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Elon Musk and Twitter should act like a messaging app

“Free speech is the cornerstone of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the platform for the digital city where important issues for the future of humanity are discussed,” Elon Musk explained why he spent $ 44 billion on Twitter. a.

This phrase – “square city digital” – has a long and distorted history of social interaction. Facebook and others have proven that throwing millions or billions of people into one unoccupied space is often unrealistic and often a bad idea. But we may have misinterpreted it now. In fact, the city square is not a place where everyone stands and shouts at each other while advertisers throw things at each other. It is a place for groups to meet and spend time together. Yes, they may discuss issues that are important to the future of humanity. Not just anyone else.

Twitter should not try to improve public forums, conversations with 200 million people that will never make sense. Instead, under Musk, the company should focus on the specific side of the platform, an advanced messaging and communication system that can turn the best messaging software on the market.

Twitter should invest heavily in making DMs a powerful, searchable, confidential messaging system. Ultimately it should produce the highly rumored “long tweets” feature that allows people to post more than 280 characters. It should continue to work on the Community logo so that people can talk about their interests rather than spend time with their fans on things they are not interested in. It should integrate Revue newsletter and focus on making sites more profitable and reliable. It should be a little more stressful about the timing of your time and more about giving you ways to talk and people to talk to.

It is true that Twitter is the best place on the internet to build an audience and then send the audience elsewhere. Build a Twitter audience, the jokes are going on, and post them on Substack or YouTube or any number elsewhere. Twitter should continue to rely on that because it is what gives it a traditional platform – after all, what is news on the cable if not just a lot of people who are comfortable reading tweets?

But most people do not want to be associated with an unfamiliar 200-million people at once, and even those who do not want to do so. Instead of focusing on connecting people and the public, it needs to focus on connecting people. Twitter has to adapt to where Facebook and others have gone over the last few years: to the specific type of internet, where the emergence of the internet involves a little bit of screaming your angry ideas to thousands of strangers equally angry and a lot of real time spent on people you care about.

When Twitter was released by Communities, David Regan, product manager, wrote “We did not do enough to help connect with the same people.” This has been a problem for a long time on Twitter, which has tried the proposed Lists and Changing Themes and Fleets and thousands of other ways to give people something to do on the site. Communities are the first step in the right direction, just giving people a safe and secure place to stay together. That’s why Facebook thinks Teams are the future of the platform; it is also why Telegram has grown so fast and why WhatsApp has opened up Communities to keep up with.

There is a lot of competition in the club’s chat room, but Twitter has come into the fight profitably. Communication falls on a slippery slope; Sometimes you want to send a message to your best friend, sometimes to your friend’s team, sometimes to your entire company, sometimes to the world. Most messaging devices are good for one, maybe two of those things. Twitter can deliver its fast, easy-to-use communication tools at all scales. And to put it all in one place, one app where users only need one name, could be the best means of communication on the planet.

To be clear, none is easy! Many mediation problems can be difficult in these semi-private and private areas, although Musk and Twitter can learn a lot from places like Reddit and Discord on that side. And on a global platform like Twitter, these problems will be exacerbated, especially as government regulations around the world become more complex.

Before Musk came into the picture, however, this weight-loss approach appeared on the way down to Twitter. Until 2016, CEO Jack Dorsey said that “Twitter is the core of the public message,” and that speed and energy are far more important than a site in terms of character boundaries or specific times. In practice, the company has long focused on the one-to-many message – to the detriment of everything else. Over the past two years, the company has finally started rolling out products regularly, and many of them are designed to make Twitter feel a little less user-friendly. It started with Communities, which you can post on tweet but only to a group of people who are interested at the same time. She started experimenting with Flock, a way to just send a tweet to your close friends. And they finally, for the first time ever, seemed to remember that DMs existed and began to produce several advances.

Of course, in the long run, projects like Bluesky mean Twitter is even bigger than Twitter. It can be a global standard by which many different experiences can be built. Musk, who has at various times debated starting his own social network before deciding to buy one, the idea of ​​a widespread social platform should be appealing.

Overall, most of Musk’s focus on Twitter was on algorithm. The theory behind open source, so far as I can say, is to give users transparency and choice of what they see and where. But the best strategy is to allow people to build on their experience, with better tools than just the next button. Help and let them know who they are talking to, about, and how, in as many ways as possible. That is where people will speak, where they will feel free to actually express their opinions freely. No algorithm will ever be better than that.