You may judge this to be unhealthy or unfortunate, but the sad truth is: editorial staff are used to preparing obituaries of personalities who will leave us in the coming months. Stopping at nothing for greater transparency, 20 minutes We’ve decided to reveal some of the obituaries we’ve got on the fridge for 2023. Today we’re announcing Twitter’s obituary.
For eight weeks, not a single day has passed without putting a nail in the coffin of the bluebird company. After being taken over by the whimsical billionaire Elon Musk, the platform almost has both feet (or legs) in the grave. Between mass layoffs, advertiser flight, suspended account returns, and consistent hiccups, we’re not giving Twitter much skin in the coming months. However, over the past two decades, the microblogging social network has become one of the most important tools for information and communication.
The user behind the hashtag
Go back eighteen years. It is 2005. Evan Williams, Noah Glass and Biz Stone are the co-founders of podcasting startup Odeo. But the future of the company, which is faced with the arrival of a new service from Apple, is darkening. The three founders then ask their employees to come up with other ideas to develop.
At that time, Jack Dorsey, the web designer of the startup, presented the idea of a communication platform where we would send our messages via SMS. Originally, the site was called “Twttr”, the word “Twitter” meaning “twitter” without the vowels. Messages are limited to 140 characters to accommodate the maximum length of an SMS. On March 21, 2006, Jack Dorsey posted the first ever tweet: “Just started twttr.”
Five months later, on July 13, 2006, the site was officially opened to the general public. If the original idea was to allow users to share life’s little moments with their loved ones, the site quickly became a platform for commenting on current events, discussing common topics with others, and following personalities. When the San Francisco earthquake struck in August 2006, Twitter took another dimension. Users realize that the platform can also be used to disseminate information almost instantly.
A year later, a user of the social network whispered the idea of what would become Twitter’s trademark: the hashtag – or “hashtag” in French. On August 23, 2007, Chris Messina suggested that the community use it for group chats on the same topic.
In 2009, Twitter formalized the functionality, each term was preceded by a hashtag, even becoming a hyperlink to easily find the same topic.
From social network to information channel
That same year, some events unofficially established Twitter as a channel for disseminating information. On January 15, 2009, a plane made an emergency landing in the Hudson River. Minutes after the tragedy, a photo of the evacuation of passengers on a nearby ferry was posted on Twitter by a user. As a result, the photo spreads on the platform long before it appears in traditional media.
To protest the results of the June 2009 presidential election in Iran, demonstrators used Twitter to coordinate and form the Green Movement, nicknamed the “Twitter Revolution” because of the social network’s early importance in the world. events. In 2012, this tool will again be used en masse by protesters during the Arab Spring.
On November 7, 2013, the social network joined the closed circle of listed companies and opened a new page in its development. If its value skyrockets in the first days, the balance becomes less bright in the following months. The number of monthly users is growing very slowly, causing dissatisfaction among shareholders and more markets. Financially, Twitter is collapsing. Damages are more than 500 million dollars. To make matters worse, in August 2015, the stock price fell below its previous price. Rumors of a sale of the network begin to circulate.
It will take three years for Twitter to recover. The social network only announced its first quarter net profit in February 2018. Although the number of users is not increasing, the stock price is soaring. In the same year, the platform generalized the experience of “thread”, a series of messages that allows you to create a longer statement. It also decided to increase the size of posts by increasing the limit from 140 characters to 280 characters.
Presidents, political parties, associations, NGOs, collectives… In a few years, Twitter has become an indispensable tool, even revolutionizing political communication strategy. Like Donald Trump, who has tweeted more than 26,000 times during his presidency, turning the social network into a platform for political announcements. But the former president, who wanted to play too much with Twitter, burned his wings. On January 8, 2021, two days after his supporters occupied the Capitol and stopped the counting of votes for the presidential election, Twitter decided to permanently ban Donald Trump’s account.
Descend into hell
If you have to date the beginning of Twitter’s real descent into hell, it was a few months ago. It’s October 27, 2022, and Elon Musk has offered the social network for $44 billion. About a week later, the billionaire is purging his workforce and laying off half of his staff, or about 3,500 people, including nearly the entire moderation team. A few days later, he dissolved the social network’s Trust and Safety Council, which brings together independent researchers and human rights activists. The results are almost immediately visible: Since the arrival of Elon Musk, hateful and discriminatory content (racist, misogynistic, homophobic, anti-Semitic, xenophobic, etc.) continues to increase.
Tesla’s boss, who advocates full freedom of expression, decides to reinstate accounts banned by former Twitter executives, including Donald Trump. But Elon Musk does not give this freedom to everyone. He has no qualms about suspending several accounts of journalists who write about him, as well as an automated account that tracks his private jet. To save the never-profitable coffers of the social network, Elon Musk launches paid certification. But this new feature leads to a lot of identity theft and the spread of false information. The scheme, which was temporarily suspended, was relaunched a few weeks later.
Too late, the damage is done. Elon Musk is losing the trust of some advertisers who are pushing back on his decisions. The dramatic situation arises when you know that the platform derives about 90% of its revenue from advertising. “Financial collapse is the biggest risk for Twitter right now,” said Social Media Lab founder Emmanuelle Patry. 20 minutes.
To make matters worse, Elon Musk decided to play the future of the platform with polls. After talking about the recovery of frozen accounts, including Donald Trump’s account, he asked users whether he should leave the group. 57% of them said that they want him to leave.
Already in November, he met with digital strategy consultant Virginie Clève 20 minutes, wasn’t too optimistic about the bluebird firm’s longevity: “Does Elon Musk’s control of Twitter sign his death warrant? This is possible. On December 20, the billionaire confirmed that he would be retiring from Twitter after finding “someone crazy enough” to take over. Whether this new CEO can revive the firm with a bluebird remains to be seen. Or if he lets the angels fly.