What could a world without Twitter look like? | Tech News

What could a world without Twitter look like?

Twitter's future seems highly uncertain, with users -- and everybody else -- increasingly asking one question: What would a world without the so-called bird app even look like?

By:AFP
| Updated on: Nov 21 2022, 01:05 IST
Elon Musk Twitter Bankruptcy Talk: Timeline
Twitter
1/13 He’s told employees to brace themselves for long hours, that “the road ahead is arduous and will require intense work to succeed,” and said bankruptcy was possible. Here’s how the saga is unfolding: (Bloomberg)
Twitter
2/13 Oct. 27: Musk takes control- His first act is to fire the Board along with CEO Parag Agrawal, CFO Ned Segal, head of legal Vijaya Gadde and Counsel Sean Edgett. Musk forms advisory team that includes celebrity attorney Alex Spiro, VC David Sacks, Neuralink CEO and head of Musk’s family office Jared Birchall, investor Jason Calacanis, and partner of Andreessen Horowitz Sriram Krishnan. (Reuters)
Twitter
3/13 Oct. 28: Brands begin to take pause- As Musk plans to unban accounts and says he will charge for user verification, advertisers suspend ads. (AFP)
Twitter
4/13 Oct. 31: Top tweeters protest- Amid murmurings of plans to charge existing verified accounts, author Steven King tweets, “$20 a month to keep my blue check? F**k that, they should pay me. If that gets instituted, I’m gone like Enron.” (AFP)
Twitter
5/13 Nov. 1: Teams working around the clock- The product team works over the weekend on Musk’s idea to charge users for blue check marks. A photo of product director Esther Crawford sleeping on the floor of a conference room, trying to make the deadline, goes viral. Meanwhile, managers are asked to make lists of who can be fired. Employees print out their software code for review by Musk and engineers from Tesla, to determine if their contributions are worthy of keeping a job. (REUTERS)
Twitter
6/13 Nov. 3: Massive layoffs begin- A memo is sent to all employees telling them of imminent layoffs and to watch for an email with the subject line: “Your Role at Twitter.” Badge access to offices is suspended as 3,700 staffers receive word that they’ve been cut. Realizing employees essential for the continuity of the business have been let go by mistake, some are asked to come back. (AP)
Twitter
7/13 Co-founder EV Williams tweets, “Heart’s out to the tweeps getting laid off today.” Co-founder Jack Dorsey adds, “I realize many are angry with me. I own the responsibility for why everyone is in this situation: I grew the company size too quickly. I apologize for that.” (REUTERS)
image caption
8/13 Nov. 5-6: Musk responds to celebrity protests- Unrest grows on the platform over the weekend, particularly over the issue of impersonator accounts. Actress Valerie Bertinelli starts a movement of people changing their Twitter names to “Elon Musk.” Comedian Kathy Griffin joins the protest, finds her account locked. Then Musk announces, “Going forward, any Twitter handles engaging in impersonation without clearly specifying `parody’ will be permanently suspended.” (AP)
Twitter
9/13 Nov. 8: Musk sells more Tesla- Despite a previous vow not to sell any more Tesla stock, Musk sells an additional $3.95 billion, bringing the total sold in past year to $36 billion. (REUTERS)
Twitter
10/13 Nov. 9: Musk Blue tick mark- Blue check mark option becomes available for purchase, and immediately becomes a tool for impersonators. An account masquerading as Nintendo Inc. posts an image of Super Mario holding up a middle finger. (REUTERS)
Twitter
11/13 Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, and a close cadre of advisers are considering a host of changes to the way Twitter is run and makes money. (REUTERS)
Twitter
12/13 Nov. 10: More key executives quit as Musk warns of bankruptcy- In his first meeting with employees, Musk tells them to brace for 80-hour weeks and requires everyone back in the office full time. He also says bankruptcy for the company is not out of the question if it doesn’t start generating more cash. Several executives in charge of keeping Twitter safe and accountable to its users quit, including chief information security officer Lea Kissner, chief privacy officer Damien Kieran and chief compliance Marianne Fogarty.. (AFP)
Twitter
13/13 Nov. 11: Verified accounts get “Official” tags- Twitter adds badges that say “offiical” to verified accounts in some places, though confusion abounds. More brands depart the platform. (REUTERS)
Twitter
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Twitter pulled off the service, which cost 7.99 USD for a verified 'blue check mark', in a matter of days after its release. (AP)

After another chaotic week of mass staff departures and policy reversals, Twitter's future seems highly uncertain, with users -- and everybody else -- increasingly asking one question: What would a world without the so-called bird app even look like?

