In the bustling streets of San Francisco, a year ago, Elon Musk, the billionaire and newly anointed owner, made a splash at Twitter's headquarters with a white bathroom sink and an enigmatic grin. With a swift stroke, he ousted the CEO and top executives, setting in motion the transformation of the renowned social media platform into what we now know as X. At first glance, X appears as a semblance of Twitter, but the more one delves into it, the clearer it becomes that it's a mere approximation.
Musk's approach to X has been a radical deconstruction of the very essence that defined Twitter — from its iconic name and blue bird logo to fundamental features like the verification system and the Trust and Safety advisory group. Core elements like content moderation and hate speech enforcement were not spared either. In this transformative process, a significant portion of the workforce was either fired, laid off, or lost, including crucial engineers, moderators, and executives responsible for the platform's operations and governance.
Long-time observers of Twitter argue that this overhaul has marked the demise of the platform's role as an imperfect yet valuable space for staying informed about the world. Musk's vision for X as an "everything app" that caters to everyone's needs remains shrouded in uncertainty, much like it was a year ago.
Despite being one of Twitter's most influential users even before taking over, Musk's unique experience on the platform significantly diverges from the average user's. The changes introduced to X often reflect Musk's personal impressions of the site, with him even seeking advice from his millions of followers on how to run it, albeit receiving suggestions that he should step down.
Insider Intelligence analyst Jasmine Enberg critiques Musk's treatment of the platform, emphasizing the shift from a social network fueled by people and ad dollars to a technology company remade in his vision. The consequence, Enberg contends, has been a decline that has driven away users and advertisers, ultimately eroding Twitter's primary value proposition as a central hub for news.
As the narrative of X unfolds, the future of Musk's grand vision remains uncertain, leaving industry analysts and users alike pondering whether X will rise from the challenges or continue to grapple with the aftermath of its Twitter takeover.
Once a symbol of verified authenticity, the blue checkmarks on Twitter accounts have undergone a significant transformation. Originally signifying the legitimacy of a person or institution, such as celebrities, athletes, or journalists, it now denotes someone who subscribes to a $8 monthly service. This subscription elevates their posts above those of unverified users, essentially turning the blue checkmark into a status symbol linked to a financial commitment rather than an indicator of identity.
Troublingly, these paid accounts have been implicated in spreading misinformation on the platform, often magnified by Twitter's algorithms. Recent reports from the nonprofit Media Matters revealed instances where blue-checked X accounts with substantial followings propagated false narratives, such as labeling a mass shooting in Maine as a "false flag" event orchestrated by the government. Similar misinformation and propaganda were noted in discussions surrounding the Israel-Hamas conflict, prompting a formal request for information from the European Commission regarding X's handling of hate speech and misinformation related to the war.
The credibility of the platform, already in question, faces additional challenges. Financial woes plagued Twitter before Elon Musk's acquisition for $44 billion in October 2022. The company's books, now private, conceal its current financial standing. Musk disclosed in July that Twitter suffered a 50% drop in advertising revenue and continued to grapple with substantial debt. Despite efforts to attract top brands, including hiring former NBC executive Linda Yaccarino, the results have been sluggish. While some advertisers have returned to X, their spending falls short of previous levels, in stark contrast to the rebound experienced by online advertising giants like Meta and Alphabet.
The evolving landscape of Twitter under Musk's ownership raises questions about its financial viability, the impact on advertisers, and the shifting nature of identity markers on the platform.
The once-mighty Twitter, now under the helm of Elon Musk and rebranded as X, faces a stark financial downturn. Insider Intelligence projects a significant drop in advertising revenue, estimating a mere $1.89 billion for the year, reflecting a staggering 54% decline from 2022. This plunge brings the platform's ad revenue levels back to a state reminiscent of 2015 when it hovered around $1.99 billion. In stark contrast, the figure for 2022 stood at $4.12 billion, highlighting the substantial decline under Musk's ownership.
Beyond revenue, user engagement paints a similarly gloomy picture. Global web traffic to Twitter.com has seen a 14% year-over-year decline, according to Similarweb. The portal dedicated to advertisers, ads.twitter.com, experiences an even more significant downturn, with a 16.5% drop in traffic. Mobile performance mirrors these trends, witnessing a sizable 17.8% year-over-year decline in combined monthly active users for both Apple's iOS and Android platforms.
Insider Intelligence's projections and external research findings underscore a multifaceted challenge for X. As cultural relevance wanes and user engagement dwindles, the platform grapples with a self-inflicted decline, leading to what some characterize as a "death by a thousand cuts." Notably, this erosion of relevance appears unique to X, lacking the external factors often associated with the decline of social platforms. The saga of X continues to unfold, raising questions about its future trajectory and the strategies that may salvage its once-prominent status in the social media landscape.
In the unfolding narrative of X, formerly Twitter, the story is one of financial downturns, plummeting advertising revenue, and diminishing user engagement. Under Elon Musk's ownership, the platform faces a stark reality, with Insider Intelligence estimating a staggering 54% drop in advertising revenue to $1.89 billion for the year—levels not seen since 2015.
The decline is not confined to revenue alone; user engagement tells a similar tale. Global web traffic to Twitter.com witnesses a 14% year-over-year slump, while the advertiser-focused portal, ads.twitter.com, experiences an even sharper 16.5% decline. Mobile performance further compounds the challenges, registering a significant 17.8% year-over-year dip in combined monthly active users for Apple's iOS and Android platforms.
The narrative painted by these figures is one of self-inflicted wounds, leading some to characterize it as a "death by a thousand cuts." What makes this decline unique is the absence of external factors often associated with the fading relevance of social platforms. Instead, X grapples with challenges largely of its own making, raising questions about its future trajectory and the strategies that might salvage its once-prominent status in the ever-evolving landscape of social media.
As the saga of X continues to unfold, industry observers and users alike watch closely, awaiting signals of a potential turnaround or further challenges in the platform's journey under Elon Musk's ownership.