My Twitter profile says I joined in 2008. A platform that emulated text messaging on a phone and informed the world of what's happening.
You could just tell people about your day or what you are doing now. The 140-character limit was based on the limits of text messaging. Over time this became 280 characters. People created threads of linked messages. People added links to news sources and the use of hashtags made subject specific tweets easy to find.
Those on Twitter numbered three hundred million by 2022. By social network standards this is small. Much lower than the two billion Facebook users. Meta, the owner of Facebook, could also add the membership of Whatsapp and Instagram, which it also owns. Whatever the social benefits of social media the business of financing it is troublesome. The founders of Instagram and Whatsapp simply sold up to corporation with a lot of money. Meta is estimated to earn more than 90% of its revenue from advertising. Its users are the product it sells to advertisers. The number of users makes it big business.
Twitter never made that leap. It does have advertising but not much. The important thing about Twitter is who its users are. Politicians, journalists, celebrities, and news organisations makes Twitter a genuine news source. Twitter verification of those sources confirm they are genuine and not fake accounts. Presidents and Prime Ministers make announcements on Twitter.
Twitter is a self-selecting group, like much of social media. It is a bubble. A place of group-think. Having said that, it's also a place where anyone can post.
Twitter hasn't made much profit. It makes most money from advertising and a little from a subscription service called Twitter Blue. So far Twitter Blue is a US only service.
Twitter has upset the US political right. It has been moderating the conspiracy theories, the hate speech, racism, and, worst of all, they banned their hero, Donald Trump. They equate this with denying freedom of speech. They mean denying the right to mislead and spread rumour and untruth.
Now the richest man in the world has bought Twitter. Elon Musk seems to have woken up one day and decided he needed to protect freedom of speech by owning it. The billionaire has spent $44 billion on Twitter. It a appears to be a frivolous purchase. He has admitted he paid too much. He even tried to get out of the purchase claiming he didn't know how many bots were operating on the platform.
Obviously, being a billionaire, he didn't spend his own money. Instead, he spent some of his own money and added a bunch of loans into the mix. It's reported that the loan repayments add up to just short of $1 billion a year. To make the finances add up he needs new revenue and fewer costs. His next step has been to get rid of half the staff. Many of whom ensure the platform is policed.
The pushback seems to have already started. Advertisers seem to be unsure of what unmoderated Twitter will look like. Some users may leave. There is the potential it may turn into the playground of right wing politics, conspiracies, and Q-Anon.
There should be no shock that billionaires want to own the public platforms. Musk wants a digital town square where he has the freehold and the public are just guests. In popular culture the movie Citizen Kane was a critique of the billionaires that wanted their view to shape the world. Twitter has moved to its billionaire phase.