“I have a lot of ideas,” Elon Musk texted Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal in April, “but please let me know if I’m pushing too hard.” I just want Twitter to be as amazing as possible.” This was a few days after he agreed to join the company’s board — and a few weeks before deciding to buy the company instead, before attempting to back out of the deal, before suing and being sued by Twitter, before apparently deciding to go ahead with it after all.
Despite all of the back and forth over the last few months, it’s clear that Musk likes Twitter as a platform, understands its appeal and power, and has many ideas for how to improve it.
In a normal world, we’d be able to predict with near certainty that Musk will become the majority owner of Twitter. But, since this is Elon Musk, the “anything can happen and the most insane thing will most likely happen” rule still applies. There is still a trial scheduled for October 17th, and there is still plenty of time for this deal to fall apart.
But let’s pretend for a moment that the deal actually closes in the near future. We can now turn our attention to the next question: what will a Musk-owned Twitter look like? Musk has given us some hints over the last six months about how he might push to change the platform and even the entire purpose and point of Twitter.
On Tuesday, he pointed out where it’s going. “Buying Twitter is an accelerator to creating X, the everything app,” he tweeted after his renewed offer was made public.
As is customary with Musk, and particularly with Musk and Twitter, you should believe him about as much as you would any other Extremely Online poster — which is to say, not much! Musk frequently says things he doesn’t mean; his beliefs change over time; things may change once he owns the company; he may not end up owning the company or owning it for very long; he may simply shut it down for fun!
But, with a thousand caveats in mind, here’s what we think we know about how Twitter, the product and platform, might change now that Musk owns it:
The App To Copy Is WeChat
The “everything app” Musk mentioned yesterday, X is clearly modeled after WeChat. WeChat, which is owned by the Chinese tech giant Tencent, is absolutely essential to hundreds of millions of users’ daily lives in China. It’s a messaging app, an app store, and a web browser all rolled into one; it’s essentially the iPhone built into an app.
“There’s no WeChat equivalent outside of China,” Musk said during a Q&A with Twitter employees in June. “You basically live on WeChat in China. If we can recreate that with Twitter, we’ll be a great success.”
This is about what Evan Spiegel and Mark Zuckerberg want Snapchat and WhatsApp to be like. Even WeChat has tried but failed, to copy its success in China in other places. Everyone wants to make a super app, but no one has been able to do it yet.
Everything Will Be a Payment System
One major reason Musk appears to be pursuing the WeChat model? Payments. WeChat makes money in part by taking a cut of all payments made in the app — for rent, food, concert tickets, clothes, and everything else. Musk appears to want to do the same with Twitter: he stated in his investor presentation that payments could be a $1.3 billion business by 2028.
Remember that Musk is a member of the PayPal Mafia, a group of early founders and executives who became wealthy after PayPal was acquired by eBay and then set out to conquer the rest of the tech industry.
Add in his love of all things crypto, and you can see why Twitter becoming a payment processor might be appealing.
Musk Wants To Be Part Of The Creator Economy
Few people consider Twitter to be a great video platform, but Musk is clearly interested in changing that. He has discussed with several friends and colleagues how to make video advertising work on Twitter and how to attract video creators from platforms such as YouTube and TikTok.
“From a social standpoint, I believe that Twitter allowing for high-quality video uploads (1080p at a minimum) and adding a basic in-app video editor would have a significant impact.” Musk was texted by Vivien Hantusch, a longtime Musk fan who now works for him in Germany. “It’s especially useful for citizen journalism and entertaining educational content.”
It may even assist Twitter in regaining market share lost to TikTok.” “Agreed,” Musk replied. Then he says, “Twitter can’t monetize video yet, so video is a loss for Twitter and those who post.”
Pushing Twitter to become more creator-friendly aligns with Musk’s other goals for the platform. The most dependable source of large audiences is creators, and Twitter’s payment tools would take a cut of subscriptions and tips.
However, Paid Memberships Could Be An Option
Musk has talked a lot about Twitter Blue in recent months, and he appears to see paid memberships as an important part of Twitter’s future. He pitched a plan to investors that included acquiring 69 million Blue subscribers by 2025 and 159 million by 2028.
He wants to reduce advertising to less than half of Twitter’s revenue, and the only way to do so is to persuade users to pay up big time.
Musk appears ready to overhaul Blue’s features in order to accomplish this. He and venture capitalist Jason Calacanis discussed how bad Blue was and what features they could add to improve it. Calacanis wrote, “Premium features abound…and Twitter Blue has exactly zero.
” Musk probably likes the edit button, which is already available in Blue, but it’s unlikely to entice 69 million people to pay for Blue. There will almost certainly be more. Musk has even suggested that users pay to have their accounts verified on the service.
Will there be no more bots after this?
Musk has clearly spent the last few months ranting and raving about the issue of spam and bots on Twitter. While he probably has a bigger crypto-scam-reply-guy problem than the average Twitter user, there’s no denying that inauthentic users exist.
Musk has promised to prioritize “authenticating all humans” while also removing bots from the platform. In fact, removing all the bots and cratering Twitter’s user numbers without scaring investors was one of the reasons he wanted to take the company private in the first place.
How will this play out, and what does it mean for Twitter’s many harmless and entertaining bots? It’s difficult to say. Anyone who has battled spam and bots knows that distinguishing between human and machine is much more difficult than it appears.