Is There A Chance That Users Will Replace Twitter Or Will They Learn To Live Without It?
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Since Elon Musk took over Twitter in late October, there’s been a strong sentiment that the ship is sinking, with its users fleeing the platform to safety. Musk’s mass layoffs and impulsive feature alterations have led to widespread (but undetermined) speculation that Twitter itself will soon go bankrupt, experience technical failure, or both.
Although we do not know the platform’s future, its present predicament is a severe version of one of the internet's fundamental characteristics: Things are constantly changing. We are always on the move as far as platform usage is concerned, switching from one to the next—and often involuntarily.
And as we continue to strive to replace what we've left behind, we are never entirely successful. There will not be a single platform to replace Twitter even if we benefit from a post-Twitter existence cobbled together from Mastodon and Discord servers.
This animation demonstrates how dramatically internet usage has changed over the years. It illustrates how the internet has evolved throughout the years, with new platforms constantly appearing while others disappear. Within just a few years, it went from being a tiny social media platform to a colossal media titan. Clubs were once phenomenally popular but are no longer around.
New platforms arise, while others fall by the wayside. Myspace, a social media site that shut down in 2011, seemed to be the leading contender when Clubhouse launched in 2016. However, this website was soon overtaken by platforms such as Tumblr and Myspace.
In the 2010s, Tumblr was owned by several corporations (before being revived as a symbol of the past internet). Mobile technology, for example, was behind the demise of several internet sites. Clubhouse is one of them. Although LinkedIn, Facebook Meta (2004), YouTube (2005), and Twitter (2006) have been critical platforms since the beginning of social media, Twitter has remained relatively stable (2003).
Because Twitter appears to have been relatively stable, it appears that a full shutdown is unlikely. However, if they wish to quit Twitter, people must look elsewhere. What other apps and platforms might offer a comparable experience? Twitter’s most notable qualities are listed here, but will they be able to reassemble all of them? Many individuals are already asking this question (Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter inspired countless individuals to leave the platform).
All of Twitter could be PayWallet by Elon Musk and permanently damaged by him if Max Read's grim scenario plays out. Workers would flee to LinkedIn and Hacker News; academics would set up new Mastodon instances. Universities would be overrun with underemployed TV writers making poor political podcasts.
Sports fans would turn to talk radio, message boards, and even Twitch streams. Twitter is the only social network with these features, which are used on Mastodon, a self-hosted network of federated social network services. Message boards and talk radio predate Twitter, meaning a backwards move is possible.
While Mastodon resembles Twitter in some respects, it is not as culturally significant and will not be in the future. Mastodon is unlikely to function as a digital public square as effectively as Twitter, in spite of its greatest strengths. People consider that Twitter is a digital public square where everyone important seems to gather at the same time, resulting in consequential events.
However, it is difficult to replicate the distinctive bundle of features, customers, and content that Twitter provides. It is tempting to believe that the market will quickly provide adequate alternatives for technology products that decline or die out, but it is difficult to recreate the precise bundle of attributes, users, and content that a prominent platform such as Twitter provides.
The discontinuation of Google Reader in 2013 is an example of this. Although RSS was able to do what Google Reader did, it was not as seamlessly incorporated into Google's platform, which was one of the main reasons that Google Reader was so valuable.
Nearly a decade later, people are still mourning Google Reader, suggesting that no proper replacement has ever been created. Netscape CEO Jim Barksdale coined the phrase unbundling and bundling in 1995 to describe a specific tech strategy: deconstructing established product and feature sets in order to then reconstruct the most valuable ones into new offerings.
Cable television provides a classic example of this process, as it has been disaggregated and rebundled into streaming services and other content platforms. When one unbundles something and then rebundles it, the less profitable components are generally dropped, leaving the more lucrative ones to be recombined elsewhere (p. 349).
This may happen in two ways: the demise of complex tech products can often eliminate valuable or popular features, or the market may not fill that void. The development of Facebook over time provides a window into what users might do after Twitter shuts down.
At the outset of its explosive development, Facebook seemed to offer a utopian promise of a complete digital mirror of social life, a single platform that integrated family, friends, and acquaintances. There was a continuous flow of new features—photo-sharing, event invitations, and groups—that supported this objective and complemented one another as a replacement for an older activity with Facebook’s version, which was powered by its social graph.
Using Facebook, you could effectively manage and organise your entire social life. The network effect of Facebook depended on widespread adoption of its features. Everyone you knew was a more active Facebook user, the more useful every feature was.
Even after quitting Facebook, we were still affected by its influence on social behaviour. Birthdays were one of the areas where our relationship was altered. Facebook made it easy to post a 'Happy Birthday' message to remember your friends' birthdays from the outset, making it seem like a hand-automated process.
People would get a lot of birthday messages, many of them from people they didn't know well. The ease of sending birthday messages cheapened the act of remembering someone's birthday. In other words, Facebook removed the method of remembering birthdays, making it impossible to remember those dates without the site.
Because remembering a friend's birthday without Facebook became automatic, it would be difficult for it to become manual again. Since remembering a friend's birthday without Facebook no longer required conscious effort, anyone quitting the website suddenly lost their primary method for remembering birthdays, and expectations changed accordingly.
The birthday as we once knew it died as a result of Facebook. There are a number of apps and services that allow us to carry out the duties that Facebook used to provide. We can keep track of our friends' birthdays, send invitation emails to invite people to events, or use a dedicated solution like Paperless Post to do so (for example).
There is no guarantee that we will find all of our friends on a single platform, and many of the features that Facebook used to simplify haven't been adequately replaced (therefore, they are likely to be spread across multiple platforms). When users leave Twitter, they will probably miss the platform’s unique offerings.
Although Twitter bundles are different from Facebook’s, both provide a distinct combination of benefits that is difficult to find elsewhere. It is possible to recreate nearly any function that Twitter offers—its function as a news source, a discussion board, a place to make connections, or a marketing channel—but recreating Twitter’s unique combination of all of these is very difficult.
As with Facebook’s birthday function, many of the things we have come to expect from Twitter may disappear or may not reappear elsewhere. The presence of Twitter and Facebook on the internet has transformed culture as a whole. Those services have created voids in our daily lives as much as they have on the internet itself.
We might be better off without Twitter and Facebook, but we would like to preserve their advantages while eliminating their disadvantages. We might find solutions to problems we used to rely on those platforms to fix, but we might just as well learn to live without them.