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Thinking about leaving Elon Musk’s Twitter? Good luck finding an alternative

April 25, 2022, 5:04 PM UTC

Twitter users love talking about how much they hate Twitter.

It’s unhealthily addictive, mean-spirited, dangerous. Democrats despise the soapbox given to bigots and trolls. Republicans recoil at restrictions on free speech. Independents wonder why we can’t all just get along.

Yet disgruntled Twitter users (myself included) remain in the microblogging service’s thrall. Twitter’s daily active user jumped 13% year over year by the end of 2021, hitting 217 million worldwide, as U.S. customers stayed loyal and international growth continued at a decent clip. The platform remains the go-to outlet for dialogue among the elite class. Aspiring rivals, particularly on the political right, haven’t found any real traction.

Enter Elon Musk. As multiple reports emerged Monday morning that the Tesla CEO is nearing a $43 billion acquisition of the company, some Twitter faithful broke out the Hellmo meme and some choice expletives to express their disappointment in the development. (Twitter’s board likely had little choice but to accept, given Musk’s premium price and the company’s flagging financials.)

While Musk hasn’t disclosed much about his precise plans for Twitter, the world’s wealthiest man has framed his attempted takeover as a free-speech crusade designed to protect the public square from corporate and woke interests. Twitter diehards, particularly on the political left, counter that a Musk-led platform will further amplify degrading, dehumanizing content.

Barring a last-minute reversal, which remains possible, Musk’s buyout will leave his antagonists with a dilemma: whether to ditch Twitter or tolerate its inevitable libertarian lean.

To which I ask: Where will you go?

Despite the democratization of the internet, our social media ecosystem remains remarkably consolidated. And in this case, no platform comes close to mirroring the audience and attributes of Twitter.

Want to fly off to Facebook? Enjoy the deluge of baby photos, QAnon posts, and little-too-on-the-nose advertising.

Thinking about imbibing on Instagram or trying out TikTok? Good luck having a meaningful conversation about politics, sports, or business.

Ready for Reddit? If you abhor anonymous Twitter trolls, just you wait.

Musk’s impending acquisition does crack open the door for more competition, allowing an upstart to seize on frustration with his version of Twitter. But the attraction of Twitter remains its ubiquity within concentrated cultural, political, and media circles.

In today’s hyperpartisan, demographically fractured environment, it’s hard to envision a so-called public square app reaching a similar scale. While TikTok and Instagram have grown massively in the past several years, their success respectively owes in large part to a rather homogenous demographic (in TikTok’s case, young and liberal-leaning) and an avoidance of controversial issues (in Instagram’s case, by focusing on photos and short video). In contrast, aspiring Twitter slayers catering solely to Republicans—Gettr, Parler, and Truth Social—have failed to make a dent.

For all the hand-wringing over Twitter, we keep coming back because it’s the best, largest place where we can share collective experiences and fight over ideas. At its best, Twitter serves as a gateway to the wider internet, opening our minds to thoughts and perspectives we otherwise would miss. We use Twitter precisely because it’s not a meaningless diversion or wholly partisan echo chamber. We use it because it’s simultaneously effortless, diverse, and important.

This, ultimately, is what Musk is buying: a dedicated user base that highly values the product, no matter how much we grumble about it.

Musk might mess with content moderation or start charging everyone for subscriptions. He might kill crypto bots and deluge us with 420 jokes. Lord help our national psyche, he might even bring back @realdonaldtrump. 

But until a better alternative comes along, I expect most Twitter users will respond to Musk’s ownership by doing what we do best: shouting about how much we hate Twitter, then hitting the refresh button.

Planning to ditch an Musk-led Twitter? Resigned to feeding your Twitter addiction no matter who’s in charge? Excited for Elon’s potential arrival? Drop me a line here.

Jacob Carpenter

NEWSWORTHY

The deal is done. European Union officials secured a final agreement Saturday on the landmark Digital Services Act, which will force the world’s largest tech companies to moderate more content and disclose new information about their operations, the Associated Press reported. The deal brings months of negotiations over new online regulations to a close, delivering a blow to Alphabet, Meta, and other tech giants that fought against the legislation. European Union member countries are expected to formally approve the agreement later this year, with the updated policies set to take effect by the end of 2023.

The friendly skies. SpaceX signed its first deal with a commercial airline to provide in-flight wireless internet service via the company’s Starlink satellites, Reuters reported Monday. The Elon Musk–led outfit is partnering with Hawaiian Airlines to offer Starlink service on the airline’s trans-Pacific flights, starting in 2023. SpaceX inked a similar deal with semiprivate jet service JSX last week, and the Wall Street Journal reported last Monday that Delta Air Lines is exploring a potential agreement with the Tesla CEO’s company.

No longer gaming’s vanguard? Video game developer Activision Blizzard fell well short of first-quarter revenue estimates, the result of underwhelming sales on its latest Call of Duty franchise release, CNBC reported Monday. Analysts projected $1.8 billion in first-quarter adjusted sales, but Activision Blizzard totaled $1.48 billion amid low demand for Call of Duty: Vanguard. The miss did not impact Activision Blizzard’s stock price, which has held steady since the January announcement of Microsoft’s planned acquisition of the company for $68.7 billion.

Making an exception. Foxconn’s largest iPhone assembly plant continues to pump out products despite a region-wide, COVID-induced shutdown ordered by the Chinese government, Bloomberg reported Sunday. The Zhengzhou campus remains in operation under a special exemption granted by government officials, who have ordered local residents to remain at home as part of a campaign to eliminate COVID spread. Apple, which reports its quarterly earnings Thursday, has been forced to navigate COVID-related work stoppages and supply shortages in recent months.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Ready to pay up? Investors have pummeled PayPal over the past year, scared off by the reopening of brick-and-mortar stores and an inflation-driven retreat in online merchandise sales. But PayPal’s huge drop in share price, down 72% from a 52-week high set last July, has Wall Street taking a second look at the payments processor, Bloomberg reported Monday. Value-focused investors are forecasting a PayPal rebound by late 2022 or early 2023, though they remain bearish on any immediate gains in the company’s stock price.

From the article:

Wall Street sees the company’s shares jumping 90% over the next year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Only Etsy has a stronger potential return among companies in the S&P 500. PayPal shares rose 0.5% in early trading on Monday.

Brokers are less optimistic in the short term, cutting their aggregate target for PayPal’s share price by half. Yet the stock has been declining even faster, making it a bargain at these levels, according to bullish investors.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

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Crypto millionaires are erecting their own tax-free utopias in Central America. The locals aren’t happy, by Amiah Taylor

A top lithium expert agrees with Elon Musk that there’s not enough of the crucial metal to meet booming demand, by Tristan Bove

The first crypto dating show raised $6 million to build the ‘Netflix’ of Web3 with help from Paris Hilton, by Taylor Locke

Elon Musk says he asked Bill Gates if he shorted Tesla stock, by Bloomberg

As Musk bids For Twitter, his fight to tweet freely hits snag, by Joel Rosenblatt and Bloomberg

BEFORE YOU GO

Electric red Corvette. America’s sports car is going hybrid. General Motors president Mark Reuss told CNBC on Monday that the automaker will start selling a hybrid version of the Chevrolet Corvette sometime in 2023, with an all-electric model to follow at a to-be-determined date. The announcement comes as many rival sports car manufacturers, including Porsche, Ferrari, and Audi, roll out their earliest electric vehicles or announce plans for imminent models. The disclosure also steals a smidgen of spotlight from Ford, which is set to launch its first fully electric pickup truck Tuesday.

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