Issue #403

How Twitter Could Dominate Social Media

If you haven’t yet heard, Elon Musk and a small group of private investors officially bought Twitter last week.

This is a pretty big deal and, if they execute on what I believe should be done, I think Twitter could potentially end up dominating social media. It could end up re-defining it, in fact.

The reactions I’ve seen on Twitter to this ownership change is all symptomatic of the problem here. You’ve got some people out there testing the censors by saying things they thought they couldn’t before. You’ve got people on account watch waiting for formerly banned and shadow-banned accounts to make their return. You’ve got others in full freak-out mode, using hashtags like #resist as if Elon is some crazy person out to silence dissenters.

Frankly, it is hilarious.

But, it is all just a symptom.

Twitter was a gloriously mismanaged and stupid company. Not only that, the way they have executed things has done nothing but create doubt. It is a model of centralized control and secret decision-making, while people inside of Twitter make code changes and censorship decisions in private, with no accountability, all while sipping expensive coffee at their office coffee bar, and wine on tap in the evenings.

All of this rancor and doubt in social media (and the horrible effects it has created across the public discourse) is all a result of centralized, secretive decision-making.

So many are used to that, they expect Elon and the gang to do the same thing.

But, no… if Twitter is to succeed, the game is much different. Much bigger.

And if it is done right, Twitter could dominate. Especially as Meta (formerly Facebook) falters over the same problems and Mark’s preoccupation with the metaverse (which is likely too early to become mainstream), Twitter could become easily the dominant player.

For this to work, Twitter has to be re-built. He can’t just shift the chairs around and do anything but have a big problem on his hands.

It needs to decentralize. And it needs to empower the user to be in the driver seat.

Here’s what I think Twitter needs to do…

User-Controlled Experience

It should not be a choice between corporate Gods making content decisions…. or a noisy cesspool of bots and hate. So many seem to think that’s the true choice here and it isn’t.

Twitter should put users in control of their own experience.

Users should be free to have a “free for all” experience or opt in to more curated content. There could be community-moderated groups that people can opt into.

I think users should be able to set up their own filters. Want to block certain topics or certain words? Feel free.

It should be in the control of the end user, not dictated from the top.

Open Source

Twitter suffers from a major lack of transparency. If they want to not only instill trust, I think they should make their code open source.

Let’s face it… it isn’t as if Twitter is a very complicated application. The value of Twitter is the network and the eyeballs, not really the code. If they made the code open source (like Wordpress), the world would see how it works. Not only that, any system-level “censorship” would be based on common rules that are public, so there’d be no debating it.

If they didn’t open source the whole thing, they should at least open source their filtering and censorship code. Any decisions made by the network have to be 100% transparent.

Embrace The Next Version Of The Internet

This is where we start thinking ahead.

The next version of the internet is often called “Web3”. It is decentralized. It embraces crypto and that that entails.

Jack Dorsey (for original founder of Twitter) is now off creating “Web5”. He wants to create new internet structure that is user-focused, with online identities that you own yourself (via blockchain). It is all powered by the Bitcoin network. And Jack has openly said he thinks Twitter will be better off with Elon Musk.

I believe they share the same vision. Maybe they might even work together on this.

A decentralized internet structure where there is no need to blindly trust anybody. Where you own and control your online identity. And where that identity is portable. Instead of trusting third parties with your data, you own it and control what third parties can see.

Of course, cryptocurrency would be part of all this, too. Could Elon make Dogecoin a currency of the Twitter ecosystem? Which, of course, would be exchangeable to any other currency through exchanges across the world?

And what if your online identity (which you solely own) was portable across other networks. See how the open source comes in? If one “network” bans you, you just go to another one and you keep all your connections, currency and everything.

Honestly, the imagination could run wild on the possibilities here… and it would go way past a typical issue of THE EDGE.

But, Elon has said he views Twitter as a way to speed up the creation of “the everything app”.

What would the “everything app” be? I think it would be far bigger than just a social network. But, I also don’t think any “everything app” could be centrally created and managed.

It needs to be open and transparent. It needs to be a platform on which others can build and operate. Based on real identities that empower end users.

I think all this talk about what Elon is going to do in the realm of politics on Twitter is all a massive case of tunnel vision of a bunch of short-sighted people who live, eat, and breath politics all day so are unable to see the bigger picture.

This could be…. huge. Much, much bigger than what most people are thinking right now.

Will the new owners do this? I don’t know, but I’ve definitely seen Elon say things to indicate he’s thinking in this direction. I also saw that Binance (a major crypto exchange) was one of the major funders of this acquisition (they put in $500 million).

But, such move can only be done under private ownership.

Once a company is public, they’re subject to the various whims of stockholders. And they have an obligation to make profits no matter what. With that mindset, it would incentivize old-school thinking, central control, and stand in the way of innovation.

Elon is… an interesting guy. But, he’s a doer. He likes to play really big games. And honestly, if there’s anybody who is able to not only afford to do this but also have the willingness, skill and drive to make it happen…. Elon is that guy.

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