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Everything we think we know about Elon Musk’s plan for Twitter

“I have a lot of ideas,” Elon Musk texted Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal in April, “but if I try too hard, I don’t know. I just want Twitter to be as amazing as possible. This was a few days after he agreed to join the company with the board — and a few weeks before he decided to buy the company instead, before he tried to back out of that deal, before he sued and was sued by Twitter, before he apparently decided. it’s clear that Musk likes Twitter as a platform, understands its appeal and power, and has plenty of ideas to change it.

“I want Twitter to be as amazing as possible.”

Under normal circumstances, we could now almost certainly say that Musk will actually become the majority owner of Twitter. But of course, this is Elon Musk, so the rule “anything can happen and probably the craziest will” still applies. There’s still a trial scheduled for October 17th, and there’s plenty of time left for chaos in this deal.

But let’s play it a little bit and assume that the deal closes at some point in the near future. We can start turning to the next question: What will a Musk-owned Twitter look like? Over the past six months, Musk has been giving us hints about how he might go about changing the purpose and mindset of the platform, and even Twitter as a whole. And on Tuesday, he showed where it’s headed. “Twitter acquisition accelerates X, the all-in-one app,” he tweeted after news of his revamped offering went public.

As usual with Musk, especially Musk and Twitter, you should believe him about as much as you would any other Extremely Online poster – which is to say, not much at all! Musk often says things he doesn’t mean; his beliefs change over time; things may change when he actually owns the business; he may not end up owning the business or own it for very long; he can shut the whole thing down for the fun of it!

But with thousands of caveats aside, here’s what we think we know about how Twitter, the product, and the platform might change if Musk owns it:

WeChat is an app to copy

X, the “everything app” Musk referred to yesterday, is pretty clearly modeled after WeChat. Owned by Chinese tech giant Tencent, WeChat is essential to daily life in China for hundreds of millions of users. It’s like a messaging app, an app store, and a web browser all in one service; it’s basically an iPhone built into the app.

“There is no WeChat equivalent outside of China,” Musk said during a Q&A with Twitter staff in June. “You basically live on WeChat in China. If we can recreate that with Twitter, we’ll have great success.

That’s pretty much Evan Spiegel’s vision for Snapchat and Mark Zuckerberg’s WhatsApp. Even WeChat has tried to replicate its Chinese success in other countries, to no avail. Everyone wants to be a super app, but no one has pulled it off.

But so is Signal

Musk has long been a fan of the messaging app Signal, and the platform has been associated with Twitter in his mind since its early days. Former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey sent a message to Musk earlier this year that Twitter’s future should involve a protocol managed by the foundation, so it was separate from business concerns. “A bit like what Signal has been doing,” Dorsey wrote. “Otherwise you have an area that governments and advertisers are trying to influence and control.”

Musk, too, has been thinking about how to bring some of Signal’s features — or even its actual platform — to Twitter. “Trying to figure out what to do with Twitter DMs,” he texted Brian Acton, Signal’s co-founder and CEO. “They should be end-to-end encrypted (obv). Don’t know if better [sic] to sum with or integrate the signal.

Payments come everywhere

One big reason Musk seems to be chasing the WeChat model? Payments. WeChat makes money in part by taking all payments made on the app — for rent, food, concert tickets, clothes, everything. Musk seems interested in doing the same with Twitter: In his investor presentation, he said payments could be a $1.3 billion business by 2028.

Remember, Musk is part of the PayPal Mafia, an early group of founders and executives who got rich after eBay bought PayPal and then went on to take over the rest of the tech industry. Throw in his love of all things crypto and you can see why turning Twitter into a payment processor could be compelling.

Musk wants to tap into the creator economy

Few people probably think of Twitter as a great video platform, but Musk is clearly interested in changing that. He has talked to several friends and colleagues about how to make video advertising work on Twitter and how to bring in video creators from platforms like YouTube and TikTok.

