No, Twitter Will Not Die Under Elon Musk
No, Twitter Will Not Die Under Elon Musk

No, Twitter Will Not Die Under Elon Musk

No, Twitter Will Not Die Under Elon Musk

The number of daily active users of Twitter. As some of the most active users pointed out, Musk used a classic tactic to make a small amount of growth appear big: The chart’s y-axis didn’t start at zero. If you do that, Twitter usage looks basically flat throughout the year.

Musk chart of user growth, left. Same chart, right, on a scale starting at 0.
Credits: Elon Musk, Twitter screenshot

But what else does the right chart mean? This means that those power users were calling on themselves as well, and the message was: we’re going nowhere.

Despite weeks of talks about migrating to Mastodon, they were still arguing on Twitter with Twitter’s new owner. Mastodon now has one million users; Twitter still has 250 million. One of the hottest new Twitter accounts of the week, In just a few days there have been around 40,000 followers. Despite Musk’s growing incompetence and his money-losing mouth, despite widespread fears of outages, and weeks of swinging between “the end of high school” and “the end of the world,” Twitter kept a functioning — and hilarious — Service is ready. ,

Which means it’s time to ask the question: Is this dreaded apocalypse, like so many dreaded apocalypses, overhyped?

garbage fire burns bright

Twitter has long been described as a “garbage fire” and a “hell site”. ,This is rightThe meme, featuring a cartoon dog in a glowing room, didn’t originate on Twitter, but it burst into public perception on the service in 2016. “Helmo” Meme – Elmo in flames – Blazing bright for about the same time. Twitter is on fire under Musk, but in a remarkably resilient way Twitter has always been on fire.

If you’re looking for a metaphor, think of Centralia – the Pennsylvania mining town where a massive underground coal seam fire, possibly ignited by burning waste, has been raging nonstop since 1962 – or the “Hell of Hell”. Gate,” an equally long-running gas fire and tourist attraction in Turkmenistan. Even Musk, for all his billions, couldn’t put out these fires if he tried.

Let’s take the most dangerous suggestion of Twitter’s downfall so far. On Monday, users reported that two-factor authentication was down (at least on mobile Twitter; the web version worked fine). If you set up 2FA, he advised, don’t log out because you won’t be able to log in again. However, by all accounts, the problem was with the microservice that sends you a login code over text, not the 2FA service itself. Users reported that, was fixed within hours.

Even with half the staff gone, thin-skinned Musk firing (some, but not all) of the engineers who take him to task at Twitter is enough to avert another disaster. Essential employees remain.

Musk’s micromanaging hubris was certainly to blame for the 2FA outage, even though the feature has been plagued with problems since 2017. without fully understanding what they do. He currently grapples with the notion that Twitter’s code is bloated, and is getting a real-time education.

As any engineer will tell you – and many have noted in this viral tweet, below – bloated code is often there for a reason, because if you remove it stuff starts to break.

Twitter is hardly a fragile piece of hand-blown glass. It’s like a Japanese vase, with its vases fixed and proudly displayed in gold. Some of us are old enough to remember the “failed whales” that used to appear regularly in the early 2010s when the service was “over capacity”. No doubt we’ll get more failed whales before Musk learns not to press the button marked “do not press” or to fire the key employees who constitute Twitter’s institutional memory.

but so what? We’ve seen whales before and we’ll see them again. Here’s some advice from a fell-whale veteran: Go do something else on the Internet for half an hour. Your cheeky tweet will be just as amusing when you come back.

“Move fast and break things” was the mantra of another social media leader brimming with vanity: Mark Zuckerberg circa 2010. Facebook went down a lot that year. By 2012, a somewhat chastened Zuckerberg had officially changed that slogan to “moving fast with stable infrastructure”.[structure]Facebook’s march to dominate the planet continued unabated.

There have been plenty of teachable moments for Zak along the way. Cambridge Analytica was a disaster; many acts of violence fueled by a lack of content moderation; The day in 2021 when Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger all went down because their servers became too centralized. Zak’s most recent lesson was his wrong turn in the Metaverse, the main reason for Meta’s 11,000 layoffs quietly buried in a deluge of midterm election news.

But is Facebook going anywhere? Are Zak’s Misdirected Investments Stunning Its Growth? Not this. At last count, the service was closing in on 3 billion monthly active users and 2 billion daily active users. Zak couldn’t kill him if he tried.

To credit Musk, he’s learning from his disasters a little faster than Zak. Musk doesn’t apologize for his most outrageously inaccurate tweets — some fact-checked by the “Community Notes” (formerly Birdwatch) feature — but he deletes them. Their launch of the service that allows anyone to buy a verification badge for $8 a month led to a few days of chaos, as many experts inside and outside the company predicted, before It ended quietly. (It will relaunch on November 29, Musk claims.)

