Elon Musk bought Twitter for $44B, fired most employees, made himself (more) unpopular online, polled people if he should step down from managing Twitter and now a successor is needed for a platform which seems to have lost its direction.
A free speech platform?
It sounds great on paper that anybody can voice their opinion however the reality is that social media brings out the worst of people (and bots). Not removing toxic messages that threaten others, defraud them, drive them to suicide or worse, is toxic for a social network. Nobody wants to spend their free time in such an environment.
The opposite is also true. Content moderation is a lose-lose game. Remove a discriminatory message from Trump while he was president and you get into trouble. Remove 99.9999% of bad messages and everybody will remember the 0.0001% messages you did not remove.
As such, focusing Twitter on a free speech platform is unlikely going to make it super popular with the majority of its users. Content moderation is needed for Twitter’s success.
What other things should Twitter focus on?
Musk already told the world. He wants the Twitter App to be the “Everything App”. This is a great vision, especially if you can grow it to over 1 billion users. Allow users to pay via a wallet inside the Twitter App. Create an ecosystem of third party solutions inside the app for people to spend their money on. WeChat is already doing this on a massive scale in China. It all sounds so simple but the biggest problem is Apple. Selling any digital product would require sharing 30% with Apple which makes a third-party ecosystem unviable.
The solution is to launch the “Everything App” first in the European Union. From May onwards the Digital Markets Act will oblige Apple and Google to support alternative payment solutions, app stores and sideloading.
By enabling thousands of third-parties to cross sell digital products to Twitter users in exchange for a 3% or less commission instead of 30% would make the Everything App possible. Lobbying within Washington, London, New Delhi, Lagos, Brasilia, … would be required to grow beyond the EU.
Let’s analyse the reason why Musk wants a billion users app. In two to five years time, Tesla will get robot taxi licences in major cities around the world. How do you acquire a billion users for a new app? That would be very hard. But if you grow a broad ecosystem of third-party solutions inside the Twitter app, then adding a robot taxi service is easy. These services could involve millions of small businesses around the world, from restaurants, farmers to groceries.
Adding extra services around a humanoid combined with a robot taxi in five years would enable a global ultra cheap food, groceries and basically any logistics via the Twitter app solution. If you already have links with farmers, why not let them sell their produce via the app and let the bots go and pick it up and distribute fresh food and vegetables. The same for restaurants but also any other business which designs products. Tesla could create robot factories inside containers to create personalised products, e.g. shoes. The Twitter app can be the storefront and allow thousands of designers to come up with new designs,while a “Tesla robot factory” near you produces and an army of Optimus bots and robot taxis delivers.
At the end, the “Everything App” could really become the biggest competitor for Apple, Google, Meta and Amazon. But also for supermarkets, clothing and shoe manufacturers and anybody producing products. Building the next economical revolution for 1 billion people for $44B might not be as expensive as it sounds. The only problem is that it will take time.
That is why Elon Musk is in a hurry and he needs to buy time. When his Tesla Model 3 had to be mass produced to become a future Robot Taxi fleet, Musk distracted all competitors by making a lot of drama around production scale up issues. The result was brilliant. Between 2017 and 2020, most car manufacturers discarded EVs and Tesla as an existential threat. It gave Musk the time to out-innovate the industry.
Musk today needs two to three years to do the same with Twitter. What better than talking about something none of the big tech companies see feasible, e.g. free speech for the masses. Everybody will underestimate Twitter, which will give Musk the time for Twitter to become really disruptive. Have you ever considered that creating public drama might be a strategy, not a mistake?