With about 237 million daily visitors at the last count in late June, Twitter's user base is still smaller than Facebook's nearly two billion, TikTok's one billion plus and even Snapchat's 363 million.

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But in Twitter's 15 years of existence, the platform has become the predominant communication channel for political and government leaders, businesses, brands celebrities and news media.

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Some, like New York entrepreneur Steve Cohn, are convinced the Twitterverse is only an artificial microcosm of the real world, with limited actual importance.

Twitter is "not 'essential' in any way," Cohn declared -- from his own Twitter account. "The world works just fine without Twitter."

Few people actually tweet, he went on. "Almost all tweets come from (the) 1%. Most normals never log into Twitter."

But for others, including Karen North, a professor at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, the site is indispensible for bringing light to little-known conversations.

"Most of the time, people without prominence are not heard," she said. But on Twitter, "there's the opportunity to announce things."

In situations of conflict, social movements or crackdowns, "Twitter I think has become the central platform for being able to disseminate the truth and the ground reality," Charles Lister, senior fellow at the Middle East Institute in Washington, told AFP.

Like most other social networks, Twitter is also used to spread propaganda and misinformation, and the company has developed moderation tools to try to limit the worst of it.

But their ability to keep up with the demands of such a task has been thrown into question after more than two-thirds of those teams have left since Elon Musk's controversial takeover.

A 2018 study found that false information circulates faster than posts that have been fact-checked.

"That's an unrealistic expectation to imagine a platform where misinformation and disinformation is impossible," Lister cautioned.

But "to see information, good and bad, vanish," with the potential disappearance of Twitter, "is by definition a bad thing," Lister said.

"Autocrats and anyone who doesn't want information widely shared, would potentially benefit from Twitter being gone," added Mark Hass, a professor at Arizona State University (ASU).

- 'Public square' -

A Twitter fail could have devastating effects on journalism, experts say.

"Twitter... is really not a social network," North explained. "It's a network of news and information."

"It's the place, the core hub of where journalists go to get a heads up, or a story idea or a headline or a source or a quote," she said.

With the reduction of the workforces and budgets in newsrooms, the resources just aren't there, even at the most well-funded news operations, "to go find sources out in the world," North lamented.

Twitter, she said, is where much of that work can be done.

Another knock-on effect of a potential collapse of the platform, according to North, is that without Twitter, the world's rich and powerful stars and politicians will still be able to command the media's attention, while those less in the spotlight will struggle for attention.

"With Twitter, anybody can announce a story," she said.

The site functions as a way to share information in real time.

"Twitter has been a vital source of information, networking, guidance, real-time updates, community mutual aid, & more during hurricanes, wildfires, wars, outbreaks, terrorist attacks, mass shootings... etc," tweeted University of Maryland researcher Caroline Orr.

"It's not something that can be replaced by any existing platforms."

For now, the solution for a potential Twitter alternative is not obvious.

"Facebook is valuable, but I think it's almost a bit old fashioned," Lister said.

Smaller Twitter competitors are likely to syphon off users, including Mastodon, which has grown in popularity since Musk purchased Twitter.

"But these will likely remain niche, with none of them becoming the public square that Twitter tries to create," ASU's Hass said.

He and North both listed Reddit as a possible substitute, though North said the forum-based network is limited by its fragmented and cluttered design that cannot replicate Twitter's ease of use.

Could a replacement emerge? "Of course," Lister added, but he noted such ingenuity takes enormous resources and significant time.

"You can't just do it overnight."

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First Published Date: 21 Nov, 01:05 IST
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