|April 2022||Elon Musk initiates his takeover of Twitter|
|October 2022||Musk completes the acquisition of Twitter and takes the company private|
|November 2022||Musk grants “general amnesty” to thousands of accounts previously banned for hate speech, violence, or misinformation|
|January 2023||Twitter’s web traffic drops by nearly 8% compared to the previous year|
|February 2023||Twitter experiences four site outages and user experience continues to decline due to frequent glitches|
|April 2023||Musk merges Twitter with a new shell company, X Corp. Twitter Inc. no longer exists. Twitter’s U.S. ad revenue is down 59% from a year earlier|
|May 2023||Twitter’s top advertisers continue to leave the platform. Large brands pause ad spending on Twitter due to instability|
|June 2023||Twitter’s valuation drops from $44 billion to $15 billion|
|July 2023||Site becomes unusable without an account due to Musk’s new policies. The platform is now used primarily by Musk’s follower base|
The once vibrant platform is now a shadow of its former self, marred by frequent outages, controversial policy changes, and an apparent indifference towards user experience. This decline, accelerated by the takeover by Elon Musk, has largely been characterized as a process of “enshittification.”
Twitter’s gradual “enshittification” is a classic example of how a dominant platform’s decision-making can lead to a decline in user experience, causing a once thriving social media giant to grapple with an uncertain future. The Twitter saga underscores the importance of considering users’ needs and providing a consistent, reliable service while managing a platform.
Enshittification” generally refers to the degradation or worsening of something over time due to various factors. In the case of Twitter, the concept of enshittification can be observed through a variety of ways, including the decline in user experience, an increase in controversial changes, degradation of platform stability, and decrease in advertiser trust.
In April 2023, Musk merged Twitter with a new shell company named X Corp, effectively ending Twitter Inc. as we knew it. This move was followed by a series of controversial decisions, resulting in a degraded user experience and causing many to speculate if Twitter is on the brink of demise.
Contrary to these fears, Musk, in an interview with the BBC, painted a rosy picture of Twitter’s condition. He claimed that the platform was thriving with “record high usage” and that advertisers who had initially fled post his takeover were now returning. However, these optimistic claims stand in stark contrast with the deteriorating reality of Twitter.
While the platform did not implode overnight as some had warned, Twitter’s user experience has markedly worsened. Frequent technical glitches, an uptick in hate speech, and the introduction of unwanted content in the new For You feed are only a few examples of the growing issues.
Major outlets such as NPR and PBS, who combined have over 10 million followers, have stopped using the platform due to a lack of faith in Musk’s decision-making. Their move reflects a broader discontent among Twitter’s user base.
Contradicting Musk’s claims of increasing usage, Similarweb, a data intelligence firm, reported an 8% drop in Twitter’s web traffic compared to the previous year, a trend that had persisted for three months. Advertisers also seem to be wary of the platform, with reports showing top brands continuing to abandon Twitter.
Despite these warning signs, the platform’s demise isn’t a foregone conclusion. Part of the reason is Musk’s publicity stunts that have kept Twitter in the news. However, Musk’s antics have led to Twitter’s user experience feeling increasingly “unpredictable and chaotic,” leading to a decline in Twitter’s once loyal user base.
Another critical factor in Twitter’s survival is its financial standing. Advertising has been the primary source of Twitter’s revenue, making up about 90% of its total income. However, with declining ad sales and a plunge in its valuation, Twitter’s financial future seems uncertain.
The introduction of Twitter Blue, a subscription service offering perks to users, has not been able to compensate for the falling advertising revenue. The latest metrics show that only 0.2 percent of Twitter users are paying for this service. Convincing users to pay for a service that used to be free is proving to be a tough sell.
Another major issue that users are facing is the proliferation of hate speech. Following a controversial decision by Musk to grant “general amnesty” to accounts previously banned for hate speech, violence, or misinformation, instances of hate speech have seen a sharp rise.
Despite these alarming trends, writing an obituary for Twitter might still be premature.
Enshittification (decline) of Twitter
Here’s how these factors align with the principles of enshittification:
- Deterioration in Quality of User Experience: The first principle of enshittification involves a significant decline in the quality of a product or service over time. For Twitter, this can be seen in the frequent outages, technical glitches, and changes in the feed algorithm that led to the introduction of unwanted content. The user experience deteriorated, causing frustration and resulting in users spending less time on the platform.
- Prioritization of Business Interests over User Needs: Enshitification often happens when a platform or service prioritizes its own business interests over the needs and wants of its users. This is evident in Twitter’s decision to introduce Twitter Blue, a paid service for features that were previously free. This move prioritizes monetization over user satisfaction.
