to reach an agreement. As a result, the Twitter connection on Jetpack Social will cease to work, and your blog posts will no longer be auto-shared to Twitter.

JetPack, 29 April 2023

JetPack noted that you will still be able to share your posts to Twitter manually by pasting the post link into the body of your tweet. But the auto-share function is gone.

There are some other tech developments worth noting, adding pressure to Twitter from a different angle. For example, Bluesky will allow users to use domain names as handles to help achieve decentralized verification and give users more control over their identity. This sounds like an attractive and more trustworthy-looking method of verification than the joke that is now Twitter’s version of verification.

Final words

What would a demise actually look like? The literal end of Twitter? No more, wound up, bankrupt? Even in the midst of the chaos, it’s hard to believe that this is a possibility. More likely, perhaps, is a social network that continues to exist but as a shell of its former self with little genuine influence and even less authenticity.

In my view, what all this illustrates is this:

  • For brands: Twitter is not a trusted place for your reputation.
  • For individuals: I wouldn’t waste your money on Twitter Blue. Stay on Twitter as a “regular user” but make an escape plan, that’s your insurance policy in case you need to move very fast or if there’s a sudden demise. If you don’t have one yet, there’s still time. Just.

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.