And in the face of an FTC consent decree that could cost him billions, Musk sent an internal email insisting the company would follow the “letter and spirit” of the decree — contradicting his ,

Similarly, Musk is on a “fuck around and find out” trajectory when it comes to content moderation. He has a simplistic sense of “free speech” that ran into a harsh wall of reality when users began impersonating him en masse. They fired lots of content moderators, both employees and contractors, but they have nothing to say about a new GDPR-style EU law that will likely force them to hire more.

See also:

Elon Musk can’t tweet his way out of this

as this excellent article explains, Musk is on a content moderation learning curve. This is a furrow plowed by many before him. His slow march towards sanity is almost preordained, though frustratingly unnecessary. Like many new CEOs, he will spend months undoing his predecessor’s savvy reforms – before a full understanding of the problems at hand forces Janaki to make a fix.

Meanwhile, as his “extremely radical” message suggests, Musk is still making the fundamental error of thinking he’s bought a technology company that needs better engineering rather than a media company that understands media. Needs to be driven by someone with His small circle of yes-sayers, and the large group of Elon fans whose tweets he reads, will corroborate every assumption he makes. But he’ll learn, often in hilariously embarrassing fashion.

Take the fact that Twitter adds a little code to every tweet that lets you know from which service it was posted. ,Musk insisted in a tweet. the man who invented the hashtag, and , Twitter’s co-founder, immediately set him straight, as did thousands of other users. For one thing, it’s useful in identifying the bots and spammers Musk claims he wants to eliminate. Kasturi didn’t clap back. As of Wednesday, the code remains intact.

A common conspiracy theory says that Musk bought Twitter to kill off, or diminish its ability to act as, a force for good in the world. Perhaps he wanted to sow chaos before the midterms, or his backers (the banks, GOP back Larry Ellison, a Saudi investor who already owns a substantial portion of Twitter stock) want Twitter to be more authoritarian-friendly.

But to believe that, you have to explain why Musk didn’t sow more chaos when he had the chance. He wanted to roll out the Verify-Yourself-for-$8 feature in its first week, but was convinced it was best to do so after the midterm elections. Yes, he asked independents to vote for the GOP, but that strategy was akin to pushing editorial page support for a newspaper’s new owner: annoying and largely ineffective. (Independent voters overwhelmingly favored Democrats.)

Yes, Musk has a habit of running his companies in a state of chaos and brutality. But the most chaotic and cruel thing he could do would be to immediately restore Donald Trump’s Twitter account ahead of the midterm elections. Instead, Musk immediately withheld that decision — as Zak has done at Facebook — to an independent committee.

And if Trump, now officially a candidate for the GOP presidential nomination, returns before 2024, he will face a user base that is wiser and stronger than ever. Trump’s dominance on the service – his tweets were largely untraceable for 5 years, even if you didn’t follow him – didn’t kill it. Users fought back, and learned a valuable lesson about how not to accidentally amplify hateful messages.

Musk hates that Twitter relies on advertising for 90 percent of its revenue, and yet he’s still trying to persuade advertisers to stick with the service. They learned the lesson that their biggest accounts don’t like the verify-itself feature, which is why it’s currently in limbo. , The only option is to fund Twitter out of his own pocket, so Musk recently sold off his rapidly devaluing Tesla stock.

Putting a paywall on Twitter is probably the only thing that will drive those daily active user numbers down, and Musk has already hauled his colors to the DAU mast. His ego acquired Twitter, his ego led him to believe he knew more than the engineers who built Twitter, but his ego will prevent him from instituting any changes that make him look dumb in the long run.

Musk is desperate to be recognized as the guy who made us a multi-planetary species, not the guy who killed Twitter.

See also:

If Mastodon Wants To Replace Twitter, We’ll Have To Ruin It First

In the meantime, the power users making loud noises about leaving Twitter need a service just like Musk. Running from Nazis who demand validation, many say, is not an option. Mastodon, others have pointed out, may seem like a mercifully humble version of early Twitter.

But Mastodon also requires balancing – users have to choose a server, each with its own rules. Some have grumbled “just good vibes” problem, some have complained, it’s been said With “Content Warning”.

Will another Twitter alternative emerge if Musk makes too many wrong moves? One that overcomes the mastodon problem and the problem of inertia, making it easier for Twitter users to switch and retain their follower accounts substantially?

It is entirely possible. Necessity is the mother of invention. However, so far, this has not been necessary. Twitter’s garbage fire, fueled by fury at its owners, will still burn bright for many years.