Homeviews News

Views | The worst for Twitter is yet to come!

Views | The worst for Twitter is yet to come!

Views | The worst for Twitter is yet to come!
Read Time
6 Min(s) Read
Profile image

By CNBCTV18.COM  Nov 17, 2022 10:16:25 AM IST (Updated)

The events of the past few days though sensational, may not be the ones that will make or break Twitter. The Twitter bird has only lost a few feathers so far. But it may entirely forget to fly if the platform fails to maintain its network effect intact, and that would be the worst outcome, writes Manish Maheshwari, former Chief Executive Officer, Twitter India.

Elon Musk's Twitter takeover has all the ingredients of action-packed Netflix series. It has not only caused those directly linked to Twitter to watch events unfold in dismay but also caused the world to sit up and take notice of how the world's most consequential digital town square changes under the ownership of the world's wealthiest person. Jarring news ranging from firing 50 percent of employees to the $8 verification debacle to a 500 percent increase in the use of the N-word dominated the headlines the last few days. 

Recommended Articles

View All

In the big scheme of things, the events of the past few days though sensational, may not be the ones that will make or break Twitter. To understand what could impact Twitter in the long run, we need to understand what it really is and what could happen to it.
At its core, Twitter is a two-sided network effects platform. It brings content creators and consumers together and enables the exchange of value between them. More creators attract new consumers, and more consumers, in turn, attract new creators causing the flywheel effect. Consequently, the platform becomes better and more powerful daily (and also while everyone sleeps), resulting in a durable competitive advantage over any new entrant. As long as the network effect is intact, Elon or any well-wisher of Twitter need not worry. 
So the relevant question is, what would keep the network effect intact? Or conversely, what could screw it?
To answer that, let us first understand how Twitter became so powerful. It all started with influential leaders and celebrities opening an account and posting news and updates about themselves. Teams at Twitter identified the movers and shakers in each genre and later in each country and provided them with a white-glove service for onboarding and engagement. Twitter later extended blue ticks to critical institutions and also commercial brands. It attracted their followers to Twitter, who now could get updates directly from those who mattered to them.
Why did influential people who, in any case, were in the news sign up for Twitter? Twitter positioned itself as their broadcasting and news dissemination tool, which they could directly manage. It was in contrast to the traditional media, where these newsmakers were at the mercy of reporters, editors, and in some cases, even the media house owners. On Twitter, these newsmakers owned their voice. They controlled the narrative instead of relying on the press and the media to tell their story. Tweets also served as a system of record of what they said so they were not misquoted by anyone. Suppose the press tried to twist the story to suit its agenda. In that case, they could refer everyone to their tweet, discredit the media, and expose anyone who misrepresented them. 
Since newsmakers started posting updates about themselves directly on Twitter before any press interview, the news always broke on Twitter. Therefore, discerning news buffs and serious journalists started checking the Twitter app. It became their source of information. Over time, a tweet by a celebrity, in effect, became their press release. 
Soon the fans and followers who wanted real-time updates about their stars signed up for Twitter. And what was on Twitter was not only real-time, it was raw and unfiltered straight from the source without any twist or vitiation from intermediaries. Furthermore, fans could express their love and appreciation through likes and retweets and engage in conversation with chosen celebrities. It was a godsend for the fans and ensured their attachment to Twitter. 
It led to massive user growth, and the network effect grew stronger and stronger as influential personalities from various countries and domains started adopting Twitter.
As the newsmakers started interacting with one another on Twitter through comments, tagging, and retweets, Twitter became an original news generator. It was no longer merely a platform for information dissemination. What was being discussed on Twitter started trending as more newsmakers joined the conversation. The next day, it became the mainstream headline. It started shaping the popular culture and national narrative on and off Twitter. 
Twitter granted a blue check mark to celebrities after a rigorous verification process. A blue tick check mark beside a person signifies that the person is notable and authentic. It enabled the Twitter services team to provide a white-glove service and for the fans to know they were talking to the person they intended to. 
Elon has come out strongly against the current verification process and the system granting blue ticks. "Twitter's current lords & peasants system for who has or doesn't have a blue checkmark is bullshit," he tweeted within a week of taking over Twitter. 
Also Read
The crux of the matter is that since Twitter is a two-sided network, there are two class participants by design. First, the newsmakers, who create content to generate followership, are indicated through a blue tick. And second, those who consume content as followers. If there were no distinction between them on the platform, Twitter would, at best, be a same-sided network. When everyone on Twitter starts interacting with one another on equal footing, Twitter will be like any other short messaging platform. There are plenty of those, but none are as powerful and influential as Twitter.
Suppose Twitter does not preserve its two-sided network effect between creators and consumers. In that case, influential people may prefer something other than Twitter as their broadcasting platform. Fans would stop getting the latest news and update from them. And they will also need to figure out if the person they are following is genuine and authentic. 
It could put a brake on the flywheel effect. It could trigger a negative network effect, which can quickly lead to the exponential decay of the platform in favor of alternatives. In India, we have seen Koo make inroads while people are trying out Mastodon globally. It is not unthinkable that Twitter could go the same way as Orkut and Myspace. 
The Twitter bird has only lost a few feathers so far. It may entirely forget to fly! That would be the worst outcome for Twitter.
—Manish Maheshwari is former CEO of Twitter India. 
Check out our in-depth Market Coverage, Business News & get real-time Stock Market Updates on CNBC-TV18. Also, Watch our channels CNBC-TV18, CNBC Awaaz and CNBC Bajar Live on-the-go!