reflects upon Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter and what that might mean for the future. He explains that for more than a decade, it has been the main discovery platform. In addition, Rao argues that along with WordPress, it is last of the convivial platforms.
Pre-Musk twitter, for all its faults, was, along with WordPress-style blogging, the last holdout of a convivial kind of web. Not convivial enough to satisfy genuine Ivan Illich stans like L. M. Sacassas or Robin Sloan perhaps, but far more convivial than Medium/Substack/Patreon/Facebook type corporatized platform ecologies. And definitely convivial enough for a philistine like me who prefers (modulo Covid effects) Starbucks over indie coffee shops anyway.
Rao explains that if Twitter were to disappear, it is not something that can necessarily be replaced with something else.
In brief, I treat all these so-called options as part of the cozyweb, good for my cozyweb activities like the Yak Collective, but not meaningful substitutes as far as the more public affordances of Twitter, such as serving as a distribution medium for blogs, are concerned. Twitter is basically sui generis that way. Not only can nothing replace it, it cannot be built again either, since it was a product of a particular era of the web (like Wikipedia and Craigslist). If it goes away, or transforms unrecognizably, we just have to do without.
With the association between long form blogging and Twitter, Rao wonders what flow on effect that Musk’s proposed changes may have.
But perhaps, this time, it would be good for blogging to plot a course into the future that isn’t so vulnerable to these battles over aggregated discussion and distribution media.
And perhaps it is would be best if blogging were to fade away gracefully, without passing the torch of independent convivial media technology to a suitable successor. Maybe the future is about neither corporatized platform technologies, nor Quixotic indie conviviality.
Maybe it is about an entirely different kind of media environment.
This is a particularly interesting in regards to those who wish to find somewhere else to converse and what that might mean.
In other pieces written about Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter, Adam Serwer suggests that Musk’s purchase is less about free speech and more about politics:
“Free speech” is a disingenuous attempt to frame what is ultimately a political conflict over Twitter’s usage as a neutral question about civil liberties, but the outcome conservatives are hoping for is one in which conservative speech on the platform is favored and liberal speech disfavored.
Ben Werdmuller suggests that opening up the algorithm will not resolve the move to a more inclusive world.
Elon is right to want to open source, but he’s wrong about the implications. The world is moving in a more inclusive, more compassionate direction, and there’s no going back. Nationalism and traditionalism are firmly party of the 20th century, and that is becoming an increasingly long time ago.
Discussing the metaphor of the town square, John Naughton suggests that Twitter is just one small piece of this space:
Musk suffers from the delusion that “Twitter has become the de-facto town square”, which, frankly, is baloney. The internet, as Mike Masnick points out, is the metaphorical “town square”. Twitter is just one small private shop in that space – a shop in which hyperventilating elites, trolls, journalists and millions of bots hang out and fight with one another.
Ranjan Roy and Can Duruk theorise that Musk’s purchase is about diversification:
My mini-grand theory is that this entire sequence of events: The Twitter purchase, the SEC escalation, Tesla’s blowout quarter – it’s all about the next giant package. Musk saw an opportunity at the beginning of the year. Tesla’s business was on a roll, his pay package was almost complete, the SEC was threatening his Twitter account, and Tesla’s stock had stalled out for six months. Every great entrepreneur understands the importance of momentum and he decided to capitalize on this confluence of events.
Similar to Rao, Alex Hern believes a healthy social network is not possible:
I don’t think it’s possible for a site to be both a replacement for Twitter, and a healthy social network, because I no longer think it’s possible for a healthy social network to exist that connects the world.
Robin Sloan adds his thoughts in regards to professional engagement:
As a writer, looking for evidence of readership and engagement on Twitter makes you into the drunk looking for your lost keys under the street light.
A lot have spoke about Mastodon as an alternative. Alternatively, Chris Aldrich talks about syndicating for your personal website.
Alan Jacobs wonders if Musk might be a hero and close the platform down.
Elon Musk could become the world’s greatest hero by buying Twitter and then immediately shutting it down.