Elon Musk, the new owner of Twitter, has declared that his version of the social media platform will be Twitter 2.0. Commentators are unsure of what this means or whether Elon Musk even has a plan for Twitter,
We do know he spent $44 billion on Twitter. Several analysts say that Twitter may have been worth about $25 billion. We also know that Musk tried to backtrack on his offer, only court action to enforce the legal terms of the purchase seems to have forced Musk to go ahead. It is reported that $13 billion of the money he paid for the company was in loans that have now been put on the Twitter balance sheet. Loan repayments are expected to be $1 billion per year.
Twitter has only made profits in two of the last ten years. Paying $1 billion a year on loans will be challenging. Most of Twitter's income, like most of the "free internet", comes from advertising.
Musk says that he wants half of Twitter's income from subscriptions rather than advertising. He has also branded himself as a "free speech absolutist".
There are some problems with this. He hasn't really defined what the subscriber value is. He wants to charge a Netflix style subscription for undefined value. What little he has said involves giving blue verified checkmarks to subscribers. This is quite different from the existing system in which the checkmark was designed to designate that an account was genuine.
In other suggestions it has been said that subscribers may have their Tweets promoted. In other words gaining more visibility than free users. Fair enough. However, this means "free speech" and who can see the speech are now being pushed apart. Certainly, a different take on algorithms.
Pulling further out of the immediate chaos Musk seems to have created are the people that use Twitter. It has become a platform for current affairs, political and entertainment journalism, trending topics and is even used for press information for Governments and brands. All of those people value stability and a certainty of the userbase. Musk seems to want to invite back the trolls and purveyors of hate speech that have been banned under the previous ownership.
The services that have encourage far right conspiracies, hate and trolling have stayed at the fringes of the Internet, Musk is saying that he welcomes this.
Inevitably the brands that pay for Twitter don't want to be associated with that sort of nonsense. The price of free speech absolutism might be bankruptcy.
Media outlets are reporting that getting comments from Twitter are now more difficult. Musk has fired his communications department. Most single-minded leaders with absolute control flirt with ideas and change direction moments later. Musk is in that mould. Surrounded by close advisers who agree with him has led to thousands of staff being sacked and some speculation as to whether the website can even keep working.
From the freewheeling Internet of small startups, the consolidation has been to billionaire ownership of social media. Musk says that Twitter will be engineering driven. You do have to have engineers to keep things going and add features. The problem is that the word social in social media is about having safe and welcoming communities. Without that part of the value proposition being able to freely speak to yourself is a poor return for $44 billion.