- Negative Changes: Enshittification implies negative changes that worsen the situation rather than improve it. In Twitter’s case, this includes controversial decisions like allowing hate speech and misinformation to flourish on the platform. These actions resulted in a harmful and unwelcoming environment for many users, leading to the departure of many users and contributing to Twitter’s enshittification.
- Loss of Trust and Credibility: Enshittification often results in a loss of trust and credibility. For Twitter, this can be seen in the significant decline in advertiser trust. Advertisers are a critical source of revenue for the platform, and their departure signals a severe credibility issue for Twitter.
- Reduced Value or Relevance: The ultimate consequence of enshitification is the reduced value or relevance of the platform or product. Despite Twitter’s efforts to draw attention to the platform, the overall degradation in user experience, loss of advertisers, and failure to adapt to user needs have resulted in its diminished relevance and value in the social media landscape.
Thus, the current state of Twitter can be seen as a textbook example of enshitification, where disregard for user experience and poor decision-making lead to the platform’s gradual decline.
The opposite of enshittification
The opposite of enshittification would be a process of improving and enhancing a system or a product, let’s call this “enhancement.” This could involve strategies that prioritize user needs, boost trust and credibility, make positive changes, and increase value or relevance. For platforms like Twitter, the approach would involve creating an open, user-centric, and collaborative environment. Here’s how this might look:
- Emphasize User Experience: To reverse enshitification, Twitter would need to prioritize user experience. This means creating a platform that is reliable, user-friendly, and adaptive to user needs. Resolving technical glitches, improving platform stability, and designing features with users in mind would be critical.
- Transparent and User-Focused Monetization: Rather than imposing charges for previously free features, Twitter could explore alternative monetization methods that add value to the user experience. For example, they could offer premium features that genuinely enhance user experience rather than commodifying existing ones.
- Building the Commons through Peer-to-Peer Networks: The idea of “the commons” relates to shared resources managed by a community for the benefit of all its members. Twitter could incorporate peer-to-peer networks to create a more decentralized, democratic social media platform. For instance, they could develop features to allow users to self-moderate their communities or implement decentralized algorithms that are adjustable by each user to tailor their feeds.
- Promote Constructive Dialogue and Content: Twitter could implement stronger policies against hate speech and misinformation, while also promoting constructive dialogue. This can be achieved by better content moderation policies, community-led moderation, or algorithmic changes that prioritize high-quality, informative content.
- Restore Trust and Credibility: To regain advertiser trust, Twitter needs to create a safe and credible environment. This involves taking strong actions against hate speech, misinformation, and ensuring brand safety. Greater transparency about platform changes and decision-making processes could also help restore credibility.
- Collaboration and Openness: To reverse enshittification, Twitter could adopt a more collaborative and open approach, involving users, experts, and stakeholders in decision-making processes. This could be achieved through public consultations on major platform changes, open-source contributions, or collaboration with external organizations for fact-checking or content moderation.
- Innovation and Adaptability: Finally, Twitter should be innovative and adaptive, continually enhancing its features and systems in response to user feedback and changing societal norms. This could involve exploring new technologies, implementing user-driven feature improvements, and remaining flexible and responsive to user needs and feedback.
By adopting these strategies, Twitter could potentially reverse the process of enshittification, transforming itself into a more user-centric, reliable, and valuable social media platform.
Why everyone is shifting to CommuniNet?
This utopian social media platform, let’s call it “CommuniNet, (Thanks GPT for that)” would be a blend of advanced technology, user-driven content, eco-friendly practices, and shared governance that promotes positive online interactions, constructive dialogue, and sustainable digital practices. Here’s a vision of how CommuniNet might look:
- User-Centric Design and Governance: CommuniNet would prioritize user experience in all its design decisions. It would be simple to use, and the interface would be customizable to fit individual user preferences. Users would play a significant role in decision-making processes, contributing to policy development and platform changes, thereby making it a genuinely democratic platform.
- Inclusive and Respectful Environment: CommuniNet would actively promote diversity, inclusivity, and respectful dialogue. There would be strong measures against hate speech, bullying, and misinformation, alongside a system to report and manage such incidents efficiently.
- Peer-to-Peer Network and Decentralization: This platform would be built on a decentralized network, providing users with more control over their data and privacy. A peer-to-peer network system would reduce reliance on a central authority and allow users to self-moderate their communities.
- Content Quality and Personalization: Advanced AI algorithms would be used to curate and recommend content based on user preferences. But unlike current models, these algorithms would be transparent and adjustable by the user, helping to prevent echo chambers and ensure a diverse range of content.
- Sustainable and Eco-friendly: CommuniNet would prioritize sustainable digital practices. This could include using energy-efficient servers, supporting renewable energy sources, optimizing data storage, and providing eco-friendly tips for users, such as encouraging device longevity and responsible e-waste disposal.