“From a social point of view, Twitter allowing for high-quality video uploads (minimum 1080p) and adding an in-app video editor would make a pretty big impact in my opinion,” Vivien Hantusch, a longtime fan of Musk’s who now works for him in Germany, said in a message to Musk. “Especially useful for citizen journalism and fun educational content. Might even help Twitter regain market share lost to TikTok. Musk’s response: “Agreed.” And then: “Twitter can’t monetize video yet, so video is a loss for Twitter and for them [sic] who posts.”

Making Twitter more creator-friendly also fits with Musk’s other ambitions for the platform. Creators are the most reliable source of a large audience and Twitter’s payment tools would take the number of subscriptions and tips.

Users can choose their own algorithm

Musk’s stance on Twitter’s algorithm is hard to pin down. He told Twitter staff that he wanted the app to be more like TikTok, offering an automatically generated stream of endless cool stuff. But he’s also encouraged people to switch to the reverse chronological feed, saying “the algorithm is manipulating you in ways you don’t understand.”

Musk’s plan seems to be to give people a choice. Instead of a single algorithm that governs users’ experience using the platform, he has said he wants to “open source” the algorithm and let others create new ones. This whole idea is, of course, much more complicated and less plausible than he makes it sound, but it seems likely that he’s forcing more options on users to make his timeline work.

Blockchain is not the answer

For a moment, Musk seemed to like the idea of ​​a blockchain-based Twitter future. “I have an idea for a blockchain social media system that does both payments and short text messages/links like Twitter,” he texted his brother Kimbal. “You have to pay a small amount to register your message on the chain, which cuts out the vast majority of spam and bots. There is no risk of suffocation, so freedom of speech is guaranteed.

Musk also seemed interested in running a decentralized social network unlike Twitter, an idea similar to what Twitter has already explored with Bluesky. But in the end, Musk seemed to decide it just wasn’t going to work — at least not yet. “Blockchain Twitter is not possible,” he texted banker Michael Grimes a few weeks after messaging his brother, “because a peer-to-peer network cannot support the bandwidth and latency requirements unless these ‘peers’ are absolutely gigantic, thus eliminating the decentralized network.” purpose.

But paid members can be

Musk has talked a lot about Twitter Blue over the past few months, and it seems that paid memberships are at the heart of Twitter’s future. He presented a plan to investors that included acquiring 69 million Blue subscribers by 2025 and 159 million by 2028. He wants to reduce advertising to less than 50 percent of Twitter’s revenue, and the only way to do that is to convince users to pay for it. big way

To pull this off, Musk seems ready to overhaul the features Blue offers. He and venture capitalist Jason Calacanis talked several times about how bad Blue was and what features could be added to improve it. “Premium feature[s] abounds…and Twitter Blue is exactly zero,” Calacanis wrote. The edit button is an already available Blue feature that Musk apparently likes, but it probably won’t get 69 million people to aspire to Blue. There’s likely more to come. Musk has even suggested , that users should pay to check the service.

Is this the end of robots?

Obviously, Musk has spent the last few months ranting and raving about the spam and bot problem on Twitter. And while he probably has a bigger crypto-scam-answer-man problem than your average Twitter user, there’s no doubt that inauthentic users are a thing on Twitter. Musk has promised to prioritize “authenticating all humans” while also removing bots from the platform. In fact, that’s one of the reasons he wanted to take the company private: to remove all the bots and crater Twitter’s user numbers without scaring away investors.

What does it look like and what does it mean for the harmless and fun bots on Twitter? Hard to say. Anyone who has tried to fight spam and bots knows that distinguishing between human and machine is much harder than it sounds.

He embraces free speech with a vengeance

Virtually as soon as Musk first announced that he had bought a large chunk of Twitter stock, he began positioning himself as the platform’s savior of free speech. About 12 hours after Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal tweeted that Musk would join the board, Musk — apparently fresh off a phone call with Dorsey — texted him his first wishes. “It would be good if you could get rid of permanent bans, except for spam accounts and those that explicitly promote violence.”

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