- Value-Based Monetization: The platform would seek alternative methods for monetization that align with user needs. This could involve optional subscriptions for premium features, partnerships with eco-friendly businesses, or even a value-sharing model that rewards users for their contributions to the platform.
- Collaboration and Openness: CommuniNet would embrace a culture of collaboration and openness. It could host regular public consultations, provide open-source code for third-party developers, and partner with external organizations for content moderation, fact-checking, and promoting digital literacy.
To reach this vision, we would need a multifaceted approach:
- Legislation: Governments and policymakers could enact legislation that promotes decentralization, data privacy, and sustainability in the digital sphere.
- Technology Development: Developers and tech companies should invest in building sustainable and user-centric digital platforms. This could involve researching energy-efficient technologies, developing transparent and user-friendly AI, and exploring blockchain or other decentralized technologies.
- User Empowerment: Users should be educated about their digital rights and responsibilities, and empowered to participate actively in platform governance.
- Cross-Sector Collaboration: Building CommuniNet would require cooperation across sectors, involving tech companies, governments, civil society organizations, and users. These stakeholders would need to collaborate on policy development, platform design, and the promotion of positive digital practices.
By taking these steps, we could make the vision of CommuniNet a reality, creating a social media platform that truly serves its users and the environment.
Gamifying capitalism to help build a more utopian social media platform like CommuniNet involves leveraging the inherent motivations of the system to incentivize positive behaviors and actions. It can be seen as a way of “hacking” the capitalist system to encourage more sustainable, user-friendly, and democratic practices. Here’s how it could be done:
- Incentives for Sustainable Practices: Businesses could be incentivized to adopt more sustainable practices through tax benefits, subsidies, or recognition awards. This could also apply to digital companies, rewarding them for using energy-efficient servers, supporting renewable energy, and implementing other sustainable practices.
- Reward User Engagement and Contributions: Similar to the concept of earning points or badges in a game, users could be rewarded for their contributions to the platform, such as creating high-quality content, moderating discussions, or helping to tackle misinformation. This could provide a source of income or other benefits to users, thereby helping to distribute the wealth generated by the platform more equitably.
- Competitions for Innovation: Governments, NGOs, or even private companies could sponsor competitions or challenges to stimulate innovation in the field of sustainable and democratic digital technologies. Winners could receive funding, mentorship, or other resources to help implement their ideas.
- Transparency Ranking System: A third-party organization could develop a ranking system that scores social media platforms on their transparency, sustainability, and commitment to user rights. High scores could attract more users and advertisers, encouraging platforms to improve their practices.
- Investment in Social Enterprises: Encourage venture capitalists and investors to support social enterprises and startups that are committed to creating a more democratic and eco-friendly digital landscape. This could involve developing new investment models that value social and environmental impact alongside financial returns.
- Employee and User Ownership Models: Platforms could implement employee or user ownership models, where those who work for or use the platform also own a share of it. This would give them a direct stake in the platform’s success, encouraging more active participation and decision-making that benefits the wider community.
- Partnerships for Digital Literacy Education: Platforms, governments, and educational institutions could partner to provide digital literacy education, helping users understand how to use digital tools responsibly, protect their data, and engage constructively online. This could be gamified with certificates, badges, or other rewards for completing courses or achieving certain levels of proficiency.
By implementing these strategies, we could tap into the motivations and competitive spirit inherent in capitalism to drive the creation of a more utopian, eco-friendly social media platform. It’s important to note that this isn’t a quick fix – it will require a concerted effort from all sectors of society and a willingness to rethink some of the fundamentals of how our digital world operates.
- Regulatory Framework: Discuss the role of government regulations in fostering more responsible, sustainable, and user-friendly social media platforms. This could involve privacy laws, rules on data ownership, guidelines on misinformation, and policies to ensure platforms uphold their social responsibilities.
- Decentralization and Blockchain: Explore how decentralization and blockchain technology can contribute to creating a more democratic and transparent social media platform, where users have more control over their data and content.
- AI and Machine Learning: Discuss the role of AI and machine learning in moderating content, targeting ads in a privacy-friendly manner, and enhancing user experience while also addressing their potential misuse.
- Mental Health: Consider the impact of social media on mental health. How could a more utopian platform prioritize the mental well-being of its users? What features could it implement to mitigate the negative impacts currently associated with social media, such as anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem?
- Digital Divide: Explore the implications of the digital divide in this utopian vision. How can we ensure that the benefits of this new kind of social media platform are accessible to all, including those with limited access to the internet or technology?
- Cybersecurity: Examine the potential cybersecurity challenges in this new landscape and how they can be mitigated.
- Monetization Models: Discuss possible monetization models that ensure the platform’s sustainability while also respecting user privacy and content ownership.
- Content Moderation: Explore the complexities of content moderation in a platform that values free speech but also needs to combat hate speech, misinformation, and harmful content.
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